UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Quest for identity in Joseph Conrad's fiction Epp, Harold Bernard 1968

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata


831-UBC_1968 A8 E55.pdf [ 4.78MB ]
JSON: 831-1.0106668.json
JSON-LD: 831-1.0106668-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 831-1.0106668-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 831-1.0106668-rdf.json
Turtle: 831-1.0106668-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 831-1.0106668-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 831-1.0106668-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

THE QUEST FOR IDENTITY IN JOSEPH CONRAD'S FICTION by HAROLD BERNARD EPP B.A., University of British Columbia, 1966 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF Master of Arts i n the Department of English We accept this thesis as conforming to the required/, standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA August, 1968 In p r e s e n t i n g t h i s t h e s i s in p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t of the requirements f o r an advanced degree at the U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the L i b r a r y s h a l l make i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r r e f e r e n c e and Study. I f u r t h e r agree that p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e copying of t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by h.lis r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . It i s understood that copying or p u b l i c a t i o n of t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l gain s h a l l not be a l l o w e d w i t h o u t my w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n . Department of English The U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada Date August ,1968 - i -ABSTRACT Joseph Conrad regarded l i f e as the pursuit of a dream which gives man a sense of purpose i n l i f e . The individual'a attempt, through action and communication, t© make this dream real te himself and to his fellow men constitutes the quest for identity i n Conrad's works. Chapter I explores various aspects of the quest. Because l i f e i s a "destructive element", the individual must struggle to justify his existence and make his dream come true. To be successful i n this struggle, man needs self-knowledge. This, i n turn, requires a commitment to the community. The quest i s , therefore, ethical rather than metaphysical. Chapter II i s a study of the egoistic dream. The sense of superiority over the rest of mankind causes Jim, Heyst, and Kurtz to dissociate themselves from their fellow men. Con-sequently, they lack a clear sense of their moral responsibility and of the destructive tendencies i n their own nature. Rather than help these individuals te find meaning i n l i f e , the egoistic dream becomes the cause of their failure. Chapter 111 concentrates upon the "saving illusion", a sense of self involving a moral commitment to the community. Through involvement, the individual becomes concerned with - i i -f u l f i l l i n g his moral obligation, rather than vindicating an ideal of himself. Therefore, he seeks the self-knowledge which w i l l enable him to guard against defeat. Obedience to the claims of love and conscience i n Under Western Eyes, the sense of duty towards the ship i n "The Secret Sharer", and the sense of solidarity i n The Nigger of the 'Narcissus* enable the protagonists i n these stories to f u l f i l their obligation to the community. Finally, Chapter IV deals with Conrad's artistic endeavour as his quest for identity. Conrad's aim was to communicate his truth to the reader. The achievement of his artistic goal required self-knowledge which he, lik e his characters, acquired i n the struggle of l i f e . The hard realities of l i f e become the "terms of his appeal". Conrad's vision of l i f e evokes i n his readers the sense of solidarity which testifies to the success of his quest for identity. - i i i -TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I: THE QUEST FOR IDENTITY 1 CHAPTER II: THE EGOISTIC DREAM 21 CHAPTER H I : THE SAVING ILLUSION k5 CHAPTER IV: THE MOMENT OF VISION 75 BIBLIOGRAPHY 95 - i v -ABBREVIATIONS AF =»Almayer's Folly", Almayer's Folly and Tales of Unrest, (London: Dent, 19*7). HD ="Heart of Darkness", Youth. Heart of Darkness and The Ehd of the Tether (London: Dent, 1946). LJ = Lord Jim: A Romance (Mew York: Doubleday, 1926). MS = The Mirror of the Sea (New York: Doubleday, 1926). W ="The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' «, The Nigger of the 'Narcissus', Typhoon. Amy Foster, Falk, To-Morrow (Losdon: Dent, 1950). Hos = Nostromo; A Tale of the Seaboard (New York: Doubleday, 1 9 2 * 7 : PR = A Personal Record (New York: Doubleday, 1926). PRom ="Prince Roman", Tales of Hearsay (New York: Doubleday, 1926). Res = The Rescue: A Romance of the Shallows (New York: Doubleday, 1926). Rom = Romance: A Novel (New York: Doubleday, 1926). SS ="The Secret Sharer," 'Twixt Land and Sea (New York: Doubleday, 1926). TU ="Tales of unrest", ALmayer's Folly and Tales of Unrest (London: Dent, 19*7). UWE = Under Western Byes (New York: Doubleday, 1926). Vie = Victory (New York: Doubleday, 1926. -V-ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I would l i k e to acknowledge the encouragement and assistance I have received from Mr. Andrzej Busaa i n the formulation and completion of this thes is . -1-CHAPTER ONE: THE QUEST FOR IDENTITY Although Conrad descr ibed himsel f as a " c h r o n i c l e r of the adventures of mankind amongst the dangers of the kingdoms 1 of the e a r t h , " h i s primary m o t i v a t i o n f o r w r i t i n g was not the t a s t e f o r adventure which " i s but a phantom, a dubious 2 shape without a h e a r t . " Rather , he was motivated by a d e s i r e to d iscover and u n v e i l the t r u t h of l i f e . "Whatever dramatic and n a r r a t i v e g i f t s I may have," he explained i n a l e t t e r t o S i r Sidney C o l v i n (March 18, 1917), "are always, i n s t i n c t i v e l y , used w i t h t h a t o b j e c t — t o get a t , to b r i n g f o r t h 1 Joseph Conrad, "Books," Notes on L i f e & L e t t e r s (London: Dent, 192*0, p . 6. 2 Conrad, "Wel l Done: 1918," Notes on L i f e & L e t t e r s , p . 190. -2-3 les valeurs ideal es." In his artistic credo, the Preface to The Nigger of the 'Narcissus*, he defines his aim as the attempt to find i n the aspects of l i f e "what of each is fun-damental, what is enduring and essential..their one illuminat-ing and convincing quality—the very truth of their existence" (NN, v i i ) . Conrad's fiction can be likened to the quest for the holy-grail. In the course of this quest, the hero of romance con-fronts hostile forces which appear unexpectedly and often i n disguise. By struggling to overcome these hostile forces, the hero acquires knowledge about himself and the world i n which he lives. This knowledge helps him to attain his goal. Similarly, the artist descends into a "lonely region of stress and str i f e " (NN, v i i i ) where he confronts situations "that show i n the light of day the inner worth of a man, the edge of his temper, and the fibre of his stuff; that reveal the quality of his resistance and the secret truth of his pre-tences, not only to others but also to himself" ( U , 10). Accordingly, the artist discovers the "terms of his appeal" (NN, v i i i ) which make the artistic endeavour successful. 3 Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters, ed. G. Jean-Aubrey (New York,, 192?), H, 185. -3-Through th© conflict, the a r t i s t , l i k e the hero, proves himself worthy of his goal. For Conrad, the value of an achievement was integrally related to the personal meaning and value which man discovered through his conflict. " You must touch your reward with clean hands, l e s t i t turn to dead leaves, to thorns, i n your grasp" (LJ, 222). Thus, the quest becomes a search for personal meaning and value, or identity. This quest for identity i s one of Conrad's fundamental themes, manifesting i t s e l f i n the l i v e s of his f i c t i o n a l characters as well as i n the author's pursuit of a r t i s t i c achievement. Interpreted i n terms of existentialism, the search f o r identity i n Conrad's f i c t i o n follows the premise that "existence means freedom, but this freedom i s the nothingness i n man's heart which compels the human r e a l i t y to make i t s e l f , instead of be i t s e l f . " A christian apologist would draw a pa r a l l e l between Conrad's quest motif and Christ's words i n the Sermon on the 5 Mount: "By their f r u i t s ye s h a l l know them," and, one might add, "Ye sh a l l know yourselves." This simply means that man has no identity or meaning apart from his existence. Adam Gillon, The Eternal Solitary: A Study of Joseph Conrad (Hew York: Bookman, I960), p. 163. 5 St. Matthew, 7: 20. Recognizing this fact, the chief engineer i n Nostromo argues: "Things seem to be worth nothing by what they are i n themselves. I begin to believe that the only s o l i d thing about them i s the s p i r i t u a l value which every one discovers i n his own form of a c t i v i t y " (Nos, 318). In a l e t t e r to his aunt, Mae. Poradowska, September *, 1892, Conrad wrote: ,rWhen one well understands that i n oneself one i s nothing and that a man i s worth neither more nor less than the work he accomplishes with honesty of purpose and means, and within the s t r i c t l i m i t s of his duty towards society, only then i s one the master of his conscience, with the right to c a l l himself a man. Otherwise . . . [he] i s only a despicable 6 thing sunk i n the mud of a l l the passions." Because identity i s not an abstract, inherent quality such as man possesses i n a metaphysically structured universe, but a matter of man's performance, the quest must be ethical rather than metaphysical. "In this matter of l i f e and art i t i s not the Why that matters so much to our happiness as the How" (PR, x x i ) . Conrad's advice parallels the words of a 6 Letters of Joseph Conrad to Marguerite Poradowska: 1890-1920, trans. & ed. John A. Gee and Paul J. Sturm (Hew Haven: Tale University Press, 19*0), p. *5-*6. -5-character i n Pirandello's drama, Six Characters i n Search of an Author; "Every true man, s i r , who i s a l i t t l e above the le v e l of the beasts and plants does not l i v e f o r the sake of l i v i n g , without knowing how to l i v e ; but he li v e s so as to 7 give a meaning and a value of his own to l i f e . " As Marlow says to Stein, "The question i s not how to get cured, but how to l i v e " (LJ, 212). Marlow means that man must learn to l i v e with consciousness, or what Stein calls the fact that man "not always can keep [his] eyes shut" (LJ, 213). The inexperienced man who has not met with f a i l u r e or who i s able to rationalize his f a i l u r e l i v e s with an exalted sense of importance. Ignorant of the r e a l i t i e s of the world which he inhabits and ignorant of his own capacity for f a i l u r e , "he sees himself as a very fine fellow—so fine as he can never be" (LJ, 213). Experience brings disillusionment. " I t i s not good . . . to f i n d you cannot make your dream come true, for the reason that you not strong enough are, or not clever enough" (LJ, 213). When rationalization f a i l s to appease the conscience, and the 7 A Treasury of the Theatre, ed. John Gessner (New York: Henry Holt, 1950), p. 406. (Father: Act I I I ) . individual becomes conscious of failure, he