African Settings in Contemporary American Novels

By Dave Kuhne | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Chapter 1
Africa: What Place Is This?

To understand the role of African settings in contemporary American fiction, it is important to recognize the connotations that Westerners have traditionally associated with Africa. Images of Africa and Africans in contemporary American fiction are usually either extensions of or reactions to notions about Africa popularized by earlier European and American authors. Africa, as it is represented in many British and American novels, is a mysterious and fearsome place. African environments are consistently described as harsh, challenging, frightening, and deadly; Africans are frequently portrayed as primitive, savage, and hostile. In American fiction, African settings are what Leonard Lutwack terms "landscapes of difficulty," places where characters test themselves against challenging conditions (33). For characters in American and British novels, African settings offer the challenges of remoteness, harsh topography, deadly disease, severe climate, dangerous wildlife, and hostile indigenous peoples. Most of all, African settings are landscapes of difficulty because Africa is strikingly different from the United States.

Indeed, Africa is frequently considered to be in binary opposition to the West. Chinua Achebe, for example, maintains that there "is the desire--one might indeed say the need--in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe" ( Hopes 2). Achebe refers to Heart of Darkness as a work that "projects the image of Africa as 'the other world,' the antithesis of Europe and therefore civilization," and he maintains that the image of Africa as the "other" is the dominant image of Africa in the West ( Hopes 3). John Cullen Gruesser echoes Achebe's analysis: the "West is one thing--good, reasonable, bright, and so on--while Africa is its opposite-- evil, irrational, dark" (3). Examples of the binary opposition of the West and Africa are numerous. The West is a technologically advanced world; Africa is a world that has not yet experienced technological development. Nature has been tamed in the


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
African Settings in Contemporary American Novels


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 156

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?