Sigh*! Heart of Darkness

September 9, 2009 by MA PEIYI · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

I find Achebe’s critique of Heart of Darkness as a novella that not only exoticizes, but dehumanizes the Africans as subjects, very enlightening and convincing. The eurocentric position which tends to silence the natives and portray them as savages in need of white men’s salvation is afterall, a familiar strand embedded within many european novels of the period. In the eyes of the West, Africa existed for a long time as a ‘dark continent’ that was mysterious and untameable and perhaps even Conrad himself as an ‘outsider’ seemed unable to dispose of the white man’s lens when it came to understanding and portraying the Africans, whose social and cultural identity proved to be so antithetic and illogical to the former.

While Conrad seems to have denied them an authentic and personal voice, at least he does not mask the hypocritical nature of the colonial enterprise. If the image and interests of the Africans have not exactly been exalted or served in the novella, at least the author’s position is not a waffling one. Imperialism is acutely denounced and exposed for its greed, exploitation and unruly hold over the colonized natives. It is portrayed and understood to be barbaric and inhumane, overthrowing all the moral ideals that supposedly uphold the enterprise and forces a re-evaluation of the white men’s superiority and values. Kurtz’s death may be viewed as a punishment. He dies bode down by the knowledge of his own corrupt nature and shredded conscience despite being regarded throughout the years as one of the most successful by his fellow countrymen.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • adelinekoh

    Excellent distinction, Peiyi, and a good question to bring up. Is anti-imperialism the same as anti-racism?