feels alienated from the world which he inhabits and loses his sense of iden-t i t y . Stein calls this awakening "the heart pain—the world pain" ( U , 213). Conrad, i n his letter to Robert Cunningham Graham, January JL, I898, called i t human tragedy and attributed i t directly to consciousness: "What makes mankind tragic i s not that they are the victims of nature. I t i s that they are conscious of i t . To be part of the animal kingdom under the conditions of this earth i s very well-but as soon as you know of your slavery, the pain, the anger, the strife,—the tragedy begins. We can't return to nature, since we can't change our 8 place i n i t , " The individual faces a choice between clinging to his preconceptions about himself, or accepting the human condition of personal insufficiency and beginning to look for his identity by allying his w i l l with the stronger and more effective w i l l of the community. Stein defines the alternatives as the choice of a man who f a l l s into the sea: "If he tries to climb out into the air as inexperienced people endeavour to do, he drowns— nicht wahr? ... No! I t e l l youj The way is to the destruc-8 Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters, I, 226. -7-tive element submit yourself* and with the exertions of your hands and feet i n the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up" (LJ, 214). The choice between trying to "climb out into the air", or clinging to an illusion of inherent identity, and submission constitutes the moral crisis which Conrad's characters encoun-ter on their quest for identity. "The test," argues Thomas Lorch, "always involves a eonfliet between the character's romantic conception of himself and 'a recognition of the hard 9 facts of existence shared with the rest of mankind'.11 Stein's metaphor simplifies the results of the individual's decision. Like the conflicts facing a hero of romance, success becomes a matter of survival. Failure means death, or "drowning". Conrad did not leave the idea of drowning as a metaphorical abstraction uttered by Stein i n a moment of truth. For example, the floating hat, symbolic of either physical or spiritual drowning, frequently accompanies failure and alienation. Leggatt leaves a hat bobbing on the water when he has to abandon the ship and his society, because " i t would never do for [him] 9 "The Barrier Between Youth and Maturity i n the Works of Joseph Conrad," MFS, X (Spring, 1964), 74. The internal quote i s from Conrad's "Author's Note" to Within the Tides, appearing i n The Portable Conrad (New York, 1954), p. 711. -8-to come to l i f e again" (SS, 131). Heyst, seeking detachment from the evi l world, "drowns" when; he becomes the victim of the worst desperadoes and most slanderous tongues operating i n his far-eastern world. The premonition of his drowning appears early i n the novel when Davidson, upon leaving Samburan after his f i r s t v i s i t , sees " a l l but the top of [Heyst 1s] white cork helmet, which seemed to swim i n a green sea" (Vic, 29). In Conrad's sea stories, The Nigger of the 'Narcissus 1 , "The Seeret Sharer", and "Typhoon", the fai lure or suceess of the quest depends upon keeping the ship afloat. Conrad's preoccupation with survival i n the water, of course, reflects the influence of his years as a sai lor. As a symbol for l i f e , struggle on the water i s particularly use-f u l because i t concentrates the reader's attention upon the hazards of the quest. "Everything can be found at sea, according to the s p i r i t of your quest—strife, peace, romance, naturalism of the most pronounced kind, ideals, boredom, d i s -gust, inspiration—and every conceivable opportunity, including the opportunity to make a fool of yourself—exactly as i n the pursuit of literature" (PR, 109). Conradian man contests the furies of the sea, as the hero of romance contests the fury of dragons and the beguilement of magic, aided only by his s k i l l , courage, endurance, and qualities which he has acquired through -9-experience. Unaided by technology, or gods who bestow favors because of inherent and unearned q u a l i t i e s , the success of the quest and the d iscovery of i d e n t i t y depends s o l e l y upon the i n -d i v i d u a l ' s conduct. Furthermore, the a l t e r n a t i v e of s u r v i v a l o r drowning e l iminates the shades of m o r a l i t y t h a t would become confusing i n a universe devoid of absolutes . M o r a l i t y p o s i t e d i n these terms becomes a matter of s u r v i v a l and not p h i l o -s o p h i c a l judgment according t o a b s t r a c t dogma. I d e n t i t y then becomes a matter of how a man acts r a t h e r than why he acts i n a c e r t a i n way when faced by a moral c r i s i s . I n a l e t t e r to Mrs . A n i e l a Zagorska, (December 25, 1899) Conrad used the p r o -verb " h e l l i s paved w i t h good i n t e n t i o n s " to suggest t h a t unless noble a s p i r a t i o n s are f o l l o w e d up by a c t i o n they are 10 meaningless. C l i n g i n g t o the i l l u s i o n of i n h e r e n t i d e n t i t y r e s u l t s i n f a i l u r e s i n c e , i n order to continue b e l i e v i n g i n h i s exal ted s e l f - c o n c e p t , the i n d i v i d u a l must repudiate self-knowledge. He f a i l s not only because "nobody i s good enough" ( L J , 319). but a lso because he remains ignorant of and unguarded against h i s own d e s t r u c t i v e tendencies and the a n n i h i l a t i n g powers 10 Conrad's P o l i s h Background: L e t t e r s t o and from P o l i s h F r i e n d s , ed. Hajder, t r a n s . H e l i n a C a r r o l l (London: Oxford, 1964), p. 232. -10-that surround him. Consequently, he becomes vulnerable. Jim, for example, regards the wind and sea as an "inefficient menace" (LJ, 8), to protect his sense of superiority over the men who rescue their drowning shipmate. Repressing knowledge of his own paralysis i n the face of danger, he i s no match for the crippling fear which overpowers him when he believes that the Patria i s sinking. Although he wills to be heroic, Jim deserts the ship. The egoistic dream i s fatal for Conrad's characters because i t blinds them to the importance of exertion i n the "destructive element". Tom Lingard i n The Rescue is a good example. "He had no doubt of his existence; but was this l i f e - -this profound indifference, this strange contempt for what his eyes could see, this distaste for words, this unbelief i n the importance of things and men?" (Res, 431-2). Lingard has the "sublime indifference of a man who has had a glimpse through the open doors of Paradise and i s no longer careful of mere l i f e " (Res, 433). The experiences of l i f e become "a base intrusion on [his] memory [of the Paradise he has seen]" (Res, 415). Not only does indifference to l i f e make man care-less and vulnerable, but, as the crew of the 'Narcissus' demonstrates when i t becomes fascinated with death, indifference gives man a sense of f u t i l i t y and meaninglessness. Although -11-Lingard does not doubt his existence, " i t was as to being al i v e that he f e l t not so sure" (Res, 431). Similarly, Heyst sees only meaninglessness i n l i f e because he does not become involved i n l i f e . In "Prince Roman", Conrad writes " I t i s only to vain men that a l l i s vanity; and a l l i s deception only to those who have never been sincere with themselves" (PRom, 48). Because exertion alone gives man a sense of purpose i n l i f e , the egoistic dream which causes man to seek escape from the predicaments of l i f e i s f a t a l . Man can be sincere with himself and recognize the impor-tance of t o i l only when he submits, or accepts the human con-ditio n . " I think that the proper wisdom i s to w i l l what the gods w i l l without, perhaps, being certain what their w i l l i s — or even i f they have a w i l l of their own" (PR, x x i ) . Describ-ing this attitude of submission to and acceptance of r e a l i t y as "resignation", Conrad says that i t " i s the only one of our feelings f o r which i t i s impossible to become a sham" (PR, x x i ) . Because of i t s radical sincerity,"resignation" enables man to make his exertion i n the "deep, deep sea" effective. On the a r t i s t i c l e v e l , effectiveness means expressing oneself through communication. Thus, resignation helps the a r t i s t to become an effective "voice". "Resignation i s not indifference. -12. I would not lik e to be l e f t standing as a mere spectator on the bank of the great stream carrying onward so many lives. I would fain claim for myself the faculty of so much insight as can be expressed i n a voice of sympathy and compassion" (PR, x v i i ) . Were he writing as a sailor, he would refer to the success which becomes possible through resignation as the able performance of duty for the sake of the ship. The quest for identity thus involves a paradox. Iden-t i t y i s not the end, but the reward of the quest. "If we are ever becoming—never being," Conrad argued i n a letter to Edward Gamett (March 2 3 , 1886), "then I would be a fool i f 11 I tried to become this thing rather than that." Discussing the art of sailing yachts, he argues: "The skipper . . . who thought of nothing else but the glory of winning the race would never attain to any eminence of reputation. The genuine masters of their c r a f t — I say this confidently from my experience of ships—have thought of nothing but of doing their very best i n the vessels under their charge" (MS, 29-30) . In his eulogy for men of the sea, the essay entitled "Well Done," he advises: 11 Letters from Conrad: 1895 to 1924, ed. Edward Garnett (Edinburgh: Nonesuch, 1928), p. 23. -13-"The only saving grace that i s needed is steady f i d e l i t y to what is nearest to hand and heart i n the short moment 12 of each human effort." Conrad's attitude may have been influenced by his uncle, Tadeusz Bobrowski. Replying to Conrad's appeal for counsel, Bobrowski wrote a long letter i n which he explained his philosophy of "resignation": "Certainly humanity has a lesser need of producing gen-iuses than of the already-existing modest and conscientious workers who f u l f i l their duties; nobody has the right to cal l himself the former until he has proved i t by deeds, just as nobody has the right to withdraw from the work of the latter because of his conviction that he is not 13 part of the team." Bobrowski went on to mention the belief which sus-tained him through the tragedy of l i f e . "The devotion 1* to duty . . . this constitutes my practical creed. The uncle's belief i s the kind of "saving illusion" to 12 Notes on Life & Letters, p. 191. 13 Letter to Joseph Conrad, October 28/29, 1891, Conrad's Polish Background, p. 15*. 