Darkness and Truth

After reading An Image of Africa, it seemed to me that in Achebe’s claim of “the fact that white racisim against Africa is such a normal way of thinking that its manifestations go completely unremarked,” I feel that he has pointed out that it is all too easy to fall into the binaristic trap of imperialism, the Whites vs. the Africans. It is true that through imperialism, the Whites strongly enforced the stereotypes of races through literature and images. Indeed, stereotypes of Africans and even the blacks have been entrenched within societies which have resulted in countless discriminations and conflicts. In Achebe’s words, they are the group in mankind who “has suffered untold agonies and atrocities in the past an continues to do so in many ways and many places today.” Yet, one can argue that Achebe’s criticism of Conrad is unfair. There can be no clear lines drawn for imperialism did not only happen with colonialism but it also took place with civil wars in which the natives fought among themselves. It is ironic that just as Achebe accuses Conrad of hiding the truth through his writings, Achebe is also engaging in a form of manipulation in his writing.   

I felt that Achebe’s critique is hence a good example of modernism’s notion of the ambiguous truth. There can be no doubts that racism is a pervasive issue in the novella but contrary to what Achebe says of Conrad’s “obvious racism” which has not been addressed, I feel that racism was left as “the truth” which the readers have to shape for themselves. To me, I feel that the juxtaposition of the barbaric sounds the natives make and the words, language which the Whites communicate with have broken down the binaristic barrier of imperialism. Through this juxtaposition, it leads one to question the truth which Kurtz has seen and what Marlow allows himself to see.  The darkness which pervades the novella to me then, is “the formless truth.”

One thought on “Darkness and Truth

  1. You write: “Achebe is also engaging in a form of manipulation in his writing” and that “I feel that racism was left as “the truth” which the readers have to shape for themselves” –this is still unclear, and needs more elaboration.