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This picture sat in the background of our middle-class colored Sunday dinners like a memento mori, and we made fun of it the way you joke about things that truly scare you.
Hence a colonial mind-set plays a central part in , as does the missionary project.
At the end of the novel, with Jane legally married to widower Rochester, and mother of his children, Jane’s cousin, St John Rivers, is dying in India: his attempts to convert and ‘civilise’ the Indians left their mark on him.
African writer Chinua Achebe was clearer when he, in a 1975 lecture, denounced Conrad and the novella.
To him, Conrad’s portrayal was dehumanising and degrading as the colonised Africans are seen as animalistic and devoid of speech, and are de-individualised and lumped together into one dark group in the story’s jungle background.
There is always an element of ownership and control about “exotic”—because the dreamer controls the fantasy—which is the downfall of real contact.
There is always something willfully stupid about “exotic”: two-dimensional, fundamentally dull, like all fetishism. It is exciting in the same amateur way as mild bondage in lovemaking, and as quickly forgotten.
For Romantic and Victorian writers like Coleridge, de Quincey, Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, Collins, Gaskell and Conan Doyle, thus stood for the wonderful against the mundane, and the imaginative against the prosaic and rational.
On the other hand, the stories referenced real people and a real geography: many readers were thus led to believe that Sheherazade’s tales actually gave a faithful account of the Orient.
Yet anyone raised within the confines of the European canon knows that, in that context, “exotic” inevitably means “dark.” What I myself—a woman of African descent, domesticated by European rules—first envision, when I hear “exotic,” is an eye, black as a bottomless well.
Darkness with a secret glitter in its depths, hinting at information both offered and withheld.