1* Ibid., p. 155. -14-which Marlow refers i n "Heart of Darkness". Every indiv-idual requires a sense of who he i s or, l i k e Decoud, he loses the w i l l to l i v e . He acquires the feeling of indiv-iduality when he relates, through communication or action, to the world around him. Self-expression becomes possible when the sense of self i s bound up i n a rele or function which commits the individual to the community. Man i s unable to achieve purposes that vindicate an exalted sense of identity because his w i l l i s not strong enough to overcome the hostile elements of l i f e . However, when he integrates his purposes, and his sense of self, with the w i l l of the community, man can survive the conflict with the "destructive element" and thereby earn a personal meaning and value for his l i f e . "Xn this ceaseless rush of shadows and shades, that, l i k e the fantastic forms of clouds cast darkly upon the waters on a windy day, f l y past us to f a l l headlong below the hard edge of an im-placable horizon, we must turn to the national s p i r i t , which, superior i n i t s force and continuity to good and e v i l fortune, can alone give us the feeling of an enduring existance and of an invincible power against the fates" (MS, 194). -15-A c e o r d i n g l y , Zabel argues*. "Love, or the sense of honor, o r the o b l i g a t i o n s of duty , o r even the s o c i a l i n s t i n c t i t s e l f enters [Conrad's] novels as a means whereby the i n d i v i d u a l i s l i f t e d out of h i s i s o l a t i o n and morbid surrender [ t o h i m s e l f ] . . . . I t i s f i n a l l y 15 the wor ld which saves u s — t h e w o r l d of n e c e s s i t y and d u t y . " The.sense o f duty towards h i s s h i p enables Marlow to r e s i s t the f a s c i n a t i n g appeal of savagery which, l i k e the song of the s i r e n s i n The Odyssey, draws Kurtz to d e s t r u c t i o n . S i m i l a r l y , the crew of the ' N a r c i s s u s ' escape the appeal of c o r r u p t i o n and despair when they are f o r c e d to rescue the s h i p from the storm, and when the d e s i r e to complete the voyage compels them to a f f i r m the bond of s o l i d a r i t y i n obedience to the t r a d i t i o n of seamanship. H a l d i n ' s i n t r u s i o n i n t o Razumov's l i f e awakens the s o c i a l i n s t i n c t which u l t i m a t e l y f rees Razumov from h i s meaningless " s o l i t a r y and l a b o r i o u s " (OWE, 82) ex is tence . "Thus he saves me. . . . He h i m s e l f , the betrayed man" (OWE, 362), Razumov admits to h i m s e l f . 15 "Chance and R e c o g n i t i o n , " The A r t of Joseph Conrad: A C r i t i c a l Symposium, ed. R.W. Stal lman (Michigan State U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , I 9 6 0 ) , p . 33. -16-The "saving i l l u s i o n " therefore helps Conrad's characters to succeed on their quest for identity. Their practical creed enables them to change the world i n which they l i v e , and, i n so doing, earn an identity and a place i n that world. The young captain i n "The Secret Sharer" i s able to make his aotions meaningful when he forgets his secret ideal of self , and assumes responsibility for his behaviour as a captain. Only then does he find "the perfect communion of a seaman with his f i r s t command" (SS, 143). Similarly, when the crew of the 'Narcissus' cease demanding "rights", they are able to complete their voyage, and wrest meaning from their t r i a l s on the sea: "Hadn't we, together and upon the immortal sea, wrung out a meaning from our sinful lives?" (NN, 173) The majority of Conrad's characters must seek for their identity through physical t o i l . For Conrad him-self, the quest involved mental labor. His task was "to carry justification i n every l ine" (NN, v i i ) , "by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make -17-you f e e l , . . . to make you see" (NN, x ) . The expression o f s e l f by communication i s as d i f f i c u l t as the expression of s e l f i n a c t i o n . F r u s t r a t i o n and despair i n h i s l e t t e r s r e f l e c t s the immensity of the obstacles which Conrad had to overcome before communication became p o s s i b l e . I n a l e t t e r to h i s aunt, Margueri te Poradowska, f o r example, he discussed the w r i t i n g of Almayer's F o l l y , c a l l i n g i t 16 " a s t r u g g l e t o the death. . . . I f I l e t up, I am l o s t ! " I n a l e t t e r t o Kazimierz Wal iszewski (December 5, 1903)» Conrad descr ibed the d i f f i c u l t i e s of the w r i t e r ' s t a s k : " I t i s d i f f i c u l t to d e p i c t f a i t h f u l l y i n a work of imagina-t i o n t h a t innermost wor ld as one apprehends i t , and t o express one's own r e a l sense of t h a t i n n e r l i f e (which i s the s o u l of human a c t i v i t y ) . However, absolute s i n c e r i t y i s always p o s s i b l e — I mean s i n c e r i t y of i n t e n t i o n . One 17 does what one c a n . " I f s u c c e s s f u l , the a r t i s t creates " f o r himself a w o r l d , great o r l i t t l e , i n which he can honest ly b e l i e v e . 18 This wor ld cannot be otherwise than i n h i s own image." 16 L e t t e r s of Joseph Conrad to Marguerite Poradowska, p 17 Conrad's P o l i s h Background, p . 240. 18 "Books", Notes on L i f e & L e t t e r s , p . 6. -18-In other words, the artist creates a world which embodies the truth and meaning of his l i f e . In Nostromo, this truth i s the corruptibility of man; i n "Heart of Darkness", i t i s man's demonism; in Victory, Conrad shows the impor-tance of love; i n Under Western Byes, he unveils the need to obey the promptings of conscience "without knowing what [its] w i l l i s , or even i f [ i t ] has a wil l of [its] own" (PR, xxi). In addition to the moral truths which he has discovered i n l i f e , Conrad conveys the truths of the human condition, the loneliness, dreams, joy, sorrow, aspirations, illusions, hope and fear, "which bind together a l l humanity—the dead to the living and the living to the unborn" (NN, v i i i ) . The illusory world of the novel serves as a symbol for the manner in which man's struggle transforms a world devoid of meaning into a world that i s meaningful. The sense of identity therefore gives man the feeling that the world is part of himself. Alienation results i n the loss of identity, as Conrad indicates when discussing his relation-ship to the seamen with whom he spent his youth. He refers to "a very vivid comprehension that i f I wasn't one of them 19 I was nothing at a l l . " He draws his readers' attention 19 "Well Done," Notes, p. 183. -19-to a similar feeling which possesses Razumov: "Being no-body's child he feels rather more keenly than another would that he i s a Russian—or he i s nothing" (UWE, i x ) . Just as the hero i n search of the grail must prove him-self worthy before his quest can be successful, Conradian man must earn the sense of belonging which gives him an identity. Razumov must earn his place i n the Russian community, just as Conrad had to earn the feeling of belonging to the craft which united seamen i n a bond of solidarity. Reflecting on his years as a sailor, Conrad wrote to Kazimierz Waliszewski (December 5, 1903): "With no connexions, contacts or influential friends, I can never-theless look upon the past with satisfaction. . . . In what seems to me were pretty d i f f i c u l t situations, I think I always remained faithful to the traditions of the 20 profession I had chosen." Like their author, none of Conrad's fictional characters have the fortune of being born into a station of l i f e which would assure them meaning and value without t o i l . Conrad extends this cardinal rule to a l l 20 Conrad's Polish Background, p. 240. -20-mankind when he comments on Nostromo: "He i s a man with the weight of countless generations behind him and no paren-tage to boast of. . . . Like the People" (Nos, x i i ) . The quest for identity i n Conrad's fiction i s , there-fore, the pattern of existence which can be compared to a journey into the unknown. Born into an egoistic dream, the inexperienced individual has an exalted sense of identity and meaning. Experience and failure, however, bring disillusionment and alienation. The individual can try to escape the realities that threaten his sense of identity, but, i n doing so, he "drowns". The "way to be" i s to submit and make the "destructive element . . . keep you up." The realities of life,hardship, suffering and struggle are, therefore, instrumental i n man's discovery of meaning and purpose i n l i f e . They help him to discover his true identity and awaken to the sense of solidarity which "binds men to each other and a l l mankind to the visible universe" (NN, x). "For suffering i s the lot of man, but not inevitable failure or worthless despair which is without end—suffering, the mark of manhood, which bears within i t s pain a hope of f e l i c i t y like a jewel set i n iron . . . " (Rom, 5*1). -21-CHAPTER TWO: THE EGOISTIC DREAM In A Personal Record, Conrad relates the occasion on which his uncle, Tadeusz Bobrowski, tried to impress upon him the difference between f i d e l i t y to a purpose whose end was the vindication of an exalted conception of self , and f i d e l i t y to the community: "Practically, after several exhaustive conversations, he concluded that he would not have me later on reproach him for having spoiled my l i f e by an unconditional opposition. . . . And I must not only think of myself but of others; weigh the claims of affection and conscience against my own sincerity of purpose. •Think well what i t a l l means i n the larger issues, my boy,' he exhorted me f i n a l l y with special friendliness" (PR, 42) . - 2 2 -At t h i s t ime Conrad was f i f t e e n , and d i d not immediately take h i s u n c l e ' s words s e r i o u s l y , as the record of a subsequent summer t o u r w i t h an E n g l i s h tutor i n d i c a t e s . The t u t o r f l a t t e r e d young Conrad by c a l l i n g him an " i n c o r r i g i b l e hopeless Don Quixote" (PR, 44) . " A l a s , " Conrad w r i t e s , " I d o n ' t t h i n k there was anything t o be proud o f . Mine was not the s t u f f the protectors of f o r l o r n damsels, the redressers of t h i s w o r l d ' s wrongs are made of" (PR, 44) . Experience, however, taught Conrad the value of h i s u n c l e ' s advice . By r e s i g n i n g himsel f to the f a c t t h a t "most of the working t r u t h s on t h i s earth are humble, not h e r o i c " (PR, x i v ) , Conrad was able to recognize the value of accomplishing tasks nearest to hand and heart i n obe-dience to the sense o f duty . Because, as he w r i t e s , "one's own d i g n i t y . . . i s inseparably u n i t e d w i t h the d i g n i t y of one's work" (PR, x v i i i ) , success i n the f a i t h f u l per-formance of duty enabled Conrad to give a personal meaning and value to l i f e . Conrad's romantic nature made the surrender of egois-t i c dreams extremely d i f f i c u l t . Reminiscing on his youth, he w r i t e s : " I went through agonies of s e l f - c o n f l i c t and shed secret tears not a few" (PR, 110). In "The R e t u r n , " - 2 3 -he describes the yielding of individual purpose and accep-tance of moral responsibility as "an awful sacrifice. . . . the cruel decree of salvation" (TU, 184). It i s , therefore, natural that most of the cris is situations i n his f i c t i o n are focused upon the choice an individual must make between clinging to his egoistic dream and accepting his moral obligation to the community. Man finds i t di f f icult to y ie ld his egoistic dream because i t involves his self-concept. For example, even though Lingard feels "like a swimmer who, i n the midst of superhuman efforts to reach the shore, perceives that the undertow is taking him to sea," he cannot "sacrifice his intention, the intention of his l i f e . . . . The adventurer held fast to his adventure which made him i n his own sight exactly what he was" (Res, 219). In trying to save his sense of self , however, Lingard loses the sense of his own reality (Res, *31). The egoist tries to escape the realities which threaten his self-concept by evading self-knowledge, and disavowing affinity with the rest of mankind, of whose gross faults he i s most conscious, i n the characteristic manner of egoism. Because "the inner truth i s foreshadowed [only] -24-fer those who know how to look at their own kind" (PR, xxi), he remains ignorant and unguarded against the destructive forces which, as Zabel suggests, leap "from unknown coverts: sometimes from the hiding-places that fate or accident has prepared, but more often and seriously, like the beast i n the jungle, from the unfathomed depths of our secret natures, our ignorance, our subconscious and unconscious 1 selves." In Lord Jim, the difference between following an egoistic dream and fide l i t y to the community becomes evident i n the discussion which Marlow and Stein have on the "way to be". Stein argues: "That was the way. To follow the dream, and again to follow the dream—and so—and s o — ewig—usque ad finem" (LJ, 215). Stein is either admitting failure, for he has i n his own lifetime given up "many dreams. . . . [that] would have been very f i n e — i f [he] had made them come true" (LJ, 217); or, he is using the word "dream" in two different senses. Harlow's comments and Stein's linking of submission with following the dream suggest the latter. Stein begins his advice on 1 Zabel, "Chance and Recognition," Critical Symposium, p. 21. -25-f o l l o w i n g the dream w i t h the o f t e n quoted phrase: " i n the d e s t r u c t i v e element immerse" ( L J , 215). Marlow's r e s -ponse suggests t h a t the dream t o which S t e i n r e f e r s d i f f e r s from the dreams which he has had to f o r f e i t : " H i s l i f e had begun i n s a c r i f i c e , i n enthusiasm f o r generous i d e a s ; he had t r a v e l l e d very f a r , on various ways, on strange paths , and whatever he f o l l o w e d i t had been without f a l t e r i n g , and therefore without shame and without r e g r e t " ( L J , 215). S t e i n ' s l i f e i n d i c a t e s t h a t he be l ieves i n the i n d i v i d u a l ' s r e s p o n s i b i l i t y towards the community. True t o t h i s b e l i e f , he has t r i e d and succeeded i n e s t a b l i s h i n g a k i n d of order f o r the community. The dreams which S t e i n has had t o give up are p o s s i b l y the "ideas of greatness" to which Bobrowski r e f e r s i n a l e t t e r dated October 28/29, 1891, i n which he discusses the romantic curse a f f l i c t i n g both Conrad and the P o l i s h n a t i o n . Bobrowsa. wrote: " I f both I n d i v i d u a l s and Nations were t o make ' d u t y ' t h e i r aim, i n s t e a d of the i d e a l of greatness, the wor ld would c e r t a i n l y be a b e t t e r 2 place than i t i s I " 2 Conrad's P o l i s h Background, p. 154. - 2 6 -The ideas of greatness which the egoist does not surrender prove to be the cause of his downfall. Because Jim does not give up his exalted self-concept, he has to rationalize a series of minor defeats to avoid accepting his own weaknesses. Not learning from his minor failures, he succumbs i n the major crises which confront him. Jim's f i r s t test comes when a shipmate f a l l s overboard. Although he imagines himself "saving people from sinking ships, cutting away masts i n a hurricane, swimming through a surf with a line. . . . Always an example of devotion to duty, and as unflinching as a hero i n a book" (LJ, 6 ) . Jim watches ineptly while the other men proceed with the rescue. He tries to rationalize his failure by responding contemptuouslyt "The tumult and the menace of wind and sea now appeared very contemptible to Jim, increasing the regret of his awe at their inefficient menace. Now he knew what to think of i t . It seemed to him he cared nothing for the gale. He could affront greater perils. He would do so—better than anybody" (LJ, 8). By suppressing knowledge of the sea's p e r i l , Jim maintains his egoistic notion of superiority over his fellow men. Thus, he regards the rescue performed by his shipmates as a " p i t i f u l display of vanity" (LJ, 9 ) . -27-Jim's rationalization i s common to most of Conrad's romantic protagonists. To be or not to be a sham i s not a matter of insincerity. It is rather a matter ©f knowing how to look at one's fellow men and the cosmos. Only resignation allows the individual to perceive reality correctly. The romantic egoists, argues Bancroft, "are incapable of perceiving those accidents of common l i f e that best reveal the profound significance of the 'solidarity* 3 of human fellowship." Just as he cannot see the value of his mate's rescue, Jim is also incapable of recognizing the importance of assertion i n the real world. After studying the art of seamanship, he goes to sea and finds "regions so well known to his imagination . . . strangely barren of adventure" (LJ, 10). Because of his egoism, which i s an insistence on inherent rather than earned iden-t i t y , he does not realize that the cosmos, like the sea, is the "indifferent, neutral, potential out of which man moulds the issues of his individual l i f e and out of which man wrests meaning and identity." Believing i n his Wm. Wallace Bancroft, Joseph Conrad: His Philosophy of Life (Boston: Stratford, 1933). P. 3. Ibid., p. 3* - 2 8 -irmato heroism, Jim does not know that " l i f e is a thing of form. It has i t s plastic shape and a definite intellec-tual aspect. The most idealistic conceptions , . . must be clothed i n flesh as i t were before they can be made understandable" (OWE, 106). A second test occurs when the falling spar injures Jim. He succumbs to the pessimism of youth to which Bobrowski's letter refers: "Pessimism develops . . . during the early youth of one who is s t i l l ignorant of a l l the obstacles and failures that l i f e brings, one who 5 i s s t i l l childishly over-sensitive. . . . " Rather than accept the fact that he too is subject to failure and must struggle to succeed i n the quest of l i f e , Jim tries to escape, or, i n Stein's words, "climb into the air": "The unintelligent brutality of an existence liable to the agony" of the feeling that the cosmos has a "sinister violence of intention," f i l l s him "with a despairing desire to escape at any cost" (LJ, 11). Fascinated with the "decadents" determined to lounge safely through existence (LJ, 13)» the Conradian Jonah takes a berth as chief mate on the Patna. 5 Conr&d's Polish Background, p. 153. - 2 9 -Because he i s unable to tolerate the threat to his dream, Jim unwittingly runs headlong into the destiny he i s trying to evade. Having formerly repressed knowledge of his own capacity for fear, Jim becomes paralyzed by the belief that the ship i s sinking. Consequently, he becomes the victim of his weakness and deserts the ship i n response to a c a l l not even intended for him. Jim's unconscious inner separation from the community, characteristic of egoism, becomes a conscious sense of exile. Forced to recognize his f a i l u r e , Jim experiences the anguish of alienation: "His mind positively flew round and round the seried c i r c l e of facts that had surged up a l l about him to cut him off from the rest of his kind: i t was l i k e a creature that, finding i t s e l f imprisoned within an enclo-sure of high stakes, dashes round and round" (LJ, 31). Marlow l a t e r describes Jim's incapacity to escape the sense of f a i l u r e , alienation, and f u t i l i t y i n terms suggesting the loss of identity, or the loss of the dream: "I had forced into his hand the means to carry on decently the 6 Dorothy Van Ghent, "On Lord Jim," C r i t i c a l Symposium, p. 142. -30-serious business of l i f e , to get food, drink, and shelter of the customary kind while his wounded spi r i t , l i k e a bird with a broken wing, might hop and flutter into some hole 7 to die quietly of inanition there" (LJ, 184-5) . Jim recovers his sense of individuality when he finds a context for his romantic dream. The prospect of Patusan f i l l s him with confidence: "He l e f t his earthly failings behind him and that sort of reputation he had, and there was a totally new set of conditions for his imaginative faculty to work upon. Entirely new, entirely remarkable. And he got hold of them i n a remarkable way" (LJ, 218). 8 In archetypal terminology, Jim i s reborn. Patusan i s a region well known to Jim's imagination; i t i s the romantic world which vindicates his ideal self-concept: "The seal of success upon his words, the conquered ground for the John Oliver Perry, i n an essay entitled "Action, Vision, or Voice: The Moral Dilemma i n Conrad's Tale-Telling, "MPS, X (Spring, 1964), stresses the necessity for belief i n some private or shared illusion because, i n a universe devoid of objective meaning, "clear sightedness leads only to the vacuous agony of solitude, confusion, and despair" (p.3). 8 E l l i o t t B. Gose, Jr., "Pure Exercise of Imagination: Archetypal Symbolism i n Lord Jim." PMLA. LXXIX (March, 1964), 140. -31-soles of his feet, the blind trust of men, the belief i n himself snatched from the f i r e , the solitude of his achieve-ment" (LJ, 272). However, the reward of success is tarnished by Jim's awareness that the inhabitants of Patusan "can't be made to understand what is going on i n me" (LJ, 306). "They can never know the real, real truth" (LJ, 305). Severed from his own kind by failure, and severed by inheritance from Patusan, Jim looks forward to regaining the sense of belonging when his own community, for him, the real world, recognizes his achievement: "I've got to look only at the face of the f i r s t man that comes along, to regain my confidence" (LJ, 306). The test comes i n the person of Brown, "a blind accom-plice of the Dark Powers" (LJ, 354). Jim is vulnerable to Brown's deception because he f a i l s to accept his capacity for failure. Like Spenser's Red Cross Knight who is beguiled by the disguised loathly Duessa int© leaving Una, or truth, Jim forgets that his noble intentions have been rendered meaningless i n former crises by the wsakness of his nature. He correctly argues that "men act badly sometimes without being much worse than others" (LJ, 394). However, his argument i s a meaningless definition of l i f e , offered as an -32-excuse for his own f a i l u r e , because i t does not prompt him into trying to avdd acting badly. As Dorothy Van Ghent i n -si s t s , Jim's leniency towards Brown amounts to "a blind 9 repudiation of the other-self that had been revealed to him." The overt consequences of Jim's decision, therefore, again belie his intentions and f a c i l i t a t e , for a second time, the disintegration of the dream which he follows. Jim grasps the dream but only through death which severs 10 a l l his roots within the community and the v i s i b l e universe. Because the dark powers should not rob him twice of his peace (LJ, 409)» he sacrifices his existence: "With the growing loneliness of his obstinacy his s p i r i t . . . [rises] above the ruins of existence" (LJ, 410). The power-f u l scene i n which he leaves Jewel, i n s i s t i n g "I should not be worth having" (LJ, 412), reveals both the splendour and the vacuity of his success. In believing himself not worth having unless he grasps the dream, Jim demonstrates the immensity of the dream he seeks. However, his belief also demonstrates the emptiness of his dream: he becomes "a 9 On Lord Jim, p. 145. 