Heart of Darkness

An Image of Africa: Why Joseph Conrad was Not Racist College

From a modern context, Conrad's representation of Africans in Heart of Darkness are often read as racist. This essay is an assessment of such representations in Heart of Darkness.

Joseph Conrad's frame narrative about Charles Marlow's journey down the Congo River in Central Africa has been labelled by literary scholars as one of most seminal short stories of all time – indeed, the Modern Library ranked Heart of Darkness as one of the hundred greatest novels of the twentieth century . Despite this immense literary standing, Conrad's novella has been subject to intense debate – of particular controversy were the allegations made by post-colonial scholars of racism within Heart of Darkness. Chief among these allegations were those made by respected African literary scholar Chinua Achebe in a lecture he gave in 1975 (subsequently published as 'An Image of Africa') in which he delivered a scathing report on the book – referring at one point to Conrad's novella as 'an offensive and totally deplorable book that dehumanised Africans.' For the purposes of this essay, I shall focus primarily upon the allegations of racism that Achebe made in 1975 – and how Achebe misread Heart of Darkness and misrepresented...

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