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The Book that may essay is focused upon is Heart of Darkness which was written by Joseph Conrad, a Polish - born British novelist who to this day is still considered as one of the greatest novelists in the English Language, despite the fact that he did not speak the language fluently until he was in his twenties, and even then had a distinct Polish accent. This made him culturally an outsider, perhaps one could even suggest his feelings and attitudes to other nations where influenced by his own experiences of growing up in an unfamiliar environment.
With these feelings and emotions and emotions being expressed within his most famous book Heart of Darkness, which many critiques have argued discriminates against black people. It is most accurate to state that it was Conrad's journey to the Congo which most influenced his renowned novella Heart of Darkness. Although people differ in opinions, the book is viewed in many different contexts and is interpreted in many different ways such as being seen as any of the following: a Mythical piece, a Psychological piece, a Political piece and even a Realist novella, as many feel the book was inspired by his journey to the Congo and that Conrad was writing about his own experiences and emotion.
While the African, Chinua Achebe has argued that Conrad was a 'Bloody Racist', we should take into account attitudes at the time it was published, which was the year 1899 with the target audience being Victorian which was an age with very controversial idea's of colonialism, As the magazine it was published within, London's Blackwood's magazine which had an readership which had supported colonialism openly on a large scale. There were many other supposedly 'racist' texts at that time, such as Kipling's White Man's Burden, but one could argue that the writer was voicing the beliefs of that particular time, the age of Imperialism & colonialism.
During that time, the conquered lands were often used for anything from making profit to expanding the power of the metro pole, while many colonialists conveniently claim it is selflessly to 'take on the white man's burden' and convert the indigenous population by bringing them to Christianity and civilisation. This was the reason the king of Belgium, Leopold II, whilst he was undergoing privately a secret project by using colonialism in the Congo. Leopold could be described as a Tyrant as he had been known to oppress the African people to such a scale in which the rest of the world could not ignore their cries. The brutalities included a system of forced labour and systematic terror.
The Berlin conference in 1844-5 was attended by 14 state leaders including the USA and was later names 'The Scramble for Africa' as each state wanted a share in the land and therefore each state wanted a share in the land, therefore resulting in a share in the profits which was always the bigger ambition. The conference lasted a period of 3 months in total over regular meetings and discussions. However it was at last in 1914 when the conference participants had successfully divided Africa amongst themselves into 50 countries. However, notice that African participants were not invited to the conference and Looking back at the pictures drawn of the event, there is not a single black person visible, whether that be the leader of the Africa or even a mere African person on behalf of Africa. None where called to voice their opinions, nor did they have any say in the matter.
The state leaders which were included within the conference where the party that were partly responsible for Leopold's land grab as they influenced him by not speaking out against it despite the fact that it was a huge denial of the rights of African people and a creator of human suffering. The reason behind this was there selfish desire for land which would in turn increase their land and therefore status in the eye's of the materialistically driven society.
As I have mentioned before, Kipling's poem, The White Mans Burden was a famous poem which openly supported colonialism. Literature in those days played a very important and persuasive role in colonialism by influencing the reader to a certain point of view and then by getting these readers who are being fed such information by the media to eventually becoming brainwashed, to think like society wants them to think and behave.
Most people in the 18th century were not against colonialism, but rather the sheer brutalities and forms of oppression that were endured silently by the Africans. This rose to such a level of extremity in which the rest of the world could not ignore their cries.
Despite the horrors which were going on in Africa, the Belgium king, Leopold II did not condemn it, as he was the tyrant and causing the oppression upon millions of innocent people. The excuse Leopold used for such genocide of millions in order to extract precious pieces of ivory from the territory were the claims of bringing the indigenous population to civilisisation, and to Christianity although the reality was often subjugation, displacement and death as it was displayed in the Congo. Many of the 18th century population and colonialists alike believed in the same way, as if they were helping the savages, however in reality, they became victims of the fallacy of Authority.
Colonialism for Leopold was only mercantile driven, in the form of Exploitation colonialism which involved within it were fewer colonialists interested in a search of wealth in the form of gold, ivory, slaves or natural resources to extract and bring to the metro pole. Some could refer to Leopold's and the Europeans actions of being mainly due to a philanthropic pretence.
Colonialism included racial and cultural inequality, political and legal domination over an alien society and an explatation between imperial powers of the colony.
Conrad's audience could not interpret fully whether Conrad supported or critiqued colonialism, as many times, often due to his mixture of views and also as he had contradicted himself within the book.
Some could argue; Conrad was merely telling a story inspired by his own voyage to Africa, but based upon different principle, as he had invented a new character, 'Marlow'. There are many different lights in which Marlow is associated with, in some; he is referred to as being 'a realist', as some people believe he has created the book as a documenter of the events he saw in the Congo.
Some believe Conrad's book was intended as a political piece, as his readership had increased since the late 19th, commenting and exploring the ideology of imperialism.
