Similarities between Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness.

Much literary criticism find similarities between two books, merely because they have similar settings or address superficially similar issues. Such is the case with Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Although these two books do have much in common, and focus on similar topics, they still have fundamentally different purposes. Things Fall Apart tries to show that African culture was valuable, not primitive, while Heart of Darkness strives to ridicule European activity in Africa, not because it was bad for the Africans, but because in many ways it was bad for the Europeans. These differences can be found by examining the various themes that the two books propose, and also are particularly clear after a discussion of the two books' treatment of race. I will address the two books separately before comparing them side-by-side. Things Fall Apart tries to show that African culture, despite its weaknesses, was worthwhile. The strongest evidence of this is mere numbers - over three quarters of the book is dedicated to character development, plot, and description of village life, before the white men even enter the story. When the narrator refers to the Europeans as ``strange men,'' it is clear that he does so from the point of view of an African. But the rub is in the narrator's treatment of the Africans. The entire book is filled with quotes such as ``among these people, a man is judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father,'' which serve to tell about the Umuofia people. Certainly the village is not a safe place to live, as is shown by Ezeudu's son's death. Still, Okwonkwo's resulting exile allows Achebe to describe another African village, as well as the principle of ``Mother is supreme.'' In this way is Okwonkwo's exile consistent with the purpose of the book - to show that Umuofian, and, by extension, African, culture was worthwhile. Another, similar, facet is the fashion in which justice is dispatched in the village. The textit{egwugwu} do more than just dispatch justice; they serve as the spiritual guides for the village. It is possible that some of the villagers recognize that although the worldly manifestations of the textit{egwugwu} are people, their godly representations is necessary to spiritual and civil maintainance of the village. This is expressed by Achebe himself when he writes begin{quote} Okwonkwo's wives, and perhaps other women as well, might have noticed the second textit{egwugwu} had the springy walk of Okwonkwo. And they might have noticed that Okwonkwo was not among the titled men and elders who sat behind the row of textit{egwugwu}. But if they thought

ISBN #0-385-474547. . This is a common subject in the book. taking notes carefully. The total number of pages is 209. and tells about it alongside descriptions of what is great.} end{quote} This except gives us great insight into the Umuofian culture. published in Canada by General Publishing Company. and in the way that twins are discarded. Ltd. New York. because Umuofia's weaknesses make the strong points seem even stronger. Achebe describes its weaknesses as well. Of note is the way Nwoye feels that his spiritual needs are not being met. The total number of . Don Mills. published by Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group. This is an important contrast. Umuofia also has its deficiencies.p. not because of the effect it had on Africa.. Despite all the wonderful descriptions of Umuofian culture. because it is key to so many other analyses that one might do on Heart of Darkness. something felt in the marrow. 30 Lesmill Road. 1540 Broadway. the mere fact that it gives us this insight is important. ``He produced a thing like calipers and got the dimensions back and front and every other way. New York 10036.. starting from the company's doctor measuring Conrad's head. it shows that despite being a rich and varied spiritual culture. He did not understand it. It was not the mad logic of the Trinity that captivated him.. and the text starts on page 3. Heart of Darkness condemns colonialism. but because of its effect on Europe and Europeans. 89-90footnote{All Things Fall Apart page references are in the Anchor Books Edition. . because it shows the true purpose of the book. Achebe writes begin{quote} There was a young lad who had been captivated. Regardless of what it is. More examples can be found in the many cases of spousal and child abuse. It was the poetry of the new religion. Achebe recognizes this. Ontario. Inc.these things they kept them within themselves. His name was Nwoye . because that is the purpose of the book.. these descriptions of the bad along with the good strengthen the true purpose. The hymn about brothers who sat in darkness and in fear seemed to answer a vague and persistent question that haunted his young soul. On the contrary. Most prominent is the effect that the thirst for ivory has on the europeans. 147 end{quote} This quote also reveals much about Umuofia. and so joins the Christians. There are many. varied ways that Conrad comes down upon colonialism. Although it is not the goal of this book to give a historically accurate account of the culture.p. The textit{egwugwu} give us great insight into the richness of Umuofian culture.'' (p. In particular. 9footnote{All Heart of Darkness page references are in the Dover Thrift Edition. Toronto. it includes the good with the bad. ISBN #0-486-26464-5. purpose of Heart of Darkness.

