Heart of Darkness: Joseph Conrad and His Deconstructive Discourse

Sambit Panigrahi


            Chinua Achebe’s famous essay “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” published way back in 1978 poses a strong attack on Joseph Conrad. Achebe’s vantage point regarding his categorical attack on Conrad is based on the premise that Conrad possessed a thoroughly biased attitude towards the Africans whom he considered to be uncivilized and inferior compared to the Europeans for which he was termed as a “bloody racist” by the former, a term which however was modified later as “thoroughgoing racist.” According to Achebe, Conrad not only denigrated the African people but also the African land. The present article however contests Achebe’s notion and using a deconstructive analysis of Conrad’s ambiguous narrative and language, intends to establish the fact that Conrad is not an author who can be subject to such unidirectional and judgmental critical comment, rather is one whose writing is full of ambiguity, dual and oblique implications that defy any single meaning. Based on these precepts this article argues that the text, read closely, gives an impression that there are enough places in it where Conrad in fact intends to criticize the Europeans rather that denigrating the Africans and the paper intends to claim that Achebe, while posing a frontal attack on Conrad, has mostly missed the ambiguously suggestive undertones of Conrad’s narrative.      


Colonialism, deconstruction, polysemy, poststructuralism

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