Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Discuss the image of Africa in Heart of Darkness, and cite different examples. Do you agree with Chinua Achebe that Heart of Darkness is a racist book?

The image of Africa in Heart of Darkness is one of negative character. Marlow describes the people of the region as "savages" and "cannibals," as well as saying the country itself is primitive, trapped in a bygone age. Achebe's statement is valid in that it correctly points out the degrading depiction of Africans in the novel, but one could argue that Conrad's novel is chiefly critiquing European colonialism.

Expert Answers info

Mischa Klenovich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseEditor, Current Graduate Student

bookB.A. from Kent State University–Stark Campus

calendarEducator since 2020

write5 answers

starTop subject is Literature

The image of Africa in Heart of Darkness is generally a negative one. Even in the beginning, before the protagonist Marlow has begun his journey, we are given a contrasting description of Africa. Marlow, a seasoned sailor, is talking about his urge for discovery as a child, relating how he wanted to explore all the “blank spaces” on the map. In the present, however, the once “delightful mystery” of Africa was “not a blank space anymore” and instead of a “white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over,” it had become “a place of darkness.”

Further along in the novella we are presented with an image of Africa as primitive, primeval:

Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest...

(The entire section contains 375 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now