10 Gose, "Pure Exercise of the Imagination," p. 147. -33-disembodied s p i r i t astray amongst the passions of this earth, ready to surrender himself f a i t h f u l l y to the claim of his own world of shades" (LJ, 416). I t i s Jewel and not Jim whose agony constitutes the s a c r i f i c e . She must continue to inhabit the r e a l world which r e f l e c t s her suffering: "The sky over Patusan was blood-red, immense, streaming l i k e an open vein. An enormous sun nestled crimson amongst the treetops, and the forest had a black forbidding face" (LJ, 413). Jim's victory i s solely his own, and draws the l i f e out of the community which trusted him. Dain Wards i s dead, and Jewel l i v e s , l i f e l e s s and i n e r t , with an ageing Stein. Axel Heyst has a different temperament from Jim. Whereas Jim t r i e s to j u s t i f y his self-concept through ac-t i o n , Heyst t r i e s to d r i f t passively through l i f e . Were i t not f o r the fa c t that Conrad permits the reader to view the intense c o n f l i c t of Heyst's s p i r i t , Heyst could be regarded as a prototype of Edwin Arlington Robinson's Richard Cory who "one calm summer night, /Went home and. put a bu l l e t 11 through his head." Heyst seeks detachment from l i f e because he believes that involvement w i l l corrupt him. Donald A. Dike argues: 11 "Richard Cory," A L i t t l e Treasury of Modern Poetry, ed. Oscar Williams (New York: Scribners, 1952), p. 105. -3*-" 'Utopist Heyst' . . . i s ruled by the perennial dream of radical innocence, an abstraction from experience that i s 12 to be defended by remoteness of experience." Like his father, Heyst believes that "the wages [of l i f e are] not good enough. That they [are] paid i n counterfeit money" (Vic, 196). Heyst's attempt to evade the threat of experience is most evident i n his relationship with Lena. In contrast to Jewel, whose belated entry makes her a subsidiary element i n the exploration of Jim's dream, Lena appears early to play a erucial role i n Victory. As a result, the destructive effect which "trying to climb out into the air" has upon personal relationships i s more pronounced i n Victory than Lord Jim. Heyst denies the value of personal attachments on the premise that "he who forms a t i e is lost. The germ of corruption has entered into his soul" (Vic, 199-200). The pity whieh prompts him to help Lena and Morrison is the feeling which his father advised him to exercise because " i t i s . . . the least d i f f i c u l t form of contempt"(Vic,17*). "The Tempest of Axel Heyst," NCF, VII (1962), 99. -35-However, he i s not contemptuous enough: "His detachment from the world [ i s ] not complete. And incompleteness of any sort leads to trouble" (Vic, 31). Thus, Heyst regrets taking Lena to his paradise where, he believes,"we can safely defy the fates" (Vic, 57). He confirms his regret when t e l l i n g Davidson: "I suppose I have done a certain amount of harm, since I allowed myself to be tempted into action. I t seemed innocent enough, but a l l action i s bound to be harmful. I t i s devilish. That i s why this world i s e v i l upon the whole. But I have done with i t j I s h a l l never l i f t a l i t t l e finger again" (Vic, 5 4 ) . Later, he explains his indignant laughter at the world's interpre-tation of the Morrison a f f a i r : "When one's heart has been broken into i n the way you [Lena] have broken into mine, a l l sorts of weaknesses are free to enter—shame, anger, stupid indignations, stupid fears—stupid laughter, too" (Vic, 210). Heyst's relationship with Lena parallels the relation-ship between Jim and Jewel. The two egoists regard their sexual partners not as real women, but as ethereal com-plements of their unreal world. The Jewel Jim wants to be worthy of i s a shadowy ideal. Heyst,who " l i k e most dreamers . . . i s given sometimes to hear the music of the spheres" -36-(Vic, 66), i s seduced by Lena•s voice (Vic, 7*) . He advises her to forget the past because "your voice is enough. 1 am i n love with i t , whatever i t says" (Vic, 88). He responds to Lena with an offer to take her to his paradise, not because of who she i s , but because he can mentally dis-sociate her from the physical realities of l i f e . This be-comes apparent from the way i n which Conrad presents Lena from Heyst1s point of view on the night when Heyst decides to take her to Samburan. Lena appears as a "white, phan-tom-like apparition" (Vic, 83). Momentarily struck with jealousy when Lena mentions competitors unknown to him, he quickly relents when "the vaporous white figure before him sway[s] p i t i f u l l y in the darkness" (Vic, 85). Lena intuitively recognizes that Heyst does not love her real self. This becomes evident when she pleads: "I am not the sort that men turn their backs on—and you ought to know i t , unless you aren't made l i k e the others. Oh, forgive me! You aren't lik e the others. . . . Don't you care for me?" (Vic, 86) Heyst's response confirms the fact that he i s not attracted by Lena's real self: "what he saw was that, white and spectral, she was putting out her arms to him out of the black shadows like an appealing ghost" (Vic, 86). He i s , indeed, not l i k e the -37-"other men" who are drawn to Lena by her natural charms. Heyst later admits to himself that he spoke the truth i n complimenting Lena on her voice and smile, "for the rest— what must be must be" (Vic, 90). Although Heyst has moments when he loves Lena for her real self , moments when "he [has] no il lusions about her, but his sceptical mind [ i s ] dominated by the fulness of his heart" (Vic, 83), he does not give Lena the love she wants while she i s alive (See Vic, 247). When he f i n a l l y wants to give her his love, i t i s too late: "He considered himself a dead man already, yet forced to pretend that he was alive for her sake, for her defense. He regretted that he had no Heaven to which he could recommend this f a i r , palpitating handful of ashes and dust—warm, l i v i n g , sentient, his own—and exposed helplessly to insult , outrage, degradation, and inf inite misery of the body" (Vie, 354-4). Heyst has no "heaven" for Lena because he i s unable to recognize the importance of love. As i n Lingard*s case, the glimpse of Paradise blinds Heyst to the importance of the ordinary experiences of l i f e . Consequently, Lena must seek entry into the "sanctuary of his innermost heart" (Vic, 407) 13 by sacrificing her l i f e to prove her love for Heyst. 13 Ibid. , p. 110. -38--She f i n d s her meaning i n a " b l i n d i n g , hot glow of passionate purpose" ( V i c , 367), and, f o r the f i r s t t ime, Heyst faces a r e a l meaning which he cannot r e f i n e away. I n anguish and r e g r e t he confesses the t r u t h which he has discovered too l a t e : "Ah, Davidson, woe to the man whose heart has not l e a r n e d w h i l e young t o hope, to love—and to put i t s t r u s t i n l i f e ! " ( V i c , 410) Heyst can have Lena only i n death, and t o have her he commits s u i c i d e : "He c o u l d n ' t stand h i s thoughts before her dead body—and f i r e p u r i f i e s everything" ( V i c , 410). S u i c i d e by f i r e which leaves only ashes i s i r o n i c a l l y appropriate f o r Heyst who has toyed too l o n g w i t h c y n i -c ism, o r the r e p u d i a t i o n of meaning i n l i f e . "The i m -prudence of our thoughts r e c o i l s upon our heads; who toys w i t h the sword s h a l l p e r i s h by the sword" ( L J , 342). Cynicism reduces l i f e t o dust . "Evaporation precedes l i q u i d a t i o n " as crawling i n t o the a i r precedes drowning. "These are very unnatural p h y s i c s , but they account f o r the p e r s i s t e n t i n e r t i a of Heyst" ( V i c , 3 ) . Kurtz too i s a v i c t i m of h i s egoism. N a r c i s s i s t i c a l l y , he drowns mesmerized by h i s r e f l e c t i o n . However, i n the myth of Narc issus , the drowned egoist becomes a f lower . Although J i m ' s death i s f u t i l e , i t has an i l l u s o r y l o v e -- 3 9 -l i n e s s . Lord Jim tempts the reader to defend romantic egoism by asking, with Marlow: "Is not mankind i t s e l f , pushing on i t s blind way, driven by a dream of i t s greatness and i t s power upon the dark paths of excessive cruelty and excessive devotion? And what i s the pursuit of truth, after a l l ? " (LJ, 349-50) Conrad did not l e t his readers rest long with any notions that this truth absolved man of responsibility and liberated him to abandoned experi-ment and invention. He jolted them to wisdom with "Heart of Darkness". This novel offers no balm of consolation. Shuddering inwardly at the collapse of his expectations, Marlow mutters i n despair: "Destiny. My destiny! Droll think l i f e i s — t h a t mysterious arrangement of merciless log i c for a f u t i l e purpose. The most you can hope from i t i s some knowledge of yourself—that comes too l a t e — a crop of unextinguishable regrets" (HD, 150). "Heart of Darkness" takes the reader into a community ravaged by man's single-minded pursuit of an egoistic ideal. Marlow «s face, "worn, hollow, with downward folds and dropped eyelids" (HD, 114), t e s t i f i e s to the s p i r i t u a l destruction brought about by Kurtz's egoism. Kurtz's report for the *International Society for the Supression of Savage Customs' i s "eloquent, vibrating with eloquence" (HD, 117), and would -40-presumably provide the same s p i r i t u a l u p l i f t i n g f o r the naive philanthropists f o r whom i t was written as the code book provides f o r Marlow. However, the impaled heads and t e r r i f i e d natives t e s t i f y to the emptiness of the eloquence, the g i f t Kurtz presumptuously offers to A f r i c a . In "Heart of Darkness", misdirected moral purpose becomes more des-tructi v e than lack of purpose. The greedy men of the Eldorado Mining Company "tear treasure out of the bowels of the land. . . with no moral purpose" (HD, 8 7 ) ; for ivory, Kurtz destroys the people he has come to redeem. Kurtz dreams of c i v i l i z i n g A f r i c a . He wants "each station [to] be l i k e a beacon on the road towards better things, a centre f o r trade of course, but also f or humaniz-ing, improving, instructing" (HD, 91). Harlow interprets the presumption underlying Kurtz's intention: "He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of develop-ment we had arrived at, 'must necessarily appear to them [savages] i n the nature of supernatural beings—we approach them with the might as of a deity. . . . By the simple exercise of our w i l l we can exert a. power for good prac-t i c a l l y unbounded'." Marlow suggests " i t gave me the notion of an exotic immensity ruled by an august Benevolence" (HD, 118). -41-But according to Conrad, man derives his "inner strength" to "do good" only from the community. Detachment from the community, i n purpose and f a c t , proves disastrous f o r Kurtz. "Principles won't do. