A Note on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

I remember this dialog from a college course.

Professor: “Some of you are going to get the wrong idea. Just remember that Heart of Darkness isn’t about degrading Africans as savage tribal people. It’s about showing how savage white civilization can be.”

Student: “Um. By using a stereotype of savage Africans as an allegory for a Euro-centric message?”

Professor: “… you obviously aren’t reading deeply enough into the text.”

Sometimes a cigar is a racist penis.

The student isn’t me, by the way; the student was somebody who was much more sensible than me. At the time, I was too in awe of the professors to argue.

(Of course, this was back when I foolishly thought I’d still be able to pull out a comparative literature degree, but we know that didn’t work out in the end.)