Comparing Images of India and Africa

I thought it was interesting that one of the first things that Achebe mentioned about Heart of Darkness is the projection of images of Africa as “the other world” and “the antithesis of Europe and therefore civilization.” In comparison to images of India in Forster’s Passage, Africa is painted in a much less flattering light.

Between my earlier post on the first few pages of Passage and Conrad’s illustration of Africa in Heart of Darkness, Achebe points out that Conrad very vividly paints a picture of a mysterious, “savage” land, in stark contrast to the wholly uninteresting, unremarkable Chandrapore to which we are introduced in the beginning pages of A Passage to India.

Perhaps Conrad’s–pardon the pun–strict black and white view is due to his being, as Achebe says, a “thoroughgoing racist.” Conrad’s voice, his nearly chant-like repetition of particularly colored words and phrases (Achebe makes a funny jab at his use of the word “nigger”) shows the reader a hardened, unrelenting view of Africa as the aforementioned antithesis to civilization.

I am unsure whether to agree with Achebe on Conrad not completely being held accountable for perpetuating his views on Africa due to his merely being a representative example of the Western ways of thinking at the time. However, I don’t know enough about Conrad himself to adequately assess whether he could be held more accountable for how he conveys Africa or not.

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