Many Africans were exploited as a result of Europeans arriving in Nigeria to extract ivory and spread religious ideas. The story of Africa’s impact on the white man is told in two novels: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and Heart of Darkness of Joseph Conrad. However, it is unclear if these novels are complementary. Chinua has called Conrad’s novel “racist.” It also contains elements such language and perspective which allow for interpretation. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness contains some racism suggestions. However, more analysis shows that the book does show some sympathy for Africans. It contrasts the brutality of Europeans with African culture and dignity, making it a complement for Things Fall Apart.
Both works showcase the humanity of African culture via the traditions and actions of Nigerians. Conrad for instance emphasizes the control exercised by locals, especially through Marlow’s reactions to and observations. Marlow says he wouldn’t have expected restraint by a hyena infested with corpses on a battlefield, but Marlow admires Marlow and the strong will of the starving people aboard the boat. He said, “It’s much easier to deal with bereavement and dishonour-than it is to endure prolonged hunger.” The respect expressed in these lines shows that Conrad recognizes the noble traits displayed by Nigerians. However, Achebe’s novel is more than just acknowledgment. Instead, it provides a deep look into Nigerian culture through Okonkwo’s personal story. Okonkwo is a respected Umuofia tribal member. While the narration remains objective, the narrator describes tribe customs that could be viewed either positively or negatively by readers. Conrad’s European view of events is dominated by this perspective.
Achebe’s novel contains a number of traditions, including the holy week of peace that is held between harvesting and planting. Okonkwo, who beat his wife and breaks the peace, is forced by the goddess of the Earth to make a sacrifice. The punishment had been to be carried through the village to death. But this practice broke the peace that it was supposed to protect. Although it might seem barbaric this practice highlights the importance of justice, peace, and society. Conrad’s depictions, however, are filled with “grotesque”, and “horrid”, behavior. Achebe instead shows that there were a type government that was respected.
The tribe has strong family ties and an ancestry sense. Okiko, who is a speaker, said that the white man threatened the tribe and that those who remained to protect them “have remained true their fathers.” Okonkwo was also angry at Nwoye joining the Christian missionaries. Okonkwo worries that his spirit may not be respected by his descendants after he dies. Conrad never mentions this connection to other humans, even though it is essential for Umuofia.
Achebe keeps revealing the depths of the emotions that natives feel, especially Okonkwo’s. One can clearly see the motivations for Okonkwo being the proud, hardworking man he is by reading his father’s history. This personal background helps to understand his motives and makes Okonkwo’s “savage-like” personality seem more humane. His strong bond with his tribe further emphasizes his ability to feel emotion. “Okonkwo was grieving shortly before his death. It was more than a personal loss. He was grieving for his clan.
These observations are far more insightful than Conrad’s. Heart of Darkness is anonymous and does not acknowledge or discuss the views or opinions of any of the Africans. Marlow feels the closest European connection. He feels a “claim to distant kinship” with the boat’s helmsman. While he may share a biscuit with a dying native, he has no close relationships.
Conrad’s redemption lies within the stark way he describes Africa’s exploitation. Marlow encounters an accountant while he is in Congo. This accountant doesn’t seem to care much about the well being and health of the local people.
Conrad says that while working, the groaning of a dead man is distracting.
Conrad’s novel is darkly depictive of whites. But Things Fall Apart shows how Europeans actually influenced Nigerian culture with the help of two missionaries, Mr. Brown or Mr. Smith. The church brings a different government and belief system to Umuofia when they arrive. While Mr. Brown’s approach was very discrete to evangelism and Mr. Smith showed how much power and influence Europeans were able have over Africans through actively working to alter the beliefs and traditions in Nigeria.
Okonkwo is taken into prison after he leads the rebellion against the missionaries. Although he is respectful of Umuofia laws and traditions, Okonkwo commits suicide. This shocking act shows the impact that white men have on individuals and the tribe. Okonkwo was able to take his own lives, but Obierka, his friend and fellow Umuofia native, blames the Europeans. He stated that “that man was one the greatest men Umuofia had ever seen.” “You drove him to suicide, and now he’ll be buried as a dog,” Chinua states. This powerful account of Europeans arriving in Africa is stronger than Conrad’s.
Although Heart of Darkness conveys some similar ideas about the European influence on Africa, it is not as powerful as Things Fall Apart. Conrad attempts savagery in whites. However, he uses language that could be misinterpreted as racist. Conrad also does not give any thoughts about the people affected by the settlers. Chinua uses a point of views to highlight the individual and their tribe in times when change is occurring and gives a better background on Nigerian culture before Christianity arrived. While Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness complement each other in their themes, Chinua’s work conveys its ideas better and is less ambiguous.