The Art of Joseph Conrad: A Critical Symposium

By R. W. Stallman | Go to book overview

breathing fire and smoke out of my nostrils. I am not a woman-devouring monster. I am not even what is technically called "a brute". I hope there's enough of a kid and an imbecile in me to answer the requirements of some really good woman eventually--some day . . . Some day.

But there is no irony directed against him. There can be no doubt that his comments are supposed to have our approval. Yet they are not ones which can lay bare any profound moral or psychological or spiritual issues; they exist rather to cast a haze of romance and mystery over certain aspects of his theme.

The sea and the sea-captain, too, are continually looked at through this mist of rhetoric. The two are linked:

It's true the sea is an uncertain element, but no sailor remembers this in the presence of its bewitching power any more than a lover ever thinks of the proverbial inconstancy of women . . . the captain of a ship at sea is a remote, inaccessible creature, something like a prince of a fairy-tale, alone of his kind . . .

Conrad reflects, on the link established between Marlow and Powell,

. . . the service of the sea and the service of a temple are both detached from the vanities and errors of a world which follows no severe rule.

We remember the irony of the narrator's reflections in "The Secret Sharer" on the simplicity of life at sea, or the voyage of Nostromo and Decoud in the lighter, or even such passages from The Mirror of the Sea: ". . . the sea that plays with men till their hearts are broken, and wears stout ships to death". But here, once the intruder--"Mr. Smith"-- who hates the sea is removed, then indeed "The sea was there to give them the shelter of its solitude free from the earth's petty suggestions".

More and more, as Conrad goes on writing, shall we find rhetoric used to make us accept valuations and judgments which have not been as deeply considered as those of his best early work, and already in Chance the process is far developed.4 We find it--even down to a care for sentence inversion--in such a passage as:

Captain Anthony had not moved away from the taffrail. He remained in the very position he took up to watch the other ship go by rolling and swinging all shadowy in the uproar of the following seas. He stirred not; and Powell keeping near-by did not dare speak to him, so enigmatical in its contemplation of the night did his figure appear to his young eyes: indistinct--and its immobility staring into gloom, the prey of some incomprehensible grief, longing or regret. ( 1952)


NOTES
1.
Hewitt sees "The Secret Sharer" as marking the end of one phase of Conrad's works; finding the presence of a crisis within the works of this period, tensions removed from the later works. In the later works there is no longer the emphasis on the sense of guilt, and his central figures tend more and more

-313-

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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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