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty r a g s — rags that would f l y off at the f i r s t good shake. No; you want deliberate b e l i e f " (HD, 97) . What exactly Marlow means by " b e l i e f " i s d i f f i c u l t to define, but i t has to do with duty. Marlow has no time to respond to the "fiendish row" because he has to keep the ship afloat (HD, 97), a symbolic action demonstrating the need f o r constant v i g i l i n the defense of c i v i l i z a t i o n . Marlow's attitude to duty i s simi-l a r to that Conrad professes f o r the English language when he argues: "a matter of discovery and not of inheritance . . . lays the possessor under a lif©time obligation to remain worthy of his good fortune" (PR, v i i i ) . Kurtz, i n contrast to Marlow, has an undue sense of security i n his conviction that c i v i l i z a t i o n i s not earned but inherent i n the nature of the white man (See HD, 118). Egoism deludes him into thinking that his influence w i l l eliminate the savagery of the African people. Detachment from c i v i l i z a t i o n proves the error of Kurtz•s assumption. His magnificent eloquence i s i n s u f f i c i e n t against the savagery of his own heart i n conjunction with - 4 2 -the savagery around him. The wilderness "whisper[s] to him things about himsel f which he d i d not know, things of which he had no conception t i l l he took connsel w i t h t h i s great s o l i t u d e — a n d the whisper had proved i r r e s i s t i b l y f a s c i n a t i n g . I t echoed l o u d l y w i t h i n him because he was hollow at the core" (HD, 131). "The mind of man i s capable o f a n y t h i n g — because everything i s i n i t , a l l the past as w e l l as a l l the f u t u r e . What was there [ i n the f i e n d i s h row] a f t e r a l l ? J o y , f e a r , sorrow, devot ion, v a l o u r , rage—who can t e l l ? — b u t t r u t h — t r u t h s t r i p p e d of i t s cloak of t ime. L e t the f o o l gape and shudder—the man knows, and can look on without a wink. But he must a t l e a s t be as much of a man as these on the shore. He must meet the t r u t h w i t h h i s own t r u e s t u f f - w i t h h i s own i n b o r n s t rength" (HD, 97) . As i n the case of Jim and Heyst, Kurtz•s r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h h i s Intended i s the measure of h i s severance from the human community. "You should have heard the d i s i n t e r r e d body of Mr. K u r t z s a y i n g , 'My I n t e n d e d ' , " Marlow t e l l s h i s audience. "You would have perceived d i r e c t l y then how completely she was out of i t " (HD, 115). Kurtz regards h i s Intended as a possession rather than as a human being: " I heard him. 'My Intended, my i v o r y , my s t a t i o n , my r i v e r , m y - — , everything belonged to him. I t made me -43-hold my breath i n expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed stars i n their places. Everything belonged to him— but that was a t r i f l e . The thing was to know what he be-longed, to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for th e i r own" (HD, 116). The world that claims man also defines his meaning and ide n t i t y . For the egoists, this world becomes a prison. Jim i s looked i n his "own world of shades" (LJ, 416); Heyst must die to j o i n Lena i n the "sanctuary of his inner-most heart" (Vic, 40?); Nostromo i s claimed and held, l i k e the "impious gringos", by the s i l v e r that symbolizes the reputation lie seeks; Kurtz i s held, by ivory i n the world of savagery and demonism where he has earned his place. He cries out i n anguish at the imprisonment: "Save me! — s a v e the ivory, you mean. Don't t e l l me. Save me! Why, I've had to save you. You are interrupting my plans now. Sick! Sick! Not so sick as you would l i k e to believe. Never mind. I ' l l carry my ideas out y e t — I w i l l return. I ' l l show you what can be done" (HD-, 137). He cannot return, however, and with a glance "piercing enough to penetrate a l l the hearts that beat i n the darkness . . . peep[s] over the edge" (HD, 151) at the world which claims him. In "that -44-supreme moment of complete knowledge" his eloquent voice f a i l s him, and he can only whispers "The horror! The h o r r o r ! " (HD, 149) The egoists who seek escape from the "destructive element" thus drown i n i t . V ic t ims of themselves and f a t e , the " impru-dence of [ t h e i r ] thoughts r e c o i l s upon [ t h e i r ] heads" ( L J , 342). Constancy to an invented , static se l f -concept requires t h a t they enter the unchanging, s t a t i c , and i m p r i s o n -i n g w o r l d of t h e i r dreams. But they are , nevertheless , p a r t of the human community i n t h e i r b l i n d n e s s , d e s i r e s , f e a r s , and needs. "[They] have s t ragg led i n a way; [they have] not hung on; but [they a r e ] aware of i t w i t h an intensity that [makes them] touching, j u s t as a man's more intense l i f e makes h i s death more touching than the death of a t r e e " ( L J , 223) . Thus, l i k e the f a l l e n heroes of romance who are rejuvenated by emissaries of truth and magical waters of l i f e , Conrad's t r a g i c characters are brought to l i f e again by an author whose v i s i o n of l i f e enabled him to recognize t h a t , 14 even i n f a i l u r e , they are "one of u s . " 14 Marlow uses the phrase severa l times to suggest that J i m belongs to the c r a f t . I n the "Preface" to Lord J i m , Conrad uses the phrase i n a broader sense than Marlow to sug-gest t h a t J i m ' s experiences are u n i v e r s a l : " I t was f o r me w i t h a l l the sympathy of which I was capable, to seek f i t words f o r h i s meaning . . .[because] he was one of us" (Conrad's Prefaces to His Works, ed. Edward Garnett (London, 1937), p .67. -45-CHaPTER THREE: THE SAVING ILLUSION Tho concentration upon alienation i n late nineteenth and twentieth century western culture reflects the sense of emptiness and f u t i l i t y which came with the disintegration of belief i n moral and metaphysical absolutes. Action becomes virtually meaningless when man has no universally recognized end towards which to strive: communication be-comes nearly impossible when the interpretation and under-standing of experience is not hinged upon a universally accepted belief i n an ordering principle which guides a l l mankind towards a common destiny. Any basis of communica-tion and action which modern man i s able to conjure into existence tends to be regarded with the scorn and doubt - 4 6 -of an audience viewing Beckett's tramps waiting f o r Godot. The tramps may communicate, and may have a common reason f o r waiting, but the price of t h e i r f a i t h i s the t o t a l dissolution of in d i v i d u a l i t y . Vladimir's lines i n Act I become Estragon's l i n e s i n Act I I . They l i v e , but only as puppets of the absurd f a i t h that unites them, Conrad might possibly have approved of Beckett's sardonic comment on l i f e as a portrayal of f u t i l i t y , having himself compared human a c t i v i t y to the punishment enacted 1 upon Sisyphus. However, Conrad did not accept the human condition as an excuse f o r cynicism and inaction. ""What one feels so hopelessly barren i n declared pessimism i s just i t s arrogance," he writes concerning modern a r t i s t s 2 i n the essay "Books". Conrad goes on to argue: "To be hopeful i n an a r t i s t i c sense i t i s not necessary to think that the world i s good. I t i s enough to believe that 3 there i s no impossibility of i t s being made so." Letter "to Mme. Poradowska, August 26, 1891," Letters of Joseph Conrad, p. 33. 2 Motes on L i f e & Letters, p. 8. 3 Ibid., p.9. 1 - 4 ? -A g a i n , Conrad's words echo h i s u n c l e ' s l e t t e r of October 28/29, 1891: "My a s s e r t i o n i s : t h a t although t h i s w o r l d i s not the best t h a t one could imagine, i t i s nevertheless the only one we know and i t i s t o l e r a b l e to the extent t h a t we n e i t h e r know any other nor are we able t o create onej t h a t s o c i e t y i s not q u i t e as bad as some seem to t h i n k and t h a t i t c a n ' t be d i f f e r e n t from the people who c o n s t i t u t e i t ; and t h a t i t i s open t o improvement pro-v i d e d t h a t i n d i v i d u a l s t r y to improve themselves,— which i n t u r n i s bound to take p lace provided that w i t h the i d e a of duty (a lready recognized as the guiding s t a r i n human e t h i c s ) they w i l l combine. . . the thought and convic-t i o n of the s a t i s f a c t i o n a r i s i n g from f u l f i l l i n g a l t r u i s t i c 4 ' d u t i e s . " I n a d d i t i o n to i t s comments upon the necess i ty f o r the i n d i v i d u a l t o become i n v o l v e d i n s o c i e t y , Bobrowski's l e t t e r contains a h i g h l y s i g n i f i c a n t reference t o s o c i a l ' development as "an h i s t o r i c a l evolut ionary compulsion which i s slow but s u r e , and which i s governed by the laws of cause and e f fect derived from the past and a f f e c t i n g 4 Conrad's P o l i s h Background, p . 154-155. i - 4 8 -5 the future." The idea of an evolutionary s o c i a l progression 6 i s inherent i n Conrad's philosophical idea of the community. He writes concerning the legacy of the past which governs mankind: "Who can t e l l how a t r a d i t i o n comes into the world? We are children of the earth. I t may be that the noblest t r a d i t i o n i s but the offspring of material condi-tions , of the hard necessities besetting men's precarious l i v e s . But once i t has been born i t becomes a s p i r i t . Nothing can extinguish i t s force then. Clouds of greedy selfishness, the subtle d i a l e c t i c s of revolt or fear, may obscure i t for a time, but i n very truth i t remains an immortal ruler invested with the power of honor and 7 shame." Here, then, i s Conrad's answer to the problem of alienation and f u t i l i t y . The world may well be deprived Ibid., p. 154. In his book, Conrad's P o l i t i c s : Community and Anarchy i n the F i c t i o n of Joseph Conrad (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1967), Avrom Fleishman discusses the organicist tr a d i t i o n which Incorporates the idea that s o c i a l progress i s evolu-tionary. His discussion of the organicist tr a d i t i o n (Chapter 2) i s p a r t i c u l a r l y illuminating on Conrad's views concerning the individual's re l a t i o n to his community. "Well Done," Notes on L i f e & Letters, p. I83. - 4 9 -of metaphysical absolutes , but mankind has an absolute i n the past which i t has created. By f u l f i l l i n g h i s duty towards the community, the i n d i v i d u a l becomes instrumental i n determining i t s f u t u r e . This p a r t i c i p a t i o n gives h i s l i f e a h i s t o r i c a l s i g n i f i c a n c e as w e l l as "the warm glow of the l o v e f o r one's f e l l o w men [and.]. . . personal 8 s a t i s f a c t i o n and appeasement." I n a world plagued by the d i s i n t e g r a t i o n of t r a d i -t i o n a l v a l u e s , i t becomes d i f f i c u l t to understand where one's moral o b l i g a t i o n l i e s . T r a d i t i o n a l values help man to def ine t o whom o r t o what he owes h i s a l l e g i a n c e . A c c o r d i n g l y , ELoise Knapp Jfeysuggests t h a t Conrad's p o l i t i c a l s c r u t i n i e s "are manifestat ions of a mind l a b o r i n g t o d i s t i n g u i s h among the ashes of a d y i n g , se l f -preoccupied and s e l f - a n n i h i l a t i n g n a t i o n a l t r a d i t i o n and s p i r i t , those sparks of genuine and u n i v e r s a l t r u t h which make f i d e l i t y 9 a r a t i o n a l p r i n c i p l e . " Although her comments evoke the v i s i o n of an a r t i s t engrossed i n an attempt to unravel Bobrowski 's l e t t e r of October 28 /29, 1891, Conrad's P o l i s h Background, p . 155. 9 The P o l i t i c a l Novels of Joseph Conrad ( U n i v e r s i t y of Chicago, 1963), p . 267. -50-a Gordian knot, Conrad was more intent on creating situations that showed "how" rather than "why" the sense of duty saved man. The primary necessity for the individual faced with a moral choice is resignation, "The proper wisdom is to w i l l what the gods w i l l without, perhaps, being certain what their w i l l i s — o r even i f they have a w i l l of their own" (PR, xxi). Conrad's contemporary, Kafka, provides an illuminating and pertinent analogy of the river to illustrate the need for resignation. Like Conrad, Kafka advises resignation because he i s aware of the limits of the use of reason; "Consider . . . the river i n spring. It rises until i t grows mightier and nourishes more richly the s o i l on the long stretch of i t s banks, s t i l l maintaining i t s own course until i t reaches the sea, where i t i s a l l the more wel-come because i t i s a worthier ally.