Achebe Paper

Submitted By DMACCH1
Words: 1963
Pages: 8

Loyalty and Truth:

Reliability of Achebe’s Commentary on Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is one of the great works in 19th century literature. Its ambiguity and utter vagueness provoke the reader to find their own meaning for the text and not be limited by the ideas of the author. The structure of multi-layered narration in this story allows a greater connection with the text and the potential for various portrayals and visions of this physically and mentally straining journey into the heart of Africa. Of the countless accounts and reviews of this famous novella, Chinua Achebe’s detailed commentary taken from “An Image of Africa” seems to stand out above others in its analysis and truly delves into the depths of Conrad’s style, including his decisions made on how to recount this story. The most prominent arguments brought forth by Achebe include Africa being portrayed as “a foil to Europe”, Conrad’s view that things should always remain in their place, and the idea that the racism used by Conrad in the text condemns Africans to the point of dehumanization (Achebe xlv, xlvii). These claims contain some considerable validity as assessed by the text. However, the motives behind them may have arisen because Chinua Achebe comes from Niger in Central Africa, which leads to unreliability by failing to consider counterevidence to the initial arguments. Although there is considerable evidence to support the assertion that Heart of Darkness “displays the western desire and need” to have Africa play a foil to Europe, Conrad also uses some detail to parallel the two regions (Achebe xlv). Right at the onset of this novella, Europe is portrayed through an image of a beautiful sunset on the Thames River. This river has served as a main hub to various famous ships, settlers, and ancient civilizations. No matter how much the Thames has been through in its history, it still remains unruffled and sustains its appearance of near perfection (Conrad 4). Even while the end of the day was coming near, there was “a benign immensity of unstained light” hanging overhead (Conrad 4). The sensory details used in this opening visualization of Europe prompt the reader to match Europe with the ideas of imperialism, hope, and evolving civilization. Marlow recounts on the ancient times when the Romans first rode in on that same river trying to get acquainted with the world around them. This will come to emulate Marlow’s journey into Africa. Upon initial analysis, this would seem to suggest that Europe and therefore the Thames River are complete opposites of Africa and the Congo, respectively (Achebe xlv). The contrast used between these two continents of the world play into the divide between nature and civilization. Europe develops into the epitome of this civilization of hollowness, training, and restrictiveness. When Marlow arrives in Brussels to prepare to set off for Africa, it is described as a “white sepulchre” full of prejudice, offices, and testing prior to his departure (Conrad 11). Whereas, Africa is represented as this unknown landmass of darkness and culture that brings oneself deeper into their psyche and expands their mind to the wilderness. Marlow does not understand his surroundings when he sees a war boat firing into empty woods and cannot grasp the cause of despair when he sees the “black shapes” crouching under the trees malnourished (Conrad 19). Upon further examination of Marlow’s character arc, the reader can see how he has come to understand the distinct differences in these two worlds. This realization has given him the sensation of the weight of the world on his chest and that he was “buried in a vast grave full of unspeakable secrets” (Conrad 78). The foil of Africa has brought on the true comprehension on how these natives live and are treated by the antithesis Europeans. This reversal of the mind that occurs while traveling into the heart of darkness brings about change in the minds of all who are…