Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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Discuss Chinua Achebe's criticism of Heart of Darkness.

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Achebe consistently criticized Heart of Darkness, both in publications and in interviews. Joseph Conrad's novel, in fact, was the subject of a special lecture Achebe gave at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1975. In it, Achebe concludes that "Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist." He argues that the author portrays black Africans in ways that emphasizes their differences from Europeans. In Conrad's view, Africa is the polar opposite of "civilized" Europe, and its people are throughout the book portrayed as uncivilized, even subhuman. Achebe acknowledges Conrad's talents and even allows that the book is to some extent a criticism of the cultural underpinnings of imperialism, but his central criticism is related to the strengths of the book, not the fairly obvious racism of its characters.

He argues that the real racism of the book lies in Conrad's decision to "reduc[e] Africa to the role of props for the break-up of one petty European mind." Africa is a dark place where...

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