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Africa: a Foil for European Superiority

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Africa: A Foil for Civilized Superiority Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a novel that is widely considered a classic; it is highly acclaimed, and taught in most high schools. Yet many people, including Chinua Achebe, a well regarded African writer, believe that Heart of Darkness should not even be considered a piece of art, let alone a classic; the reason being that Heart of Darkness exudes racism. However, this is not the true issue, for two reasons: first, racism was extremely prevalent, as well as acceptable, at the time, making racist elements, while still not tolerable, understandable. Second, this book unwittingly exemplifies a much larger issue, which is still present today: the need of the "civilized" to be superior in every way to other people whom they consider too be more savage. Although people largely do not differentiate between the need to be superior and racism, with racism often seen as the result of this need, a large difference does, in fact, exist. ...read more.


and distorted version of their own. This is where the superiority complex can be mistaken for racism, but a difference still remains, as this view of Africa is not based off of skin color, which isn't of the slightest concern, as they could be any color, including white, and the result would be the same. Rather, it is the clear difference in the social structure that allows people to easily differentiate between Africa and the "civilized" world, which in turn allows people to believe that their way of life is better. This sense of superiority springs not from racism, which is often just an excuse to mistreat or take advantage of another race, but from the human need to be the best, with Africa providing the perfect backdrop for comparison. Unfortunately, this has caused Africa to suffer. In Chinua Achebe's essay, "An Image of Africa," Achebe's main focus is to point out the racism, in Heart of Darkness, and argue against its merit as a classic. ...read more.


This passage depicts Africans not as they were, but as people want, even need, to see them. Without this depiction, people lose their superiority, and that is why to this day, much of Africa's History remains shrouded in darkness, because our need to be superior is still present, and to remove the veil is to remove our superiority, and for most people, that simply does not work. The need for people to be superior is the root to some of the biggest atrocities and injustices dealt by humanity to this day. People need Africa to be savage, they need it to seem horrible to give them a positive outlook on how far they've come, causing Africa to suffer as a result. One could argue that this need is far worse than racism, yet this issue remains untouched while people protest and fight racism daily; it stands to reason then, that simple human decency would demand we fight this desire to place ourselves above other people, and right the wrongs which it has caused. ...read more.

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