Sample Essay On An Image Of Africa By Chinua Achebe
An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is Chinua Achebe’s critique of Joseph Conrad’s racist perception of Africa and its people. Of particular interest in the whole lecture by Achebe is the seventh paragraph. The section posits Achebe's position regarding Conrad's stereotypes as well as fallacies held by many of his ilk regarding Africa perfectly. The position held by Conrad, in Achebe’s view, is formed by his antipathy towards Africans. By analyzing this passage, the bias and misinformation held during postcolonial times regarding Africa are illustrated and comprehended.
Achebe cites “Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as “the other world”, the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where a man’s vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality”. By focusing on Conrad’s illustration of Africa as the other world, Achebe manages to pinpoint the unfair comparisons drawn between the west and Africa. Though, in the book Heart of Darkness, Conrad does not directly convey the bias, he uses the character Marlow to do so. Despite this, Achebe still holds the view that Conrad misinforms the literal world with his scant understanding of the African cultures, traditions, landscape and its people. The other world, in this case, is Achebe’s way of denoting Africa through Conrad’s eyes. Africa in this sense is the shunned and damned world that can never be assumed to befit the proper and fair comparison with the West.
The “other world” concept is enhanced further in the passage through the comparison drawn between River Thames and Congo River. Conrad describes the former in a flamboyant manner associating with tranquility and splendor. As for the latter, Conrad cites in his text” going up that river was like traveling to the beginning of time”. Achebe points outs this minor difference by employing symbolism in the two varied observations by Conrad. The differences noted by Conrad are keen on establishing “the lurking kinship” between the two. River Thames has been too in the “dark places” just like Congo River as per Achebe’s views. The symbolism of the two rivers manages to posit Achebe’s notion of Conrad’s dissociation between the Western and African world. By citing River Thames, was once in the “dark places” he manages to show that even the Western culture was unrefined and primitive same as the view Conrad holds of Africa and its culture.
The antithesis in the whole passage lies in the fact that Conrad’s work trivializes the concept of civilization. His work prompts Achebe’s assertion that Europe was being used by Conrad and his ilk to trample down on the achievements and the way of life of the African continent and its people. The “triumphant bestiality” ultimately can be associated with the colonialization of Africa in the name of enlightening the other world. The triumphant West led by the literal geniuses such as Conrad was wallowing in misinformation and biased perception that only an African’s account could reverse. This happens to be Achebe whose literal work such as Things Fall Apart showed another side of the “other world” which was far from Joseph Conrad’s imagination.
In conclusion, this particular passage of Chinua Achebe’s lecture manages to depict the real drive behind colonialism, as well as insensitive literature such as Joseph Conrad’s. The stereotypes held by many Europeans was the reason behind the “triumphant bestiality” meted on innocent Africans for being true to their way of life. The literature by Conrad sought only to draw disparities and mock the cultures of the African people that were deemed inferior. The “other world” as Achebe calls it only acts as a platform for mockery and “civilizing” the “uncivilized”.
Achebe, Chinua. "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2001): 1783-1794. Print.