-—Thus far may you urge your meditations on the decrees of the high command.—-But after that the river overflows i t s banks, loses outline and shape, slows down the speed of it s current, tries to ignore i t s destiny by forming l i t t l e seas i n the interior of the land, damages the fields, and yet cannot maintain itself for long i n it s - 5 1 -new expanse, but must run back between i t s banks again, must even dry up wretchedly i n the hot season that presently 10 follows.—Thus f a r may you not urge your meditations. . . . " Besides being a b r i l l i a n t analogy for the error and weakness of the single-minded pursuit of explanation, Kafka's parable complements Conrad's idea of how to show f i d e l i t y to an undefined, but r e a l , community. In "Well Done", Conrad discusses the seaman's f i d e l i t y i n terms similar to Kafka: "Those men understood the nature of their work, but more or less dimly, i n various degrees of imperfection. The best and greatest of their leaders even had never seen i t c l e a r l y , because of i t s magnitude and the remoteness of i t s end. This i s the common fate of mankind, whose most positive achievements are born from dreams and visions followed l o y a l l y to an unknown destination. And i t doesn't matter. For the great mass of mankind the only saving grace that i s needed i s steady f i d e l i t y to what i s nearest at hand and heart i n the short moments of each human eff o r t . In other and i n greater words, what i s needed i s a sense of immediate duty, and a feeling of impalpable 11 constraint." 10 "The Great Wall of Peking," Selected Short Stories of Franz Kafka (New York: Modern Library, 1952),p. 136-137. 11 Notes on L i f e & Letters, p. 190-191. - 5 2 -Conrad's insistence upon the "sense of immediate duty" and "f i d e l i t y to what i s nearest at hand and heart" indicates that he came to recognize the importance of his uncle's advice to "weigh the claims of affection and conscience against [his] own sincerity of purpose" (PR, 42). The emphasis i n this type of philosophy is upon form rather than content, where content refers to theoretical morality or law which determines beforehand how an individual must act i n any given situation, and form merely refers to the fact that an individual i s under a moral obligation at a l l times. Conrad's deeply sceptical view of theory, particularly as i t pertains to law, i s most vividly presented i n "Heart of Darkness" where the sight of emaciated human beings punished by an "outraged law" reminds Marlow of ships aimlessly f i r i n g into a continent (HD, 64). "Principles [and theory] won't do" (HD, 97) because " l i f e i s a greater riddle than some of us think i t to be" (HD, 150-1). "louwant a deliberate belief" (HD, 97). This belief i s the "saving illusion", or sense of duty. As an attitude towards l i f e , i t enables the individual to make his moral decisions according to the necessities of the situation. Like Kant's categorical imperative -53-the p r a c t i c a l creed enjoins the individual to "act as i f the maxim of thy w i l l were to become, by thy adopting i t , 12 a universal law." Kant goes on to postulate a second and t h i r d q u a l i f i c a t i o n , or formula, of the categorical imperative, concluding: "Act from maxims f i t to be 13 regarded as universal laws of nature." The difference between the sense of obligation to one's fellow men and reliance upon principles becomes very evident i n Under Western Byes. Razumov finds his identity, or place i n the Russian community, only when he ceases to act under an egoistic obligation to his i d e a l of s e l f which he rationalizes on the basis of abstract p o l i t i c a l dog-ma, and begins acting out of a sense of duty towards the immediate community i n which he l i v e s . Razumov's test comes when he i s forced to decide whether he w i l l betray or help Haldin. Razumov exposes Haldin because involvement with the young revolutionary would threaten his personal ambitions. "A simple expulsion from the University .. . was enough The Hetaphysic of Ethics, trans. J.W. Sample, ed. R e v . Henry Calderwood (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1871), p. 3*. 13 Ibid., p. 51. to ruin u t t e r l y a young man depending entirely upon the development of his natural a b i l i t i e s for his place i n the world. He was a Russian: and for him to be implicated meant simply sinking into the lowest s o c i a l depths amongst the hopeless and the d e s t i t u t e — t h e night birds of the c i t y " (UWE, 25-26). In order to j u s t i f y his betrayal of Haldin, Razumov t r i e s to convince himself that he owes allegiance to the government: "What i s betrayal? They talk of a man betraying his country, his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond f i r s t . A l l a man can betray i s his conscience. And how i s my conscience engaged here; by what bond of common f a i t h , of common conviction, am I obliged to l e t that f a n a t i c a l i d i o t drag me down with him? On the contrary—every obligation of true courage i s the other way" (UWE, 37-38). Razumov uses his isolated condition as an excuse for ignoring his fellow men. He i s described as "lonely i n the world as a man swimming i n the deep sea" (UWE, 10). Confronted by Kostia, he responds with contempt (WE, 82); trusted by Haldin, he betrays the trust. Like Kurtz, Razumov lacks a clear sense of moral values because he sees himself apart from his community. But, as Zabel points out, " i f i s o l a t i o n i s the f i r s t condition of -55-[ l i f e ] , i t i s never an isolation that brings independence or liberty. Freed by choice from normal human ties and obligations, Conrad's men find themselves i n the inescapable 14 presence of conscience." Conscience, like the "will of the gods", defies explanation. But i t i s the "heirloom of the ages, of the race, of the group, of the family, colourable and plastic, fashioned by the words, the looks, the acts, and even by the silences and abstentions surrounding one's childhood; tinged i n a complete scheme of delicate shades and crude colours by the inherited traditions, beliefs, or prejudices—unaccountable, despotic, persuasive, and often, i n i t s texture, romantic" (PR, 94). As Allan 0. Mclntyre points out ("Conrad on the Functions of the Mind"), Conrad's idea of conscience is not to be mistakenly identified with the traditional 15 Victorian view. Conrad did not equate conscience with the diminutive voice of God, or an absolute standard of morality. "A thing of dignity and sensitivity, i t spoke not from the ghost of the supernatural, but from the best of those human traditions of honor and illusion, the 14 "Chance and Recognition," p. 29. 15 MLQ, 25 (1964), 190. -56-racial legacy and residue of past experience. . . . Conscience pointed to and distinguished our acts of f i d e l i t y , 16 love and courage." In violating his conscience, Razumov's "solitary and laborious existence" is destroyed, and he becomes initiated into the moral universe. The initiation redeems him from the 17 kind of a l i f e which Mikulin exemplifies. " A l l the powers of Razumov*s intellect, a l l the forces of his self-seeking cannot dispel his unconscious apprehension of the solidarity 18 of mankind." The intensity of his anguish becomes apparent in his face which "was older than his age" (uWE,l8l); i n the sleepless nights whose "complex terrors . . . are recorded i n the document" (OWE, 192) which the teacher of languages later receives; and i h his feelings as he looks at water flowing "violent and deep" under the bridges 16 Ibid., p. 190. 17 Ted E. Boyle, Symbol and Meaning in the Fiction of Joseph Conrad (London, 1965), p. 208. Like Razumov, Mikulin avoids expressing the intuitive emotional sense of solidarity with his fellow men. He i s a lonely sceptic and becomes the victim of the politics which he serves. Just as Marlow is an older and a wiser Jim, so also Mikulin is an older, though unchanged, Razumov. 18 Ibid., p. 205. Boyle analyzes i n some depth the psychological manifestations of Razumov's guilt, including the recurring appearance of Haldin*s ghost (p. 209). -57-11 Had i t flowed through Razumov's breast, i t could not have washed away the accumulated bitterness the wreckage of his l i f e had deposited there" (UWE, 198). "Every word uttered by Haldin lived i n Razumov's memory. They were li k e haunting shapes; they could not be exorcised" (UWE, 167). Razumov's attempts to assuage his guilt by rational-ization indicates both the human tendency to use reason for self-justification and also moral blindness. In the Conradian universe, man acquires a clear sense of moral values only when he commits himself to someone besides himself: "The inner truth is foreshadowed for those who know how to look at their kind" (PR, xxi). Accordingly, when he begins to love Natalia, Razumov begins to under-stand the nature of his crime. He confesses: "What could I have known of what was tearing me to pieces and dragging the secret forever to my lips? You were appointed to undo the evil by making me betray myself back into truth and peace. You! And you have done i t i n the same way, too, i n which he ruined me: by forcing upon me your confidence" (UWE, 358). He concludes: "You have freed me from the blindness of anger and hate—the truth shining i n you drew the truth out of me" (UWE, 361). Love for Natalia, thus, enables Razumov to understand the nature of his responsibility. He discovers that his -58-identity, i f he is to have on©, is inseparable from his obligation to mankind. As he confesses to Natalia: "In giving Victor Haldin up, i t was myself, after a l l , whom I have betrayed most basely. lou must believe what I say now, you can't refuse to believe this. Most basely. It i s through you that I came to feel this so deeply" (UWE, 361). When he subsequently vindicates Ziemianitch's honor, Razumov also vindicates himself. Razumov is not an outstanding man, as Conrad indicates i n the "Author's Note," but i n f u l f i l l i n g his moral obli-gation to Ziemianitch, he earns his place within the Russian community. Sophia Antonovna surprises the sceptical western teacher of languages when she tells him that Razumov has not gone out and perished, as the narrator believed (UWE, 361): "Some of us always go to see him when passing through. He is intelligent. He has ideas. . . . He talks well, too" (UWE, 379). In the act of duty, Razumov has become freed of living "in a world without air" (UWE, 360). He confesses the anguish of assuming responsibility for his acts, "but there i s air to breathe at l a s t — a i r " (UWE, 361). In the words of Sophia Antonovna: "It was just when he believed himself safe and more—infinitely more— when the possibility of being loved by that admirable g i r l -59-f i r s t dawned upon him, that he discovered that his bitterest rai l ings, the worst wickedness, the devil work of his hate and pride, could never cover up the ignominy of the exis-tence before him" (UWE, 380). Thus, Razumov acquires true identity when his love for Natalia makes him aware of the nature of moral responsibility. In asserting his responsi-b i l i t y , he finds his place among the Russian people. Before he completed