Criticism Of “Heart Of Darkness” (essay)

Conrad’s heart of darkness has sparked all types of reactions and opinions from people. For example, Chinua Achebe believes the book is racist and shouldn’t be studied. But there are people, like Edward Said, who argue that who that Conrad wasn’t trying to be racist but was trying to dig deeper on the topics of the failures of imperialism and/or corruption. In this essay, I will explain why I believe that Conrad’s novel should not be studied as a part of literature curriculum.

In Chinua Achebe’s, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”, it is very easy to tell how Achebe views Conrad’s novel. He believes that the novel quite frankly is racist and continues to allow stereotypes about the people of Africa and Africa in general to go on. He stated that although Conrad may not be racist per say, it is evident that he grew up in a lifestyle where there were the typical stereotypes against black people. You can see Conrad’s biases when he states that the African people are nothing more than savages that have no ‘other occupations besides merging into the evil forest or materializing out of it simply to plague Marlow’. Overall, Achebe describes Conrad’s novel as being racist and nonetheless very stereotypical.

Like Achebe, Said is skeptical of Conrad’s point of view, even though Said does not focus on race as much as Conrad. However, Said is interested in the fact that the novel is so sensitive in regards to imperialism and colonialism. Said overall pays more attention the more “positive” aspects of the novel.

In my opinion, I do not believe that Heart of Darkness should be studied in literature curriculum. I believe that it was very much so racist although it was not Conrad’s intention to do so. The entirety of the novel makes a mockery of black people in Africa and describes them in a stereotypical fashion. The novel lacks the acknowledgement of other cultures (i.e African culture) that are different that those of European descent.

With that being said, I think I would most agree with Achebe’s standpoint on “Heart of Darkness” because he points out Conrad’s blatant racism. Achebe describes how Conrad expresses his own bias towards African people is shown within the novel although it is not about himself. I, being more modern and a black man, believe that black people should not be viewed as inferior to the Caucasian race. The novel lacks the understanding and counter argument to racism that I think exists in many other influential novels in literature. Therefore, in conclusion, I believe that the novel Heart of Darkness should not be studied in a standard literature curriculum.