The Art of Joseph Conrad: A Critical Symposium

By R. W. Stallman | Go to book overview

a single phrase, for a man in his own consciousness is only what he is at the moment of being, at every moment of being; and even the most poignant retrospective glance will be coloured by the subjective eye of his present state. ( 1936)

DOUGLAS HEWITT


Conrad, A Reassessment: Chance

*

Chance was published in 1913, but Conrad had been long writing it. Begun towards the end of 1906, it was laid aside (because it did not develop as he wished) while he wrote Under Western Eyes, A Personal Record, "The Secret Sharer" and a number of less important short stories; and it was then taken up again in the summer of 1910 and finished in March, 1912. It belongs, that is, to the period of crisis and change in Conrad's writing life which I have seen as epitomized in "The Secret Sharer."1

It was with this novel that Conrad first achieved popular success, and it always remained one of his own favourites, but it bears, more clearly than Under Western Eyes, the marks of the decline in his art, the disappearance of those qualities which give such power to "Heart of Darkness" and Nostromo.

It may be objected that in formulating this judgment I am laying Chance on a Procrustean bed or blaming Conrad for not rewriting the early books again and again. But it seems plain that the later works, in general, show a retreat from the degree of awareness of the complexity of human emotion found in the early ones. The division of mankind into the camp of the good and the camp of the bad, for instance, is clearly a sign of a restriction rather than a change of interest.

The obvious flaws of Chance--its clichés, its defensive irony, its imprecise rhetoric--can be seen to come, I believe, from this evasion of the painful awareness of the darker side of even our good feelings. His theme here is, ostensibly, very much like those of the works we have already examined, the study of "the utter falseness of his [ Anthony's], I may say, aspirations, the vanity of grasping the empty air." But in fact the investigation is never undertaken. Too much is exempted from the scrutiny.

The two parts of the novel are entitled "The Damsel" and "The Knight." No better example could be found for the statement at the end

____________________
*
From Douglas Hewitt Joseph Conrad: A Reassessment ( Bowes & Bowes, 1952), VIII, pp. 89-102.

-304-

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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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