I believe that Joseph Conrad is not racist, and I think Achebe’s statement is unjustified in the fact that it does not take into account historical context. Conrad could be said to be ignorant in the way he talks about black Africans in his novel “Heart of darkness”, but on the notion of colonialism he is generally anti-colonialistc.

I also believe that Marlow is a mouthpiece for Conrad in the sense that they have experienced the same things to the extent where even the characters names are the same – When in the Congo, Conrad took over a steam boat formerly captained by a man called Frieslieben (Fresleven in the book), and he had to go and retrieve a man called Kurtz (also in the book) – In another book when asked of the likenesses between him and Marlow he said. ‘It is experience pushed a little (and only very little) beyond the actual case for the perfectly legitamate…

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‘ I think that any reader thinking that Marlow and Conrad are one and the same would be virtually correct. This means in my view that any likenesses and quotes that Marlow does or says can be directly linked to what Conrad believes in, therefore it is not a factor of how similar the two are as I see them as one entity. In the ‘Roman passage’ page 8 we can gain an acute insight into Conrads standpoint on conialism. First Marlow says [refering to the Romans] – ‘They were no colonists…

they were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force’ This seems to show that Marlow sees the ‘taking away’ of other peoples land as conquering, and that colonialism is a completely seperate thing. This suggests that he does not think colonialism is wrong as he points out that ‘they were no colonists’ as if highlighting to his listeners that they should not consider these men as good people, we can see this from what he says next – ‘It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale and men going at it blind’

By saying this Marlow has effectively put colonists and conquerors at opposite ends of the spectrum and if conquerors are at the bad end (this being assumed by the way Marlow describes them) then colonists must be at the good end. Marlow also says something that could be interpreted as pro-colonialistic on page 9, after explaining to the listeners of his tales that he had spent a lot of time at sea he says [upon his return in which he hassled them alot] – ‘… invading your homes, just as though I had got a heavenly mission to civilise you’

In saying this, Marlow states the act of civilising is god-related, this coming after Marlow had been called an ‘idol’ by the first narrator. This could interpreted in the sense that Conrad believes civilising is a white man’s duty and that god endorses such actions. Although having said this I believe that a comment made by Marlow back on page 8 is the most potent and rememberable quote on the subject of Conrads colonial viewpoint, and this is (among other things) the quote that makes me believe Conrad isn’t a ‘bloody racist’ as Chinua Achebe says.

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