Joseph Conrad’s novella is an encapsulation of the experience of colonialism from the point of view of Europeans. Based on his own seafaring voyages across the colonies, Conrad attempts to picture the dichotomy of civility and barbarity. Through the characters of Kurtz, Marlow, the Russian and the natives, a composite picture of colonial Africa is presented.
Chinua Achebe’s controversial critique of Heart of Darkness condemns Conrad as a blatant racist. This is most evident in the fact that the steamboat’s crew is comprised of a native helmsman and twenty ‘cannibals’. There are also sightings of disembodied heads of natives intended to scare trouble-makers. Further depictions of barbarism come in the form of sudden attacks with arrows and spears that the sailors on the boat encounter. Achebe takes particular objection to the manner in which Conrad compares river Thames with river Congo. He remarks sardonically in his essay, “But if it [Thames] were to visit its . . . Read More