Many literary criticisms have found similarities between these two

Many
literary criticisms have found similarities between these two narratives
because their setting is similar and address issues that are superficially
similar. These narratives are Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Joseph
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Although the books have many themes and topics in
common, this paper will focus on how the authors portray colonialism and
imperialism in Africa. The paper will also illustrate that the authors had
different fundamental purposes on culture. Chinua Achebe is a Nigerian
acclaimed author whose narrative ‘Things Fall Apart’ revolves around the life
of Okonkwo who hails from the fictional Umofia Village. The death if Okonkwo at
the end of the story symbolizes the end of his tribe and culture. Achebe refers
to the culture of the Igbo people as the Ibo culture. Furthermore, his death
portrays the pain that Igbo people experienced due to the change in the balance
of power. The people of Umofia who were used to ruling themselves were now
being ruled by the white men who had colonized Africa.  Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is based on
the experience of the author as a ship captain in Congo. Conrad uses the
protagonist, Charles Marlow, to form the basis of his story. He narrates
Charles’s the impression of the Congo basins that had been raided and colonized
by white men (Conrad 33). The forests of Congo are deep, dark and largely
infested by diseases. Both Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart center on
circumstances that instigate the awe-inspiring yet terrifying conflux of
colonialism and imperialism. However, while Achebe’s narrative is narrated from
the perspective of the colonized persons, Conrad’s narrative is narrated from a
perspective of the colonizer (Achebe 23). 

This
paper tries to highlight the similarities as well as the differences in both
stories by exploring underlying facts on imperialism and colonialism. Both
novels illustrate fundamental aspects of the nature of human beings, both in
the context of how they deal with the issue of violence and subjugation, and
the interracial confluences. In its content, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart
is an illustration of the African issues provoked by colonialism, while Herat
of Darkness is an illustration of the cruelty of the colonizers from the West.
The effects of colonialism on the people of the Igbo culture are evident. When
the white men entered the village of Umofia, led by Mr. Brown, they antagonize
Okonkwo’s clan. Although Mr. Brown was fond of the tradition of the people of
Umofia, Reverend James Smith is strict and intolerant. On visiting Okonkwo,
Obierika informs him that their village is invaded by white people who have
destroyed other villages including the village of Abame. The colonizers forbid
them from worshiping their gods citing idolatry. Smith is more zealous and
forces the people of Umofia to convert to Christianity to be relieved and set
free (Hawker 56).

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When
Enoch tries to unmask the egwugwu, the village retaliates by burning down his
compound and the Whiteman’s church. The events in this narrative reveal how the
village was unhappy with the colonizers who were trying to force a new religion
on Umofia. Upset by actions of the village, the District Commissioner orders
the arrest of the elders of the Umofia village (Hawker). While in jail, Chinua
Achebe reveals that the elders were insulted and tortured physically. Although
the Igbo were unhappy about colonialism, the author reveals that they were
incapable of retaliating. For instance, after Okonkwo returns to the village of
Umofia, he executed a Whiteman with a machete and thought the rest of the
village would join him in the uprising. To his surprise, no one joined him but
instead allowed the remaining court messengers to escape. In the narrative,
Okonkwo admits that the Whiteman is clever and has succeeded in killing the
Igbo culture which he held dearly. The introduction of a new religion by the
colonizer was meant to tear the village apart by undermining the values of the
village. Okonkwo is saddened that his son has abandoned his tribe to join
Christianity. Before his death, Okonkwo admits that the colonizer had put a
knife a the cultural values of the people of Umofia and there is nothing they
could do to stop them. Evidently, the white missionaries succeeded in throwing
away the practices and customs of the Igbo tribe. They (missionaries) have
forced the people of Umofia Village to convert to Christianity arguing that
their beliefs were founded on idolatry and untruth. Achebe’s novel offers
readers an insight of the Igbo tribe before it was invaded by colonialist who
changed every aspect of their culture (Achebe 64).

In
Conrad’s narrative, the author uses his characters to illustrate how the
colonizers dehumanized and depersonalized Africans. While the author does not
bring out the resistance towards the white man, the texts in ‘Heart of
Darkness’ seem to portray that Africans were opposed to the beliefs of the
colonizer. Marlow believes that colonizers must use brutal force to conquer the
weak ones. Marlow paints a picture of the wicked ventures of the colonialists
including economic exploitation in Congo. The colonialists would sell ivory but
give nothing valuable back to the community. Congo forests were famous for
Ivory which was the main desire for the colonizers. During Marlow’s trip, he is
stopped by the soldiers who had set up established outposts for collecting tolls
and taxes (Johnson 59). According to Marlow, these establishments were ways of
colonizers maintaining the claim on the land of the colonized.

The
colonizers threw away the culture of the people of Congo and adopted foreign
(European) laws that applied to the natives. Those who broke the law were
punished by cruel acts or by hard labor. Marlow saw a group of natives chained
together and were watched by one white soldier. These natives were termed as
criminals and had to face the outraged law. Through his characters, the author
portrays colonialism as aggravated murder and robbery with violence.  While working at the Ivory Company, Kurtz has
a soul filled with total blackness and darkness and views the lives of the
natives as less significant. The Whites have selfish interests while the
natives of Congo are spiritual and civil. The experiences of Kurt reveal the
horrible effects that colonialism has on the native Africans. Marlow uses a
bullet on the Negros forehead to symbolize how extreme violence threaded in the
hands of the colonialists (Conrad 49).

While
Achebe’s narrative ‘Things Fall Apart’ and Conrad’s narrative ‘Heart of
Darkness’ are written from different perspectives, the effects of colonialism
on the culture and lives of Africans are evident. Both stories illustrate the
brutal and physical assaults by the colonizers to the native Africans.
Evidently, colonialism changed the way Africans ruled themselves and became
ruled by the Whiteman’s law. The introduction of Christianity killed the African
culture and beliefs that had been held dearly. In fact, the colonizers forced
Africans to quit their beliefs and tribe and join Christianity (Hawker 77).

 

 

 

 

Works
Cited

Achebe,
Chinua. Things Fall Apart. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.

Conrad,
Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Independent Publishing Corporation, 2013.

Hawker,
Louise. Colonialism in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Greenhaven Press,
2009.

Johnson,
Claudia Durst. Colonialism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Greenhaven Press,
2012.