The Art of Joseph Conrad: A Critical Symposium

By R. W. Stallman | Go to book overview

Whalley admits, "I began to tamper with it [his conscience] in my pride" (300). "Not even the sign of God's anger" could make him forget his daughter (or what he thought was love of his daughter). But unlike Abraham, who had faith in God regarding Isaac, Whalley feels "like the blinded Samson, I would find the strength to shake a temple upon my head" (301). This is precisely what he does.

The vain emphasis on his doing something, the inability to trust God, the "whole life . . . conditioned by action," all worked together to make him ignore the "act of God"--his blindness. Sterne says he "pretended to struggle against the very decree of Providence." He classifies himself as a man who "stood up against God Almighty Himself." "He had lived on without any help, human or divine. The very prayers stuck in his throat. What was there to pray for? and death seemed as far as ever. . . . The hand of God was upon him, but it could not tear him away from his child. And, as if in a nightmare of humiliation, every featureless man seemed an enemy" (303).

The growth of evil from the imperceptible flaw of his dealings with the grotesque Massy reaches satanic proportions. To Mr. Van Wyk he seemed a man who "would accept no help from men, after having been cast out, like a presumptous Titan, from his heaven" (305). His pride made it impossible for Whalley to believe that "they also serve, who only stand and wait."

What haunted him was the prospect that he could not save his daughter, that his power was at an end. He thought "the punishment was too great for a little presumption, for a little pride" (324). And this undercuts the sentimental aspects of the story.5 Because Whalley, despite his fault, is still the most worthy and sympathetic character in the ironic and fallen world in which he lives, the reader does feel that his punishment is too great.

Whalley reaches "the end of the tether" when Massy deflects the compass with pieces of iron. For him "the light had finished ebbing out of the world" (333). Repeating the treachery by which Massy destroyed the ship, Whalley takes the iron from Massy's coat and stuffs it into his pockets. He, "who had made up his mind to die, should [not] be beguiled by chance into a struggle." His hands, like Massy's, must necessarily be reddened by the rust-blood of the iron. Blackness blinds the world. "They, looking from the boat, saw the Sofala, a black mass upon a black sea. . . ." (333). ( 1958)


NOTES
1.
Joseph Conrad, Youth ( New York, 1903), p. ix. All page references are from this volume.
2.
G. Jean-Aubry, Joseph Conrad, Life and Letters, II ( New York, 1927), p. 338. Also see Conrad letter to Alfred A. Knopf (Aubry, p. 150), where, regarding the Falk volume, Conrad said, "I don't shovel together my stories in haphazard fashion. 'Typhoon' belonged to that volume; on artistic and literary

-190-

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The Art of Joseph Conrad: A Critical Symposium
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vi
  • Table of Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Part One 1
  • The Art of Conrad 5
  • Notes 13
  • Notes 13
  • Notes 19
  • Notes 35
  • Notes 45
  • Part Two 59
  • Notes 87
  • Notes 96
  • The Nigger of the "Narcissus" 121
  • On Lord Jim(an Excerpt) 140
  • On Lord Jim 142
  • Notes 154
  • Marlow's Descent into Hell 162
  • Conrad's Underworld 171
  • Three Notes On "Heart of Darkness" 179
  • Notes 186
  • On "Typhoon" and the Shadow Line 190
  • On Nostromo 191
  • Notes 198
  • Conrad's the Secret Agent 209
  • Notes 227
  • Notes 234
  • Adam, Axel, and "Il Conde" 253
  • Notes 254
  • Notes 275
  • Notes 275
  • The Secret Sharer 289
  • Joseph Conrad: Chance 296
  • Notes 304
  • The Hollow Men: Victory 313
  • The Knight: Man in Eden: the Arrow of Gold 317
  • On the Rescue 323
  • On the Rover and Suspense 330
  • Notes 331
  • Appendix I 337
  • Appendix II 345
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