Comparison Between Heart of Darkness & Things Fall Apart Video

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  • 0:05 Compare and Contrast
  • 0:48 Colonialism
  • 1:48 Native Representation
  • 2:36 Structure
  • 3:40 Other Contrasts
  • 4:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

Comparing and contrasting two pieces of literature can reveal a lot about both works. In this lesson you'll compare and contrast Joseph Conrad's ''Heart of Darkness'' and Chinua Achebe's ''Things Fall Apart.''

Compare and Contrast

You compare and contrast things every day, even if you don't realize it. Comparing is when you look at the similarities between two things, like when you compare the ingredients of a name brand item with those of a store brand item. Contrasting is when you look at the differences between two things. For example, for those same grocery items, you might contrast the prices.

Comparing and contrasting two pieces of literature can be an interesting experience as well, especially if they're focused around similar things. For example, Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, and Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, have a surprising number of similarities, and their differences are also enlightening. Let's explore them.

Colonialism

One of the similarities is that both works focus on colonialism in the early 1900s, when many European countries were setting up colonies in Africa. For Things Fall Apart, this is the main focus of much of the novel, and it features prominently in Heart of Darkness as well. Both show some of the effects that the white colonists had on the area and the influence they had on the natives.

In Heart of Darkness, for example, we see the influence of Kurtz over the natives at the Inner Station, where they revere him almost as a god. At the other stations, we also see the natives being affected by the white colonists, changing their ways of living around the station, and following what the white men command, for the most part.

In Things Fall Apart, we see this in Okonkwo's home village, where the white colonists set up a District Commissioner (D.C.) and the natives bend to the laws he sets, even helping him enforce them. This completely changes their previous way of life.

Native Representation

Another similarity the two novels have is how natives are viewed by the white colonists. While most of Things Fall Apart takes place from the point of view of the natives, we do see some of the white colonists' attitudes, particularly through the D.C. This view is very similar to what we see in Heart of Darkness.

The western view of natives in both books is negative. The D.C refers to them as 'primitive' people who need to be 'pacified.' He looks down on their way of life as inferior to the European way. Kurtz, in Heart of Darkness, refers to the natives as 'brutes' who need to be 'exterminated.' This may seem more extreme, but in the end both the D.C and Kurtz have the same view: natives are savages whose current way of life is unacceptable.

Structure

Both novels take place during similar historic events. They are set in the late 1800s to early 1900s, during European colonization of Africa. Things Fall Apart involves missionaries in Niger. In Heart of Darkness, it's the ivory trade in the Congo. As you can see, the two do have some dissimilarities.

In addition to being set in different countries, the structure of the novels also differs. Things Fall Apart starts before the missionaries come, to give us a good idea of what native life was like, and how drastically it was affected. Heart of Darkness starts after the ivory trade is already established, so we don't get any past comparison of native life.

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