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)
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____________________
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Publication information: Book title: The Art of Joseph Conrad:A Critical Symposium. Contributors: R. W. Stallman - Editor. Publisher: Michigan State University Press. Place of publication: East Lansing, MI. Publication year: 1960. Page number: 304.
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