Heart of Darkness

'The Darkness Found Him Out'


Conrad's Heart of Darkness in a New Light

Vituperative, unwavering, and fiercely intent on drawing conclusions, Chinua Achebe asks in reference to Conrad's Heart of Darkness: "the question is whether a novel which celebrates this dehumanization, which depersonalizes a portion of the human race, can be called a great work of art" (257). His answer, seething with disdain for a work he essentially considers inhumane: "No, it cannot" (257). Indeed, this "dehumanization" of the African race is a crucial element of Achebe's criticism; specific references to the language and inherent attitudes driving this idea prompt Achebe to label Conrad a "thoroughgoing racist" (257). Yet, as one-dimensional as his argument might be, Achebe's passionate condemnation also remains intensely difficult to contest not only because he often assails what he should defend, but because he also virtually disqualifies "whites" on racial grounds from judging the text. However, if we use Achebe's "dehumanization" claim as a starting point and subsequently examine his larger use of textual support, his assumption-based logic ultimately dissolves...

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