Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Essay Example

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Heart of Darkness By Joseph Conrad

As observed by Chinua Achebe, Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist who was deplorable terms to describe people of colour. During the time European and British culture was openly more virulently racist as compared to today. Heart of Darkness is a chronicle of what the author acknowledges as a horrific time within human history and readers seeing him as a racist are in order. Africans are referred to as savages and barbaric. He calls them unhappy savages, brutes, and niggers. The author depicts some of the atrocities that were committed to the people of Africa without completely communicating the bitter truth concerning colonialism (Conrad 2004). Prejudice towards the Africans as well as their culture is a technique that has been used widely in the book bringing a sense of apartheid. The description of African people is the novella is unpalatable especially to any conscious African reader.

Marlow shows that he is the least racist to African as compared to other colonizers. He shows contempt towards European steam boat crew and he seems to be sympathetic towards the natives. He is compassionate and blows a steam whistle to avert a possible massacre. Marlow racist feeling towards Africans is not because of his prejudiced opinions but owing to social conditioning that he has been through. Marlow is a skillful mechanism that the author uses in casting doubt on the graciousness of colonization. He is curious and skeptical. He is never easily contented with seemingly innocent remarks made by others as those made by Brickmaster and the Manager. Kurtz is talented, charismatic and powerful. He is a fine painter and gifted musician. He comprehends the power of words and his writings are characterized by eloquence that averts the horrifying message (Conrad 2004). He shows great influence on the people around him. Kurtz epitomizes the lust and greed running wild observed by Marlow in the Congo. He is open about his lusts and this leads to his destruction. Like Marlow they all left Europe with the desire to learn about the African humanity. They both wanted to travel to Africa for adventure. They are all curious and adventurous.

He uses the word Cannibals to describe his crew since he equates their endurance to that of a fierce animal. It shows contempt for Africans. It suggests to the reader the crew was inhuman. He does not jump off the boat since he is a busy man. He believed the cannibals had a remote resemblance that he could identify with. A remote kinship means that the Africans were very different as compared to the European and the humanity was remote to those of Europeans. The author says, “the Africans leaped and howled and spun and made horrid faces” (Conrad 2004). This is akin to describing an animal that has a remote resemblance to a human being. The title of the novel points to the attitude that Conrad has towards African people. Heart of Darkness symbolizes uncivilized people and customs and refers to them as cannibals.


Conrad Joseph, “The Heart of Darkness”, Sparklesoup LLC, 2004