Literature · Novels and Novellas

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad | Book Review


Hating Heart of Darkness is almost cliché at this point. Sure it’s a classic and all, but many people hate the book. Reasons range from it not being a fun read to the racism found within the text.

Well I guess I’m a cliché when it comes to this.

Heart of Darkness was not fun to read, and recently I’ve read it for the third time.  But this isn’t a good enough reason to disparage it – plenty of books are not “fun” but should still be respected. However, Conrad’s book isn’t one of them.

Another thing, I’m not writing off this book because it’s racist either. Coming from a black girl:  when it comes to classic works, even racism can be forgiven the work is good enough.

My issue is that Heart of Darkness gets its point across very poorly. First of all, it’s too brief. Conrad doesn’t make his themes into anything meaningful in the short amount of time.

I got the impression that Conrad simply didn’t know how to portray his overall meaning, and so it resulted in a brief novella that doesn’t reach its full potential.

And what is he saying? That colonizers will become “savages” themselves by interacting with the Africans? Offensive or not, this idea is not presented in any masterful way.

Like a lot of colonial writers, Conrad also doesn’t grasp the African setting he writes about – to him it’s some dark abyss that he doesn’t know how portray or understand.

In the end, the truth is we don’t have to forgive Heart of Darkness for its racism since it isn’t very good.


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