Terry G. Pyle
Dr. Mark Doyle
13 March 2012
Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad and published in 1889, is one
writers’ interpretation of African exploitation. European powers scrambled for
Africa’s wealth, Belgium, Germany, France, Dutch, and even the Spanish wanted the
riches this continent offered. Chinua Achebe calls Conrad a “bloody racist” in his 1975
essay on Heart of Darkness.(p. 788) The issues raised by Achebe against Conrad are
portraying Africa as uncivilized, white inhumanity to blacks, and romance.
Conrad describes a new generation of entrepreneurs, new ideas exploring the
interior of Africa and not “a bloody racist” as Achebe accuses.
Achebe questions Conrad’s interpretation of what is a civilized society.
European powers view themselves as civilized against all other non-European
nations due to advances in technology. The use of steam boats to penetrate
the interior made contact with inhabitants and exploitation of resources for profit more
accessible and profitable. Conrad writes, “Nature herself had tried to ward off intruders;
and out of rivers, streams of death in life, whose banks were sitting into mud, whose
waters, thickened into slime, invaded the contorted mangroves, that seemed to writhe at
us in the extremity of impotent despair.”(p. 114)
Conrad described Marlow’s helmsman as, “An athletic black belonging to
some coast tribe, and educated by my poor predecessor, was the helmsman.” (p. 148)
Conrad showcases the capacity of learning of the African people by teaching the
tribesman a complex task of navigating the waters successfully and ensuring safe
passage of the crew and cargo of the Company.
The next issue Achebe has is with white humanity toward the black inhabitants.
He says, “The real question is the dehumanization of Africa and Africans which this age-
long attitude has fostered and continues to...