The Art of Joseph Conrad: A Critical Symposium

By R. W. Stallman | Go to book overview
holds his watch in his left hand, but clutched in such a manner that you cannot see the dial-plate." Time ticks on, but not for Judge Pyncheon; and, as in The Secret Agent, the narrative progression comes to a standstill by the shift in the point of view--Hawthorne addresses the corpse: "Rise up, Judge Pyncheon!" A housefly alights on the dead man's forehead, and then on his chin, "and now, Heaven help us! is creeping over the bridge of his nose, towards the would-be chief-magistrate's wide open eyes! Canst thou not brush the fly away? Art thou too sluggish?"

Hawthorne's house-fly resettles in the Russian Embassy of The Secret Agent, where Verloc hears it buzzing against the window-pane (II). Conrad has also lifted from The House of Seven Gables the shop-bell, which before and after the death-scene clatters to return us from that halted segment of time to the recognition of the Moment Now--back to time rushing on with life. In Macbeth the time-period of Duncan's murder is framed first by the bell that is rung to bring Macbeth his wine and finally by the bell that clatters to alarm the castle, and so perhaps Conrad and Hawthorne both pawned their bell from Shakespeare.

In both Macbeth and The House of Seven Gables the bell transports us from the framed segment of time terminated, a hole in time's continuity and in the progression of narrated events; transports us back from this segment, of time fixed and dead, to life and time's flux. (Verloc's shop-bell has the same symbolic import, but its symbolic import is not confined solely to this one.) In The Secret Agent the shop-bell rings both before and after the murder, but the interim consumes such a time-span that only the chronologist would notice this bell-enclosing device.

As for other points of comparison, both Hawthorne and Conrad render the dead man as alive, and render the living as more dead than alive (with the exception of Holgrave and the scissor-grinder and Ned Higgins and Venner, etc.); in Macbeth the resurrected Banquo contends against the living Macbeth, and this ghost destroys his enjoyment of point-present nowness. The Pyncheons are similarly haunted by Maul's curse. All three works dramatize the theme of time.

Both Hawthorne and Conrad evince a predilection for circles. Concentric circles diagram the seven generations of Pyncheons, and circular selfhoods-- patented by Hawthorne--reappear conspicuously in The Secret Agent. Another point of a parallelism is the circular form of both novels. Again, both novels open on a cutback in the time-sequence, the opening action in both novels beginning in Chapter II.

JOHN HOWARD WILLS


Adam, Axel, and "Il Conde"

*

"IL CONDE," the last and finest story of A Set of Six ( 1908), has been neglected by Conrad's critics. At most, there have been for it a few words of praise or a paragraph or two as to its "meaning." In view of its almost perfect form and complex symbolism, one can only wonder why it has been so neglected. Perhaps because of its tranquillity.

____________________
*
From Modern Fiction Studies, I, No. 1 ( 1955), 22-25.

-254-

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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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