Aspects of Hybridism in Joseph Conrad’s Almayer’s Folly and Heart of Darkness


Ilha Desterro




Abstract In the light of concepts put forth by cultural theorists like Homi Bhabha, Edward Said and Clifford Geertz, among others, this essay discusses Joseph Conrad’s novels Almayer’s Folly and Heart of Darkness as stagings of the conflicts inherent in the syncretic nature of all culture. In the first novel, the protagonist’s daughter, Nina, the offspring of an interracial marriage, is analyzed as a projection of the problems of racial and cultural hybridism. The theme recurs in Heart of Darkness, in the figure of the “harlequin”, whose mixed ancestry and motley appearance make him the butt of continuous abuse. A fictional anticipation of Michel Serres’ allegorical harlequin, the half-caste proves close to three Conradian characters: Nina, in Almayer’s Folly, and, in Heart of Darkness, Kurtz and Marlow, the narrator. Conrad’s two novels thus nod to each other as mutually illuminating references, fictional premonitions of the key postcolonial category of hybridity.

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