Another view of the book is that it is a psychological piece; this is the most common form of interpretation of the book. The novella is based upon a journey into Marlow's inner self; it is Marlow's original interpretation of identity with the focus of the novella based upon how the outside world can affect the inner ideals and beliefs of even the most civilised and respected.
Others however, believe the book is mostly focused upon a mythical view
"A mythical reading also brings in ideas of the primitive nature of existence' (wiki)
The readership whom believe the book to be based upon this, see Kurtz as a mythical person, 'the myth of seer' (the all- seeing wise man)
And finally, the last interpretation of the book is based upon 'Symbolism', as the book is interpreted as almost a contrast between light and dark, the River Thames, and the Congo River. If such a view was taken, one could point out that Kurtz could be a symbol of the imperial and ignorant European mind. Lawrence also quotes 'All European contributed to the making of Kurtz'.
Personally, I would have to see the novella as a mixture of all of the above, as there are many interpretations, and the book compels the reader to take an active role in the analytic point of view, questioning their life and the inner self just as Conrad himself had done. The idea of the poem, D.H Laurence had told his publisher, in 1899was the 'criminality of inefficiency and pure selfishness when tackling the civilising work in Africa' and the 'Subject is of our time distinctively' though not 'tropically treated. The novella has been described by Hugh Clifford, a colonial administer and writer, as a 'study of the Congo'
Many of the critiques of the book have commented on Conrad's 'evocative powers', and were paying lots of interest to his 'use of imagery' which creates a 'sinister atmosphere' of the African jungle and the journey across the Congo.
Many critics' comment on Kurtz death scene & the scene in which Marlow lies to Kurtz fiancée. These scenes have received a range of critiqued interpretations; one of Conrad's most harsh critics, Chinua Achebe labelled Conrad as "a bloody racist" in his lecture "An Image of Africa". Achebe goes on to say Conrad was a "seductive writer" who pulled readers into a fray in which they follow his personal ideology. Heart of darkness he claimed "Is an offensive and totally deplorable book". Achebe critiques Conrad's negative portrayal of 'civilised' black characters such as the firemen.
However, looking back at the time of publication, which was in 1802, published in London's "Blackwood's magazine" a controversial magazine read by a readership which supported colonialism. For Achebe, the fact that such attitudes were common in Conrad's time, cannot be used as a justification; he controversially concludes Conrad was a "bloody racist", however, many critiques have critised Achebe for doing the exact same in his book "All Things Fall Apart" where Achebe is accused of having a very controversial attitude to white people.
Referring back to 'Heart Of Darkness', some could comment on the novella as a supporter of racial hierarchy, however one could argue, during the time of Conrad, It was an accepted belief and there were many ideologies in the hierarchy; with the white people being the most superior, the 'nigger's' being inferior to them and below them were the 'animals'. Therefore, surely Marlow couldn't be blamed and branded a racist?
Although, the novella was often argued of being an Eurocentric biased piece, one could argue, therefore Marlow's views were similar to that of any Europeans, however bearing this in mind, it is important to analyse the next chapters of the book where Marlow's view change as he see's the African's not as the 'inhuman' 'dusty niggers' as he had seen them in previous lights, but now, he questions his relationship with them "remote kinship" however, Marlow seems to be shocked about their humanity, and yet finds it thrilling. The quote Conrad use's can be described as being offensive and quite racist, and I would have to agree with such points, however when looking deeper into the analysis, we can draw a conclusion of surprise from Marlow and we understand his mixed emotions.
Conrad often use's Imagery to fill the reader's idea of the experience inside their heads, Conrad often use's symbolic and metaphorical techniques to express this and the reader is left to ponder over the possible interpretations, and this can be quite an interesting to interpret.
In one quote Conrad states " one of those creature's rose to hands and knee's on all four's to drink" this quote is taken from the scene where Marlow enters some sort of massacre as it appears, as it was the place where the abused and over used, black slaves had come to die. Would you if presented with this quote even consider Conrad as referring to humans? Were it not for the mention of human body parts, one would assume he was referring to an animal of some sort. It is the sheer grotesqueness of this quote and many others alike that lead many critics such as Achebe into concluding Marlow as a racist. However, were it not for the change in idea's in the novella, I feel I too would be under such an impression.
Going back on to the topic of colonialism, many colonialists as I had commented on earlier have felt they were bring civilisation to the savage community. These colonialists in the novella had the morals and a view of Eurocentric's acting through a philanthropic pretence, with their 'only real desire to get appointed to a trading post where ivory was to be had so that they could earn percentages' most likely at the expense of others. Some colonialists prefer to see colonialism as an example of the myth of 'Discovery', just like how Columbus discovered America, however, Africa, unlike America had been populated before hand. These colonialists see themselves as 'the first men taking passion of an accursed inheritance' other colonialists however, were much more open about their real reasons for working in Africa. Conrad's personal views on colonialism however are very foggy towards the start of the Novella. Conrad use's a mixture of quotes which lead us to believe one thing and then another. For example, Conrad use's satire language and at times appears to be Eurocentric towards the Africans, '