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Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness - Stereotypes …

Chinua Achebe not only criticized colonial works like Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, but wrote a new story in the emerging postcolonial style that counters many of the degrading stereotypes that colonial literature has placed on Africa. In his lecture, "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness," Achebe documents the ways that Conrad dehumanizes Africans by reducing their religious practices to superstition, saying that they should remain in their place, taking away their ability of speech, and depreciating their complex geography to just a single mass of jungle. Achebe carefully crafts Things Fall Apart to counter these stereotypes and show that Africa is in fact a rich land full of intelligent people who are, in fact, very human.

Essays Things Fall Apart Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart: Complements, or Contrasts

Questions answered and hundreds raised,
Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart will
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Things fall apart vs heart of darkness essay

Heart of Darkness vs. Things Fall Apart essays

In addition, Things Fall Apart contains passages which show that Africans are able to learn and converse in the European languages. There are only two instances in Heart of Darkness, "when Conrad departs somewhat from his practice and confers speech, even English speech, on the savages," and these are used by Conrad, according to Achebe, only to reinforce the savagery of the Africans (1788). By taking away the capability of speech from the Africans, Conrad implied that they were subhuman in their communication skills. In contrast, Achebe tells of interpreters that had learned the white man's language and were able to translate freely between the two languages: "the white man began to speak to them. He spoke through an interpreter who was an Ibo man" (144). This Ibo man's ability to translate between the two languages showed that he was advanced enough to communicate not only in one language, but in two very different ones. Later, Achebe documents instances in which the white missionary, Mr. Kiaga, was conversing with the Umuofia Christian converts in clear English which they had learned quickly. "'Before God,' he said, "there is no slave or free. We are all children of God and we must receive these our brothers'" (156). The converts understood what Mr. Kiaga was saying here, even though he was speaking of abstract thoughts in a foreign language to them. This shows that the Ibo people were proficient enough in their newly acquired English to hold complex conversations. The savages that Conrad described would never have been able to communicate so humanly.

In "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness," Chinua Achebe criticizes Joseph Conrad for his racist stereotypes towards the continent and people of Africa. He claims that Conrad propagated the "dominant image of Africa in the Western imagination" rather than portraying the continent in its true form (1793). Africans were portrayed in Conrad's novel as savages with no language other than grunts and with no "other occupations besides merging into the evil forest or materializing out of it simply to plague Marlow" (1792-3). To Conrad, the Africans were not characters in his story, but merely props. Chinua Achebe responded with a novel, Things Fall Apart: an antithesis to Heart of Darkness and similar works by other European writers. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe tells the story of an Ibo man, Okonkwo, and the tragedies which he has to endure. Africans are represented as individuals capable of speech, not just one massive conglomerate of natives. Their customs are not regarded as eccentric or bizarre, but as the norm-functioning no differently than the variety of Western customs do. And the land itself is described as a mix of towns and farms, not a mysterious land which breeds insanity. In almost every respect, Things Fall Apart contradicts the stereotypes set up in Heart of Darkness.


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