Filter Your Search Results:

Africa As a Foil To Europe In Heart Of Darkness Essay


Joseph Conrad, in his novella Heart of Darkness, contributes to the western concept of Africas inferiority to Europe due to his perspective as a white European that he has innately acquired; his intentions, however, cannot be defined through the available evidence. In fact, this novella can be seen as Conrads take on the European views of Africans from an outsider perspective. When making judgements on the unknown, people are bound to stick to stereotypes and prejudgements--in this case, Conrad and his white European audience. Whether, in doing so, he is attempting to be nasty towards Africans or not is irrelevant to the fact that Conrads perspective is one-sided and racist. Just as Kurtz is a product of his one-sided European upbringing, as we see in the novella, so is Conrad.

A dichotomy of the Apollonian and Dionysian exists that balances rationality, morality, and emotion; the Apollonian is associated with structure and logic, while the Dionysian corresponds to the breakdown of structure and logic.The natives are seen as this radical, simpleton Dionysian entity that is balanced out by Kurtz as a European imperialistic Apollonian force. In doing so, Conrad portrays a view of Africans collectively as people who act upon emotions and instincts rather than upon rational thought, delegitimizing the Africas status. Conrad exemplifies this the most when, after the natives look to Kurtz as an authoritative figure, he has shifted from rational and morally straight to irrational and morally ambiguous.

In The White Mans Burden, Rudyard Kipling expresses the burdens of eurocentrism on the Europeans perspective on different societies. He says, The easy, ungrudged praise./ Comes now, to search you manhood/ Through all the thankless years,/Cold-edged with dear-bought wisdom,/The judgement of your peers, suggesting that the white man almost feels obligated to help the cultures they label as less civilized in order for them to develop and be grateful towards the white man. Achebe suggests, however, that the help is unnecessary--like the proverb, if it aint broke, dont fix it. This condescending view that the white man has on Africa contributes to the eurocentrism Joseph Conrad portrays in Heart of Darkness, regardless of how ethos and pathos play a role in the audiences thoughts of the novella.

Achebe, a Nigerian-born European-educated author, expresses his strongly personal dilemma with the racism and eurocentrism in Heart of Darkness. As he says in his essay An Image of Africa, Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as the other world, the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where mans vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality. In juxtaposing Kurtz against the natives, Conrad strikes a clear image in the readers minds of the white European as the superior figure among the inferior natives. This antithesis of Europe dehumanizes African society and culture, as Achebe suggests.

Additionally, Achebe blames the racism in Heart of Darkness on the general inability of stories to be multi-faceted, and therefore, fair to each perspective. In detailing the importance and hardships of storytelling, Achebe explains in Anthills of the Savannah, The story is our escort; without it, we are blind. Ignorance occurs when one is blinded by seeing stories through one perspective only. Conrad further projects the image of Africa through this blind, restrictive view of a white European, which Achebe argues, further dehumanizes African society. In this way, Conrad dehumanizes the natives in Heart of Darkness, portraying them as hollow men--as T.S. Eliot would say. In his poem The Hollow Men, Eliot describes these faceless, desolate men not as lost/Violent souls, but only/As the hollow men/The stuffed men. The natives are much like Eliots hollow men; Eliot shows more sorrow and pity for their situation than Conrad displays towards the natives. These hollow natives are struck by the heavy burden of racism and eurocentrism as a result of European imperialism. Whether or not Conrad intends to or not, he contributes to the delegitimization of African society through Heart of Darkness, causing it to be a foil to Europe.

You'll need to sign up to view the entire essay.

Sign Up Now, It's FREE
Filter Your Search Results: