Heart of Darkness

The Two Halves of Racism in Heart of Darkness: Was Marlow a racist?

The Two Halves of Racism: Was Marlow a Racist?

To consider the charge that Marlow in Conrad's Heart of Darkness is racist, racism must first be defined. Racism has two components - a belief in the inherent superiority of one race over another, and secondly, the right of the superior race to dominate the other (Gove 1870). According to this definition, Marlow fits only into the first half of what is considered racist. Marlow, like Conrad "was a man of his times, and as such, reflected the current anthropological position which held that primitive people were morally inferior to civilized ones" (Singh, 280). But despite his racist views, Marlow does not participate in the attempt to dominate, exploit or mistreat the natives in the manner of the European Imperialists, and therefore does not fit the second component of the racist definition. With examples of Marlow's views of the "savages", and of the Imperialists, it can be shown that Marlow was indeed a racist, but only half of one.

Marlow reveals his racist position in his many descriptions of the natives. Rarely does he refer to them as men or give them human qualities. They were "niggers," "savages," "creatures," and...

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