@shavixmir saidDoes it matter that Heart of Darkness portrays racist attitudes?
Well, I think it does matter, but not in the sense that it invalidates the work or means that we shouldn't read it now. It matters in the sense that the implicit or explicit ideological perspective of a work of literature is one of the things that readers ought to try and understand.
In hindsight, from out enlightened perspective, does that not actually make the book better? Like looking into the darkness of past attitudes to see where we are now and how far we still must go?
That's one way of looking at it; however, I don't want to look at the past merely to explore "the darkness of past attitudes" either. Sometimes I look to past attitudes in the hope that they will shed light!
In general, one of the reasons I read books or poems or plays written a hundred or four hundred or seven hundred or two thousand years ago is in part to access different perspectives on the world. In some cases (as when I encounter in classic literature the racism or sexism that was widespread in the past), that does indeed make me think that in some ways we have progressed.
But in other cases, I feel that we fall short of the values incarnated in the classics. I wonder if anyone in the modern world has so strong a sense of duty as Dorothea Brooke in George Eliot's Middlemarch, or Newland Archer in Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. I wonder how Dante, with his loathing of hypocrisy, venality and corruption, would have skewered the politics of the Western world in our time. I wonder what Sophocles, the first person to dramatise the struggle of the individual conscience against the dicates of state authority, would have said about Putin or Erdoğan or Xi.
Sometimes the most way to approach the great writers of the past is not to judge them, but to reflect on how they would have judged us.