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CHINUA ACHEBE (1930) From An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of

Darkness (1075, 1977)

Summary of the text:

The author says that there exists the desire and the need in Western psychology to
set Africa up as a foil to Europe. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness displays that Western
desire and need by projecting the image Africa as the other world, the antithesis of Europe
and therefore of civilisation, a place where man's vaunted intelligence and refinement are
finally mocked by triumphant bestiality. The book opens on the River Thames, but the
actual story take place on the River Congo, the antithesis of the Thames.
The most interesting and revealing passages in Heart of darkness are, however,
about people. Conrad is a romantic on the side. For Conrad, things being their places is of
the utmost importance.
Tragedy begins when things leave their accustomed place, like Europe leaving its
safe stronghold between the policeman and the baker to take a peep into the heart of
darkness.
Toward the end of the story Conrad lavishes a whole page on an African woman
who has been some kind of mistress to Mr. Kurts. This Amazon is drawn in considerable
detail, albeit of a predictable nature, for two reasons. First, she is in her place and so can
win Conrad's special brand of approval; and second, she fulfils a structural requirement of
the story; a savage counterpart to the refined, European woman who will step forth to end
the story.
It's clearly not part of Conrad's purpose to confer language on the “rudimentary
souls” of Africa. In place of speech they made a “violent babble of uncouth sounds”.
At first sight these instances might be mistaken for unexpected acts of generosity
from Conrad. In reality they constitute some of his best assaults.
It might be contended, of course, that the attitude to the African in HoD is not
Conrad's but that of his fictional narrator, Marlow, and that far from endorsing it Conrad
might indeed be holding it up to irony and criticism. But if Conrad's intention is to draw a
cordon sanitaire between himself and the moral and psychological malaise of his narrator,
his care seems to me totally wasted because he neglects to hint at an alternative frame of
reference by which we may judge the actions and opinions of his characters.
Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist. Students of HoD will often tell you that
Conrad is concerned not so much with Africa as with the deterioration of one European
mind caused by solitude and sickness, that Conrad is, if anything, less charitable to the
Europeans in the story than he is to the natives, that the point of the story is to ridicule
Europe's civilizing mission in Africa, that Africa is merely a setting for the disintegration of
the mind of Mr. Kurtz. But that's the point. Africa as setting and backdrop which eliminates
the African as human factor, into which the wandering European enters at his peril.

EDWARD SAID (1935-2003) From Orientalism (1978)

Summary of the text:

The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe, it is also the place of Europe's greatest
and richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and languages, its cultural
contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other. The Orient has
helped to define Europe (or the west) as its contrasting.
Orientalism expresses and represents that part culturally and even ideologically as
a mode of discourse.
Orientalism lives on academically through its doctrines and theses about the Orient
and the Oriental.
There is an academic tradition based upon the distinction between the Orient and
the Occident.
Orientalism can be seen as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient.
That's to say, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring and having
authority over the Orient.
Perhaps the most important task of all would be to ask how one can study other
cultures ans peoples from a libertarian or a nonrepressive and nonmanipulative
perspective. But then, one must rethink the whole complex problem of knowledge and
power.
The nexus of knowledge and power creating the oriental and in a sense obliterating
him as a human being is not for me an exclusively academic matter. Yet it is an intellectual
matter of some very obvious importance. Society and literary culture can only be
understood and studied together.
Definitions:

Contestant: Someone who takes part in a dispute or challenge.


Cultural contestant: historically, the Orient has challenged or rivalled the West in cultural
terms
Discourse: An instance of language or utterance that involves the speaker/writer-subject
and listener/reader-object. Foucault argues that discourse colludes with power.
Ethnic studies: A critical approach to literature which challenges the universality of white
discourse and standards.
Foil: something or someone that makes another's good or bad qualities more noticeable
Imaginaty orient: Represents one of the West's most deep-rooted and persistent images
of the Other.
Material Orient: It's a form of discourse supported by institutions, language, academic
study, principle, bureaucracy and a certain way of doing things.
Orientalism: An academic meaning through its doctrines and theses about the Orient and
the Oriental. // The corporate institution or Western Style for controlling and shaping the
Orient. // The ensemble of western, usually though not exclusively European discourses
and other forms of representation of non-wester cultures.
Other / Otherness: Term that names the quality or state of existence of being other or
different from established norms and social groups.
Vaunted: praised often in a way that is considered to be more than acceptable or
reasonable