Critically comment on Conrad’s handling of racism in Heart of Darkness

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racism in Heart of Darkness

Ans. Racism is a belief that race is the cause of differences in
human society and that a particular race is superior to others. Racism
occurs when a racist group finds it necessary to downgrade other
racial groups in an effort to strengthen their own. When one racial
group makes some adverse comment or do something against
another it might make the latter feel hurtful or degrading. Heart of
Darkness gives us several instances which are racist and biased
against the people living in Africa.

Conrad is both anti-imperialist and imperialist. He appears anti_
imperialist when he fearlessly renders the corruption of overseas
domination, and imperialist when he fails to concede that Africa or
south America could ever have an independent history or culture,
violently disturbed by the imperialists though winning over in the
long run. This imperialistic attitude to the natives makes him utter
some derogatory, outdated and offensive words for downgrading
people’s colour as savages. Some of his remarks about the blacks are
very disturbing and racist.

For example, he says, “the thought of their
humanity—like yours…ugly”. This is an expression of simple racism.
Again when for the first time Marlow (or Conrad) sees a black man he
says, “A certain enormous buck nigger encountered in Haiti fixed my
conception of blind, furious unreasoning rage, as manifested in the
human animal to the end of my days. Of the nigger I used to dream
for years afterwards.” Conrad describes the black man as a “nigger”
more than once. The Europeans never agree to treat the blacks as
equal to them. This is absolutely a racial prejudice.

Although Conrad uses racist language in his book, it does not
mean that he is really racist. On examining the language we find that
Heart of Darkness is a story full of irony and deception. At one point
Conrad makes an interesting suggestion that light is used to indicate
deceit in Heart of Darkness.

Conrad uses Marlow as his mouthpiece to make use of his own
thoughts and views about the people in the Congo. He feels pity for
them when he sees them falling down carrying heavy packages and
Kurtz commanding them like a battalion of troops. The sight enrages
Marlow and when he gets to Kurtz, it is too late. Even he has been
pulled in by the darkness, Conrad makes an effective distinction
between Marlow and Kurtz. Marlow is a voice of reason, goodwill and
light; whereas, Kurtz is evil, a heart of darkness and destruction.

To sum up, we must realize that there is a much deeper meaning
in the novel than that of blatant racism. It is in fact a connection with
the past that shows both the mindset as well as the ignorance of those
who colonized Africa in the late nineteenth century. The actions of
imperialism that existed in the nineteenth century are more in tune
with what Marlow sees, rather than the doctrine of civilizing the
tribes that he has heard. In this act, Conrad does display his weapon
of satire to show the hypocritical mindset of Europe that existed for more than 400 years.

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