was whispered. this is still worth investigating. When the constraints of society are removed. Marlow sees this himself. in his description of the people at the inner station: begin{quote} The word 'ivory' rang in the air.p. This theme clearly shows that exploring the jungle was bad for Europe. It's not that Marlow makes racist remarks.they are actually less fulfilled than when they arrived. This is ironic. was sighed. The first clear example of this is the prisoners.again and again Marlow discounts the ``black fellows'' as savages who are not worth worrying about. Does this sound good for Europe? No. like evil or truth. but does not discount the severity of the situation . like a whiff from some corpse. His narration shows that they have lost something . This relates to Marlow's repeated use of the image of hollowness with respect to people. Although it can be argued that Marlow is not Conrad in every way. varying amounts of disaster ensue.'' This ``inborn strength'' is restraint . that Kurtz and the pilgrims lacked. Principles won't do. you know. too many to enumerate.'' it is in fact Marlow being indifferent and savage. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all.'' The doctor clearly knows how the Congo changes a man. Without this restraint. One can also discount many other potential purposes for the book. but conrad depicts Marlow as not caring about black individuals.pages is 72. He doesn't actually take any action against them. You would think they were praying to it.The restraint that the natives on the steamboat possessed. and the text starts on the first page}) Later in the discussion. . waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion. The theme here is that when the pressures and checks of living in ``civilized'' society are no longer present. especially since he calls some of the ``black fellows'' ``a great comfort . because of the many racial attitudes Marlow takes. There are many hollow people in the book. There are many other characters that also meet the ``hollow'' description. one must rely on internal restraint to maintain one's ethics. with Kurtz as one extreme example. he merely avoids helping them. we must make use of ``our inborn strength. When Marlow states that the prisoners ``passed [him] with that complete. And outside. the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible. 20 end{quote} Marlow's treatment of the people at the inner station is startling. This seems to not make sense. or treating them as ``savages''. the doctor comments that ``The changes take place inside. death-like indifference of unhappy savages. By Jove! I've never seen anything so unreal in my life.

And black [is] bad.'' Is it any wonder then that they get the ``dark'' imagery? Conrad is trying to say that Africa is bad for Europeans. Heart of Darkness uses lightness and darkness.''. They do not carry over to the book as a whole. On several occasions.. these are merely the racial feelings of particular characters. but the reason can be found when one considers what happened to the conquerors . Things fall apart takes an entirely different attitude. This commonality is superficial at best. Achebe describes generalizations made on both sides. on the other hand. The endings of the two novels probably bear the most in common than anything else. Thus. who live in Africa. however. Achebe hardly uses race at all. Still. The reason that Achebe does not address race much in Things Fall Apart is that the book's purpose .'' (p. it is necessary to discuss the two books side-by-side. One forum in which to do this is racial imagery. but equally important is the ending. Another way that Conrad condemns colonialism is with his treatment of Europe's past.that the conquerors don't stay conquerors forever. The blacks. the jungle is the only way. has been one of the dark places of the earth.'' (p. which is in turn directly tied to race. They also both end with ignorant individuals carrying on the same as before the Intended in Heart of Darkness. 184) Still. Conversely. 3) To bring up the roman conquest of England seems rather cryptic.to show that African culture was valuable . which is presently far more powerful than England. the purposes of the two books have been enumerated.England is a far more powerful country than the remnants of the Roman Empire. the europeans are the ones tainted by ``darkness.'' But when one considers that the Africans are irrelevant to the purpose of the book. are associated with light. Smith is described as seeing things ``as black and white. the reason that Conrad uses racial imagery so much in Heart of Darkness is that the book's purpose relates to colonialism.to look at.. Race is important. Both authors use race in a way that is consistent with their goal. Marlow refers to europe as having been a ``dark place. because for them. In Heart of Darkness. uses race only as a physical descriptor. The same truth holds for the US. This is another negative effect of colonialism that Marlow points out . Achebe. as one might describe an individual's height.is irrelevant to race. most notably when he say ``And this also . One . such as when Mr. but lightness actually refers to blacks and darkness refers to whites. this becomes perfectly clear. and the District Commissioner in Things Fall Apart.

because they can't handle the truth. the actual events. The implication is that the truth. the district commissioner represents those who don't think African culture is valuable. So the books' purposes are different. because we have just experienced 200 pages of character development. 72) while the District Commissioner is blind to all that he sees. by extension. while they address similar topics. and he decides not to because ``it would be too dark. except Marlow. Both endings are ironic. Certainly the Commissioner's closing about how he might be able to write a whole paragraph on Okwonkwo is ironic. too dark altogether.'' (p. Still. however. is that no one tries to tell the Intended what happened. In the end. . would be bad for Europe. This is obvious. in a way. Fundamentally. It is my hope that this essay has helped to make this idea clear . these ironies point out differences in the books' purposes. dissimilar. are. The two books' endings are different. and. in fact. What is not obvious is that they serve fundamentally different purposes.that the two books. as well. Their treatment of race is different. To reduce Okwonkwo to a paragraph is as ironic as the Intended's eagerness to accept Marlow's falsehood. possibly out of having not read the book.contrast. The intended's irony represents a final falsehood given to the Europeans. the two books are different.

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