When visiting such places as Africa and India in the novels, Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and Mister Johnson by Joyce Cary, we can become more aware of cultural differences that closely correlate with gender and race. The writers can create characters that when a different gender or race is put together, they can juxtapose, making the strong comparisons more visible. Firstly speaking of race, when the issue is thought of, it seems an assumption to think of conflict in today’s society.
However, what all of these novels demonstrate is that the differences between difference races has been a long going issue. Whether or not it is thought of more today, today the majority of us have been trained to think that racial differences should not matter; and so, as ever, our own race, background, and surrounding changes our train of thought, and how we interpret the writers. For, in the early 1900’s, our world still showed strong signs of race conflict as we take a brief look at the Southern parts of North America.
They were considered strangers; and the ‘strangers’ of these novels, for example, are those who are visiting, which seems to be a running theme. One of the key problematic concepts that Waugh, Conrad and Cary have chosen to depict through their characters and narration is the race and cultural differences that are compared in the duration of colonialism. In 1757 until 1947, the British Empire ruled over India, and also ruled over parts of Africa for a period of 99 years from 1861 to 1960 for the purposes of trade.
And so it is the context of these novels that we must bear in mind; the different races have been welded together and India, Africa and many other countries no longer had their freedom or identity. When Waugh, Conrad and Cary refer to colour, these colours can give the characters individualism where the people of Africa and India now wanted their independence back, and to separate themselves from the British, of whom the majority were white.
When referring to colour in these novels, it is visible to notice that the racial discourse had somewhat changed; for example, Waugh uses such words as “niggers” and “Negroes” when describing other ethnical groups. As it has not been so long since the people of India and Africa were ‘released’ so to speak from the British Empire, this may be the cause of why these words are rarely used today; it is now seen as racist or degrading. Our present reactions when reading these words in ‘Black Mischief” may strongly object towards the novel itself.
Waugh’s politically incorrect tone, as we now see it, is also conveyed through the characters of Cary’s ‘Mister Johnson’. Here we can see some of the characters racist and subjective comments, for instance, “Black trash”, and, “Do, pagan lump? Go home. You smell. ” And so, now not only do we see race in the ways of colour, but also linked with religion. Another example of negativity towards racial differences is of when Conrad is describing the first appearances of black people in his novel. “They had faces like grotesque masks. ”
And “Black Shadows. Although we can witness racialist attitudes within the characters belonging to Cary above, what does seem unusual is that the characters that are using racial discourse are actually both of a similar ethnic minority. What then later comes into the situation is the Ideology of the British who are involved with the British Empire, and in this case, we can see at the very beginning of the novel, Cary introduces us to Mr. Johnson. He speaks with confidence, is full of opinions when analysing a woman he is interested in as if he is a man of power.
Yet, what we do not understand is that Mr. Johnson is “as black as a stove”, “almost a pure Negro” and “is young, perhaps seventeen and is half grown… like a boy” until we read on further. Cary plays with our thoughts as we conjure up a stereotypical image of a white, adult where we are fooled by his very British name and confidence. As Cary begins with a positive, strong description of a black person that later deceives us, we are now more aware of Mr. Johnson’s powerful position throughout the novel, no matter what colour he is.
Further racially prejudiced descriptions within the texts are associated with animals; animals representing nature, which is how many people may picture Africa for example. These nature images can be linked to how the people of India and Africa wear very little clothes, and especially in comparison to the strangers who actually wear clothes. It is the strangers who describe them as animals, comparing themselves. Such as, Marlow, in Heart of Darkness is critically analysing the way the black Africans speak. They are described as, Violent babble of uncouth sounds” and, “short, grunting phrases. ” They are trying to speak, or are speaking an unfamiliar language and yet, Marlow’s depiction pictures the Africans animal-like, that make “uncouth sounds” and grunts that are almost like a wild animal or a dog, wolf or possibly a caveman.
