The Russian trader in the "Heart of Darkness" approximates Enoch in "Things Fall Apart" in providing the spark the leads to the explosion of the narratives. The Russian trader tells Marlow about Kurtz's secret, which leads Marlow to confront Kurtz. Enoch violates sacred rites that result in the burning of the church, the imprisonment of tribal leaders, Okonkwo's rebellion and suicide. The general manager in Conrad's novel approximates the district commissioner in Achebe's novel. The pilgrims and cannibals in Conrad's work are also a parallel of Achebe's court messengers, who decide to obey white colonizers. Marlow can be compared with Mr. Brown in their kindness and tolerance of the natives, despite their superiority to these natives. And Kurtz's African mistress in Conrad's work is comparable to Okonkwo's favorite daughter, Ezinma, in Achebe's novel and as the only female characters of significance to the works.
Comparison Between the Authors and Their Societies
Joseph Conrad was a sailor who became a British subject. His boyhood dream of traveling to the Congo was fulfilled when he took command of a steam ship in a Belgian Congo in 1890. His experiences in the Congo became the outline for this novel. His stay there caused him poor health, as reflected by the poor health of his main character, Marlow. Both Conrad and his character returned to Europe to recover.
The novel is an attempt at bridging Victorian values and ideals of modernism. Like earlier Victorian novels, it relies heavily on traditional ideals of heroism. Home and civilization are mere and hypocritical ideals without meaning to men for whom survival is a constant concern and subject of doubt. This is why there are hardly female characters in the fiction. Like much of the literature in the early decades of the 20th century, the "Heart of Darkness" revolves around alienation, confusion and overwhelming doubt about imperialism. By the 1890s, most of the world's "dark" places were at least nominally under the control of Europe. Major European powers were trying to govern and protect far-flung territories. The system showed strong signs of collapsing. The novel suggests that this is a natural result of operating outside a social system of checks and balances and that power over other human beings inevitably corrupts.
Although among the first literary texts to offer a critical view of European imperial activities, critics did not find it controversial. They admire it as a condemnation of a particular kind of adventurer who takes easy advantage of imperialism and opportunism.
Kurtz's unwitting, affectionate and sentimental fiancee was praised by reviewers for her maturity and sentimental appeal. Because the setting is a Belgian colony and the lead character works for a Belgian trader, British readers find a reason not to identify with what the novel implies. Nonetheless, it emphasizes the central themes of hypocrisy and absurdity. Through his novel, Conrad wants to know if it is possible to call a person insane or wrong when he is part of a system, which is completely corrupted and corrupting. The "Heart of Darkness," at its most abstract level, explores that difficulty to understand the world outside of the self and the ability of one man to judge another.
Albert Chinualumogu Achebe is a native of Ogidi, the largest village in Nigeria, born on November 16, 1930. He had a multicultural upbringing within the traditional culture of the Ibo. He studied history and theology in college and took special interest in indigenous Nigerian cultures. He later rejected his Christian name, Albert, and assumed his traditional name, Chinua.
He was a founder of a Nigerian literary movement, which used traditional oral culture of indigenous peoples. He wrote "Things Fall Apart" in 1950 in response to Joseph Conrad's novel, which views Africa as a primitive and culture-less foil for Europe. This novel seeks to convey a fuller understanding of African culture and offer a voice to this under-represented and exploited colonial subject. It is his reaction to white men's account of Africa as primordial, socially backward and language-less.
Like Conrad's novel, "Things Fall Apart" is set in the later part of the 19th century. It is an account of the clash between the white colonial government in Nigeria and the traditional culture in that period. He carefully portrays the complex and advanced social institutions and artistic traditions of the Igbo culture before it had contact with Europeans. But he does this without stereotyping the Europeans, such as in depicting the benevolent Mr. Brown, the zealous Reverend Smith and the cruel and calculating district commissioner. His exposure to European customs allowed him to put both European and African perspectives together. His decision to use English as language for the novel was a political one. He wanted to revitalize native languages as a form of resistance to colonial culture and achieve this within and through the English language. Many of his novels have continued address the post-colonial social and political issues and problems of Nigeria since the 1960s.
The ominous drumbeats, which Conrad's character Marlow describes as mingling with his heartbeat; draw a parallel with Achebe's. "Things Fall Apart" ushers in the reader into the lives of the Ibo clan in Nigeria in Achebe's work where he learns about the Ibo's customs, beliefs, and language. Through his anti-hero and main character Okonkwo, Achebe bring to immediate and intimate experience of the average reader people they can identify with without dressing like Americans or sharing other religious beliefs. His novel brings light to important questions to think about and is structurally easy to read.
"Everything belonged to him -- but that was a trifle. The thing to know was what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over. It was impossible -- not good for one either trying to imagine. He had taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land -- I mean, literally. You can't understand -- how could you?" Part 2, p 43, "Heart of Darkness"
"They had behind him, to my mind, the terrific suggestiveness of words heard in dreams, of phrases spoken in nightmares." Part 3 p 59, "Heart of Darkness"
"The horror! The horror!' Part 3, p 62, "Heart of Darkness"
"Beware Okonkwo!... Beware of exchanging words with Agbala. Does a man speak when a god speaks? Beware!" Chapter 11, p 89, "Things Fall Apart"
"But he was not the man to go about telling his neighbors that he was in error.
And so people said he had no respect for the gods of the clan. His enemies said
That his good fortune had gone to his head." Chapter 4, p 24 "Things Fall Apart"