Things Fall Apart And Heart Of Darkness Comparison Essay

Things Fall Apart And Heart Of Darkness Comparison Essay-34
Writer’s Comment: My initial inspiration for writing this essay was a bit unorthodox—it was mostly out of antagonism for Chinua Achebe.I had spent years reading and appreciating Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, only to one quarter read Achebe’s famous essay “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness.’” Achebe’s claim stems mostly from the fact that Conrad denies the African natives a voice throughout the novel; however, after reading Achebe’s Things Fall Apart for Professor Schildgen’s fantastic COM 151 course, I saw an opportunity to channel this frustration into a comparison of the two (seemingly disparate) authors.

Writer’s Comment: My initial inspiration for writing this essay was a bit unorthodox—it was mostly out of antagonism for Chinua Achebe.I had spent years reading and appreciating Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, only to one quarter read Achebe’s famous essay “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness.’” Achebe’s claim stems mostly from the fact that Conrad denies the African natives a voice throughout the novel; however, after reading Achebe’s Things Fall Apart for Professor Schildgen’s fantastic COM 151 course, I saw an opportunity to channel this frustration into a comparison of the two (seemingly disparate) authors.Because Achebe’s Things Fall Apart was partly written in response to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, one of the choices for the second essay assignment was to contrast the treatment of “interior Africa” in the two works. This last question, that is, the question of ideology, seems to resonate throughout the entirety of Conrad’s larger narrative as well as through all narratives that represent colonial and post-colonial situations.

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However, Marlow is quick to assure his audience on the Nellie that “none of us would feel exactly this,” concluding that “what saves us is efficiency—the devotion to efficiency.” Marlow continues to distinguish between himself as a “colonizer” and the explorers of old as “conquerors,” stating that “the conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much” (4).

Here Marlow seems to challenge the conventional view of colonialism of the time, implying that colonial exploits are simply the plundering of resources based on racism and intolerance.

Early on in Marlow’s narrative in Heart of Darkness he wonders about the original colonizers of England, picturing a solitary figure who “has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable,” and explaining that living in the unknown “has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him.” Marlow explains that this “fascination” would certainly be of “an abomination—you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate” (4).

These effects, which are decidedly negative and center around a feeling of displacement and alienation, seem to be typical of all colonizers—indeed, Marlow seems to preface his own experience with the “abomination” with broad judgments about the legacy of colonial conquest in general.

The postcolonial debate over Conrad’s racism was initiated by Achebe in his 1988 essay entitled “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” (based on a late 1970s lecture first delivered at University of Massachusetts-Amherst).

Conrad was indeed appalled by what he saw firsthand when he went out to the Belgian Congo in the later nineteenth century, and in Heart of Darkness he presented a scathing indictment of European colonialism—viewed from limited Western perspectives.

The result is an essay that (hopefully) shows how both novels present radically different characters that ultimately participate in the same ideological subjection—a common trait in colonial and postcolonial discourse.—Kevin Peterson Instructor’s Comment: Kevin Peterson’s “ ‘We Are the Hollow Men’: Empty Ideology and the Devotion to Efficiency in Conrad and Achebe,” was the second of three required five-page essays written in Comparative Literature 151: Colonial and Postcolonial Literature, taught in Winter, 2009.

Primarily historical in its focus, the course examines the literature produced in colonial and postcolonial settings in the twentieth century.

This view of ideology, and indeed its inherent vacuousness, is supported by Louis Althusser’s assessment of the concept, as he believes that ideology, at its most basic level, functions to reproduce the conditions for the production of labor. must in one way or another be ‘steeped’ in this ideology in order to perform their tasks ‘conscientiously,’” and that this ideology, in the end, can only “[represent] the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence” (Althusser 1485; 1498).

He explains that this ideology requires that “all the agents of production, exploitation, and repression . This “imaginary transposition of the real conditions of existence” is caused by a small number of cynical men who base their domination and exploitation of the “people” on a falsified representation of the world which they have imagined in order to enslave other minds by dominating their imaginations. [and], lost in uncongenial surroundings, fed on unfamiliar food, they sickened, became inefficient, and were then allowed to crawl away and rest” (14).

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