Colonization of Africa in “Heart of Darkness” and “Things Fall Apart”

Colonization of Africa in “Heart of Darkness” and “Things Fall Apart”


In “Things Fall Apart” Achebe describes tribal life in Africa and speaks how arrival of white male has altered lifestyle, culture, and gender functions in Igbo community. In “Heart of Darkness” Conrad explains oppressive treatment of Africans throughout colonization explaining a number of cases when white men were motivated primarily by greed and selfishness.

Both stories share the theme of African colonization, and Conrad and Achene illustrate how colonization affects African life, how culture, religious beliefs, gender roles alter. Regardless of authors concur that African colonization threatens indigenous tribes, they represent different results of colonization.

In “Heart of Darkness” Conrad discuses oppressive treatment of colonized Africans showing they have couple of opportunities to leave from discrimination and suppression, whereas in “Things Fall Apart” Achebe shows that African colonization gives ladies particular liberty threatening patriarchal society.

In “Things Break Down” Achebe shows that before the arrival of the white guy gender roles were standardized. Females were offered with certain responsibilities, but the world was patriarchal, overbearing and hierarchical. Life in community was andocentric significance ladies were treated as absolutely nothing crucial.

They were considered a part of males’s acquisitions. As partners, they “come in multiple numbers, sandwiched between yam barns and titles. These 3– spouses, yam barns, social titles– are the highest honors for the effective farmer, warrior, and male of worth”. (Achebe, 23) However, colonization brings modifications in culture and females all of a sudden discover themselves important representatives of social exchange.

They recognize they play essential role in trade in the market and in production of crops. Ladies begin to communicate directly with foreigners due to their position in the business of trading. Women’s selling success increases and, in such a way, ladies challenge traditional decision-making power in Igbo society.

Even more, Achebe shows that colonization adversely affects males as patriarchal standards are challenging by strengthened role of females. For example, Okonkwo, primary character, shows that white guy “has put a knife on the important things that held us together and we have fallen apart”. (p. 124)

In contrast to “Things Break Down”, Conrad displays in “Heart of Darkness” that colonization of Africa brings injustice and discrimination of women who are thought about of secondary importance. Conrad reveals that colonization reinforces patriarchal society and females have no possibilities to escape from cruelty of injustice and discrimination.

Furthermore, females are identified through the viewpoints of men. Hence, Conrad shows that colonizers are ready to do whatever it considers their own personal benefits. Marlow, the primary character, argues that ladies are incredibly restricted and they are related to darkness, violence and cruelty.

Females roles are divided into the mom, the slut and the dutiful virgin. For example, Marlow’s girlfriend is referred to as “savage and outstanding, wild-eyed and spectacular; there was something threatening and magnificent in her intentional development”. (Conrad, 101)

In contrast to “Things Fall Apart”, where men are still in dominant positions despite certain liberty of females, Conrad illustrates that African guys are oppressed; they are oppressed to serve the white men. Colonizers make use of human labor forcing Africans to work for a minimum payment. In spite of the spirit of bitterness is produced in the people, they understand bit can be done to combat injustice.


“Things Break Down” and “Heart of Darkness” represent various results of African colonization, but they show that colonization brings substantial changes to culture, religious beliefs and, what is more important, to gender functions. In “Things Break Down”, women are growing of power, their status in trade has increased, gender relations are altering, and patriarchal society is loosing its initial significance.

On the other hand, in “Heart of Darkness”, colonization reinforces females injustice and subordination; women are quickly managed and dominated by men. Furthermore, African males are oppressed too. White imperialism brings imperialism and slavery into the continent.

Works Pointed out

Achebe, Chinua. Things Break Down. U.S.A.: Anchor Publishing, 1994.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. U.S.A.: Penguin Group, 1999.

Iyasere, Solomon. Understanding Things Break Down: Selected Essays and Criticism. Troy, NY: Whitston Publishing, 1998.

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