Waugh also portrays the nature resemblances in relation to the Arabs, “Behind them in the hills the native Sakuyu, black, naked, anthropophagous, had lived their own tribal life among their herds. ” Cary’s ‘Mr. Johnson’ was also able to match the creation of nature and animals within his description of Mr. Johnson, to mislead our images of him previously. “His neck, legs, and arms are much too long and thin for his small body, as narrow as a skinned rabbit. ” The author’s character creations, which fit into an ethnic group, seem to be inferior of the British, and are not considered to be human. Onto the latter half of the essay, the relationship with Gender within the texts is very similar in that today there are more objections to such things like sexist comments, superiority and inferiority.
And as Marlow speaks in a sexist manner of the women in ‘Heart of Darkness’, he says that the women are “kept out of it. ” The women have very little to do with the support of British values. Here they play very little part of a society of colonialism and are seen in a domesticated category, have been idealized and are inferior to men. Also, as for women situated in Cary’s, ‘Mr. Johnson’, the women have to face domesticated chores, for example, Bamu, the ferryman’s daughter whom Mr. Johnson has decided he wants to marry, is working in yam fields in order to collect her family’s food.
And whilst she works, she does not respond to Mr. Johnson who is talking to her. What it seems from the image of women who are “kept out of it” and like Bamu who rarely speak, created by Conrad and Cary, women have no voice; they come across with no opinion, personality or even have choices or desires. They are bland, and practically motionless. Unfortunately, in this time period, we can see that there are a lot of unequal rights between both of the sexes, yet what seems already appropriate to say is that men tend to have more power over women.
In addition to this, Mr. Johnson, who speaks with colonial discourse, along with Marlow, Mr. Johnson is widely listened to by the people of Fada. This is because of his position; he says he works for the government and that he is rich, where Bamu’s family are more willing to accept an arranged marriage in exchange of a financial agreement. Conrad’s character Marlow illustrates women as images of beauty, but he alienates them from the man’s society. “We must help them to stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worse. Here, women are talked of being dangerous, in a typical society; on the other hand, the men can’t help but feel desire for them. Here, Cary describes Bamu being “well known for beuty,” and almost good enough to eat as she is naked, with her “skin as pale and glistening as milk chocolate, high, firm breasts, round, strong arms. ” His description of her like milk chocolate could represent the way men lust over the female anatomy that is a natural instinct.
Yet, due to the male’s desire for the women of Africa and India, it leads onto quite an important issue that is still around in today’s society in some countries. Arranged marriages. As Bamu hardly speaks, she has no say for whether she wants to marry Mr. Johnson or not, although her brothers and father do, leaving her to be “carried off by force”. And although the people of Africa and India want their own independence and are fighting for their own identity, identity seems to be one thing a woman is not allowed to have.
From the analysis above, the three texts, ‘Heart of Darkness’, ‘Mr. Johnson’ and ‘Black Mischief’ do raise issues relating to race and gender. However, since India and Africa are no longer in colonialism, they are able to have the autonomy they need. If these countries were still colonialist countries today, we may still think alike to how the writers did when they originally wrote their novels, racist or not. Our views are sometimes changed by a change in a society, yet there may be a Marlow out there who still believes colonialism should still be here today, and with no doubt, there are still some racists.
Unfair as these issues may be, the relationship between race and gender within the texts is evident, and largely negatively. We can see use of words such as “niggers,” “Negroes,” and many more unmentioned, for example in “Black Mischief”, we can see commands used like, “Under the table, Black Bitch,” and “Go home. You smell! ” in “Mr. Johnson”. Whether you are female or of an ethnic group, these novels reflect the mistreating of particular groups; yet, why do people do it in this colonialist society?
For reasons of power. The British colonialists, who can be said to be the authors, hold the power within the texts. Such characters like Marlow, Mr. Johnson, Seth and his Minister of Modernization, Basil Seal. And for those to be treated the way they are for race and gender issues, for most of the part it entails conflict. This is not just between different races and genders, but also linked to those closely equal, such as the coloured people who are ashamed of those who are blacker.
Albeit, the writers refer to animals and nature, colour and restricted lives females which are all important to build up the relationship between race and gender, what could be an advantage of these novels written in the era they were, is that, the writers can, although possibly subconsciously, make us aware of the problematic events that took place in history; and that they emphasise the seriousness on these issues that unfortunately are still in humanity. And these novels that show elements of truth may have even caused a change for society.