While reading the novella, “Heart of Darkness” one might develop a theory that Joseph Conrad describes the villagers in Africa to be scavengers, and portrays them as an inhuman species. Some, like Chinua Achebe, could argue that he is racist toward the Africans in “Heart of Darkness”. In Achebe’s essay about the novella he describes Conrad as “less charitable to the Europeans”, and that the point of the story is to “ridicule Europe’s civilizing mission in Africa,” In his essay Achebe gives many reasons to support this theory, and many examples in “Heart of Darkness” that displays Conrad’s prejudice toward the natives in the story.
When reading “Heart of Darkness” the reader can clearly comprehend the bias towards the natives that the main character Marlow portrays while telling the story. Marlow describes the villagers as scavengers, and illustrates them to be barbaric and inhumane. As a professor at the University of Massachusetts, teaching African history, Achebe is very well educated in African society and what was like during this time. He describes Conrad’s view of the African society to be a display to the Europeans of his interpretation of the African culture which was ruthless and uncultured. One of the main examples for the story that Achebe uses to support his theory is how Conrad describes the villagers dying. “They were dying slowly — it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now, nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation lying confusedly in the greenish gloom.” Marlow’s description of the villagers dying gives the reader the impression that these people are not human, and that even in death they do not have human qualities.
Understanding the novel’s premise that every man has a heart of darkness, the reader can sense Conrad’s own heart of darkness, when referring to the natives. Conrad’s point of view on the natives is stated very clear in the story. Conrad describes the natives as not even being human, but also he describes the main character Marlow’s fascination with the natives, and how Marlow finds these people quite interesting.
Marlow’s fascination with the natives, Conrad’s viewpoint of the natives, and Achebe’s argument against Conrad’s viewpoint of the natives all give the reader one common issue. Is Conrad’s novella “Heart of Darkness” displaying Conrad’s antipathy against the African’s during that time period? Or is he just trying to create a dramatic setting for his story? Conrad’s illustration of the Africans at this time shows that he does not think of them as civilized human being. He does not even think of them as human beings at all. He shows his apprehension of the Africans through Marlow and how Marlow treats these characters, by not naming them and using them as crew workers on the boat, not even as actual passengers.
Through the readers standpoint Conrad’s excessive use of the villagers as cannibals and his translation of what the African’s at that time where like, it demonstrates Conrad’s racism toward the African’s. During this time in England and also in America society was very ignorant to what it was like in Africa and what those people where like. So in the story of “Heart of Darkness” he wants to expose the world to what he believed the Africans where really like and how he believed they lived. When reading “An Image of Africa: Racism in Heart of Darkness, Achebe shows the reader that Conrad’s description of Africa during this time is ludicrous, and that if these people are so barbaric, then how come they have a place in our society today?