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By Jennifer Brown (auth.)

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Extra resources for Cannibalism in Literature and Film

Sample text

Cannibalism is a potent theme in Heart of Darkness, highlighting issues of racism, degeneration, ideological ambivalence, and orality. Foremost in the discussion of Heart of Darkness as a cannibal text is its depiction of Africa as a cannibal land and the natives as cannibals. Conrad follows the example set by the imperial romance by peopling the colonies with cannibalistic savages. Further to this, the land itself is described as cannibalistic, swallowing intruders into its darkness. Labelling Africa and its inhabitants cannibalistic is a familiar feature of the imperial romance.

The charge of cannibalism denies the accused their humanity, lowering them to animal status and therefore 20 Mr Cannibal I Presume? The Colonial Cannibal legitimizing their enslavement. Invariably it is the Other, distant in time or location, who is believed to be cannibalistic, affording the noncannibal a sense of superiority. The strategy of self-definition against a projected alien group certainly became an element of colonial discourse. The essayists in the important collection Cannibalism and the Colonial World argue that the savage cannibal was a construct used as an antithesis to the civilized man, and that the savage’s monstrous cannibalism was used as justification for imperialism.

Orality, the metaphor of the mouth, and voice, are critical issues in discussing a cannibalistic tale. This is especially the case given the nature of the narration in Heart of Darkness. Thus cannibalism functions in the novel as the locus for questions of control: control of appetite, desire, enemies, resources, and representation. First I will examine the depiction of Africa as a cannibalistic zone populated by real cannibals in the novel. It is in these depictions that accusations of Conrad’s racism resonate.

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