Chinua Achebe’s critical essay entitled “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” portrays the novel Heart of Darkness as being a racist work. Achebe believes that the novel depicts the Western culture’s stereotype of Africa, and because this is such a well-known piece of literature, one that will be hard to break. People are exposed to this version of Africa instead of the way it really is, giving many the wrong impression about the continent and people as a whole. Achebe states that the racism found in this novel is overlooked simply because of the language it is written in. It is considered a classic for Conrad’s wonderful penmanship, and the bad image of the people of Africa that it gives off is left unmentioned. The main character of the novel, Marlow, retells his story in a way that shows the native people as being savage and uncivilized. Because of showing them only in this light, the reader is only able to see them in this way, making them think that this is how they really behave.
Achebe also asserts that the racism in this novel stems from Conrad’s own racist ideas and beliefs. He puts the white European on such a high pedestal, describing them in past works as dazzling, twinkling, “illumined”, and “marble-like”. When he tells of his first encounter with a black person, however, he describes it quite differently, stating that it brought out a “blind, furious, unreasoning rage” within him. This large contrast between the two shows his thoughts clearly. Overall, this essay by Chinua Achebe was a variable resource that helped me to see Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, in a different light. I found it very interesting and informing. I agree with Achebe in that the book can be viewed as one-sided. However, I am unsure if this was Conrad’s intention or just how it can be perceived when looked at in this light. It may be that way do to the creation of “the other” just to get his point across. The same piece of literature can be perceived many different ways, and it may just depend on what one is looking for when they read it.