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What is your impression of the description of settings and characters in the heart of darkness? Do the Africans seem stereotyped to you? What signs are there that the narrator is sympathetic towards them?

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Introduction

English literature coursework: What is your impression of the description of settings and characters in the heart of darkness? Do the Africans seem stereotyped to you? What signs are there that the narrator is sympathetic towards them? "Heart of darkness" is a novella that focuses on one man's travels through Africa. In this book Marlow compares the differences between the white people in England who he is used to being with, and the indigenous people whom he is surrounded by when exploring the Congo River. When the book was written in the 19th century Conrad's views towards colonialism were viewed as radical, however, many people today think that the author is in fact racist. People come to this conclusion because throughout the book Conrad often stereotypes the black people and is reluctant to commend the Africans way of life. This essay will look at the descriptions of settings and characters in the book and whether the narrator is racist because of the way he stereotypes the African people. At the very beginning of the novella the narrator (who is not introduced in any way) describes an Englishman called Marlow. The manner in which Marlow is described instantly makes the reader respect him because the attitude of the narrator is very infectious. ...read more.

Middle

He describes Africa as "one of the dark places on earth". This means that Marlow did not think very much of the African people or the environment in which they lived. Marlow felt that he did not need to get to know their way of life because the English ways or the light places on earth were already 'perfect'. In a way, Marlow was likening the people on earth to plants which need light to survive but, if they are left in the dark they become withered and disfigured...like the black race. This is an extremely racist point of view and Conrad here displayed the common view that, if someone did not have the same coloured skin, they were disfigured and abnormal. Conrad feels as though he is not racist because he had sympathy for the indigenous people when the rest of England did not.The author displays the typical attitude of a white male in 19th century England because he thought nothing of places outside of England or other western societies. Conrad also describes Africa as "the biggest, the most blank" space on the world map of those days. This looks at Africa as a playground for the English to explore rather than the place where another equally brilliant culture existed. ...read more.

Conclusion

Conrad does therefore believe that the Africans were being exploited and he was disgusted at the fact. In conclusion, when Conrad describes the indigenous people and their surroundings around the river Congo he gives of an attitude that is typical of a 19th century white man. He was reluctant to show interest in the people and showed a different attitude entirely to the white men he described. When describing the white men, all he has for them is praise. Also Conrad does seem to have a very stereotypical view of anyone that is a different race and colour. If they are black in his eyes that meant that they were wild and barbaric, barely even human at all. Finally this book proves that he did have a soft side and felt for the African people for he well knew that the Europeans were taking advantage of the resources and simple, innocent lives in Africa. Even though Conrad did not use himself as the main character he portrayed his deep and sincere feelings through Marlow. Overall this book is, even though at times stereotypical and racist, a cry out for help from Conrad and the black people. Conrad wanted to get his message across, that what was happening in Africa was unacceptable, and still keep his dignity in tact. By writing the heart of darkness he did so, very well. Ashleigh Tilley 10s ...read more.

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