This paper discusses that Chinua Achebe, in “Things Fall Apart”, and Joseph Conrad, in “Heart of Darkness”, present sharply contrasting images of Africa and African culture.
This paper argues that the differences in the images of Africa merely represent the reality of two novels written with different purposes, from the viewpoint of disparate culture, and at varying points in time of human development. The author points out that, viewed from the lens of modern day academic settings and politicized views of literature, the belief that “Heart of Darkness” is a general slander against Africans holds some validity, but, viewed from a contextual framework of the period, the varying cultural consciousness, plot structures, and intent, it equally may be claimed that Conrad merely was depicting the realities as perceived by Europeans at that point in time. The paper explains that the plot structure of “Things Fall Apart” revolves around a past that reveals that Africans and Europeans contributed equally to the tragic encounter between Europe and Africa, which ultimately weakened African society.
“Achebe succeeded in presenting a more complete picture of African society and culture because that was the intent behind “Things Fall Apart”. Conrad, on the other hand, had a very different purpose in that he wished to demonstrate the rapidity with which even an educated mind can descend into darkness in conditions of solitude. As Graff points out, until current day questions arose on the implicit racism in “Heart of Darkness”, the novel was seen as a universal parable of reason and unreason (Graff). There was very little scope really for Conrad to undertake an in-depth exploration of African culture.”