Under Western Eyes, Conrad wrote "The Secret Sharer". The two narratives contain numerous parallels, the most obvious being the conflict between obedience to a theoretical law, p o l i t i c a l and naval, and the need to help an outlaw. In both stories, Conrad empha-sizes the fact that men use the theoretical law as a means of pursuing an egoistic purpose by evading moral obligation to the community. Since such a course i s doomed to fai lure, i t results i n the loss of identity. However, whereas i n Under Western Eyes, Conrad stresses the necessity to regain identity through love, i n "The Secret Sharer", he emphasizes the need for a sense of duty towards the ship. The narrator's introduction indicates that he i s the typical Conradian character about to be tested. He has l i t t l e knowledge of other men, particularly his crew. - 6 0 -He feels a stranger to the ship, and, more seriously, a stranger to himself. Confronted by a new world, he wonders "how far [he w i l l ] turn out faithful to that ideal concep-tion of one's own personality every man sets up for him-self secretly" (SS, 93-94). He i s , however, serenely confident that "the ship was like other ships, the men l i k e other men, and that the sea was not likely to keep any special surprises expressly for my discomfiture." Like Jim after he takes a berth on the Patna, the narrator feels safe: "Suddenly I rejoiced i n the great security of the sea as compared with the unrest of the land, i n my choice of that untempted l i f e presenting no disquieting problems, invested with an elementary moral beauty by the absolute straightforwardness of i t s appeal and the single-ness of i t s purpose" (SS, 96). But the feeling of security i s always dangerous. According-l y , the captain's solitary reflections are shattered when Leggatt appears "as i f he had risen from the bottom of the sea" (SS, 98). The sea which appeared so benevolent to the captain now becomes inimical. Consequently, "a mysterious communication [is] established already between [the] two. i n the face of that silent darkened tropical sea" (SS, 99). The rest of the narrative develops their -61-r e l a t i o n as that of a captain to the secret s e l f which he must hide from the crew i f he i s to maintain authority on deck: "My double breathed anxiously; . . . I was constantly watching my s e l f , my secret s e l f , as dependent on my actions as my own personality." Leggatt makes the captain aware of the dangers of the sea and of the destructive tendencies within himself. The captain realizes, l i k e Leggatt, that he i s "precious l i t t l e better than the rest" (SS, 124). "The same strung-up force which had given twenty-four men a chance, at l e a s t , f o r t h e i r l i v e s , had, i n a sort of r e c o i l , crushed an un-worthy mutinous existence" (SS, 124-125). Recognizing that he i s not the "secret i d e a l " he has set up f o r himself, the young captain flounders i n the "destructive element", facing the alternatives of "trying to crawl into the a i r " or submitting and exerting himself to make the deep sea keep him up. His strange i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with Leggatt becomes a way of attempting to escape. Not a matter of s o l i d a r i t y , but, as he realizes l a t e r , of "sham, sentiment, a sort of cowardice" (S3, 132), the i d e n t i f i c a t i o n indicates extreme self-consciousness, the loss of confidence i n himself, and the loss of a sense of in d i v i d u a l i t y and purpose. The -62-captain's nervousness and fear jeopardizes Leggatt- and i t destroys his authority o n d e c k . As the situation on the Sephora clearly indicates, a captain's l a c k of confidence and authority i s a dangerous threat to his command. Leggatt i s t h e scapegoat f o r Archbold's insufficiency. Although A r c h b o l d has b e e n the captain of the 'Sephora' for f i f t e e n years, his knowledge of the s e a , the ship, the men, and most seriously, h i m s e l f , i s no more advanced than that of the i n e x p e r i e n c e d narrator. L i k e the young captain, A r c h b o l d i s "afraid of [his] men, and also of t h a t old second mate o f h i s " ( S S , 107). His ineptitude results i n a constant turnover o f chief mates ( S 3 , 107). He shows complete l a c k of courage before h i s men: " A l l his nerve went t o p i e c e s a l t o g e t h e r i n that hellishyspell of b a d w e a t h e r " ( S S , 10?). Expecting no dangers f r o m the sea, he allows his w i f e to accompany hira on the voyage. "A seaman l a b o u r i n g u n d e r a n undue s e n s e of security," Conrad writes i n "The Mirror o f t h e S e a , "becomes at once worth hardly half his s a l t " (MS, 1 8 ) . A n inept representative o f t h e law,'he s h a k e s " l i k e a l e a f " while i n s i s t i n g "I r e p r e s e n t t h e l a w h e r e " ( S S , 10?). Without a n understanding o f d u t y and c o u r a g e , h e attributes -63-the saving of his ship to divine intervention: "God's own hand i n i t . . . . Nothing less could have done i t . I don't mind t e l l i n g you that I hardly dared give the order. I t seemed impossible that we could touch anything without l o s i n g i t , and then our l a s t hope would have been gone" (SS, 118). Archbold's argument indicates that he has l o s t a l l sense of purpose: the gear i s useless unless i t i s used. Archbold's absurd fear of losing his gear parallels the young captain's fear of losing b e l i e f i n his secret i d e a l . Willingness to test an i d e a l self-concept indicates the assumption of r es pons i b i l i t y for one's actions. This sense of responsibility comes with acceptance of the f a c t that personal dignity and i d e n t i t y are "inseparably united with the dignity of one's work" ( P R , x v i i i ) . Unwilling to f o r f e i t his egoistic concern for the s e l f , Archbold f a i l s as a captain. Like Razumov, who uses theoretical considerations to rationalize his crime, Archbold t r i e s to escape the fact that he has f a i l e d as a captain by clinging to the law: "To the law. His obscure tenacity on that point had i n i t something incom-prehensible and a l i t t l e awful; something, as i t were, mystical, quite apart from his anxiety that he should not - 6 4 -be suspected of 'countenancing any doings of that sort.» Seven-and-thirty virtuous years at sea, of which over twenty of immaculate command, and the l a s t f i f t e e n i n the 'Sephora', seemed to have l a i d him under some p i t i l e s s obligation" (SS, 118-119). The young captain learns from Archbold's mistake. Like Marlow, he escapes the paralyzing hold of his fear of f a i l u r e because he becomes concerned with his duty towards the ship. Realizing that Leggatt i s not an extension of the s e l f , but a man who must follow his own destiny, the narrator returns to the deck and displays the authority 19 that comes with a f u l l sense of responsibility. F i r s t he demands order and obedience from the second mate. He then shows remarkable self-possession i n giving the mate 19 Guerard•s chapter I entitled "The Journey Within," Conrad: The Novelist (Cambridge, Mass., Howard, I966) i s important f o r the c l a r i t y with which the author d i s -tinguishes between lo y a l t y to self and l o y a l t y to community i n the situations of doubles. Guerard says: " I t i s , at our f i r s t response, a dramatic outward relationship. But as a double Leggatt i s also very inwardly a secret s e l f . He provokes a crippling d i v i s i o n of the narrator's per-sonality, and one that interferes with his seamanship" (p. 24) . On the decision to free Leggatt, Guerard com-ments : "Leggatt i s perhaps a free man i n several senses, but not least i n the sense that he has escaped the nar-rator's symbolizing projection. He has indeed become "mere f l e s h " (p. 25). -65-an order wfaleh he knows w i l l be considered sheer lunacy. The difference between concern for self and concern for the ship becomes most apparent during the dangerous sailing maneuver. Looking for accomplishment rather than security, the eaptain realizes the need to understand the nature of his task, "And now I forgot the secret stranger ready to depart, and remembered only that I was a total stranger to the ship. I did not know her. Would she do it? How was she to be handled?" (SS, 141) The sense of solidarity allays the loneliness and responsibility of command. Having broken his narcissistic identification with Leggatt, the captain can now regard Leggatt as a man who w i l l perhaps understand 'why, on my conscience, i t had to be thus close—no less" (SS, 141). The captain's expression of solidarity with Leggatt then aids him i n the most crucial moment of the maneuver. When he must know whether the ship i s moving, the hat, his expression of humanity towards Leggatt, appears beside the ship. It "was saving the ship, by serving me for a mark to help out the ignorance of my strangeness" (SS, 142). The young captain presumably becomes a very able commander, having submitted his w i l l to the needs of the community. The "vision of humanity has broken i n .66-upon the impersonal regimen of his days—upon the Meal conception of one's own personality,' abstract, i l l u s o r y , and therefore insecure and perilous, which 'every man sets up for himself secretly.' The 'sharing' has recreated him, s t i r r e d him to a sense of his latent moral insecurity, and so enforced i n him the necessity of human community— that 'unavoidable s o l i d a r i t y ' which Conrad persistently 20 invokes as the inescapable commitment of men." By turning to the community, the young captain finds the rec o n c i l i a t i o n and ide n t i t y which every man seeks. "Nothing! no one i n the world should stand now between us, throwing a shadow on the way of s i l e n t knowledge and mute affection, the perfect communion of a seaman with his f i r s t command" (SS, 1^3). In The Nigger of the 'Narcissus', Conrad shows how the harmony on board a ship i s destroyed when men lose t h e i r sense of duty towards the ship. I t i s only when they regain the sense of s o l i d a r i t y by f u l f i l l i n g their obligations towards the ship, that the voyage can be completed successfully. The men of the 'Narcissus' face "a problem that has 20 Zabel, "Chance and Recognition," p. 33. -67-arisen on board a ship where the conditions of complete i s o l a t i o n from a l l land entanglements make i t stand out with 21 a particular force and colouring." The situation Conrad selects thus serves to emphasize man's t o t a l dependence upon his own resources. The success or f a i l u r e of the ship's journey depends upon the conduct of the crew. I t i s this kind of resp o n s i b i l i t y which Archbold attempts to evade by attributing the saving of his ship to divine intervention and the murder to "some disease". Similarly, the crew of the 'Narcissus' want to evade the i r responsibility. This becomes evident by their response to the captain's question concerning their dissatisfaction: "They wanted great things. And suddenly a l l the simple words they knew seemed to be l o s t f o r ever i n the immensity of the i r vague and burning desire. They knew what they wanted, but they could not f i n d anything worth saying" (NN, 134). Donkin's and Wait's appeal to their "naive i n s t i n c t s " (NN, 12) causes the crew to lose t h e i r sense of f i d e l i t y to the ship and the trad i t i o n of the sea. A violent storm temporarily makes them forget themselves, restoring the sense of s o l i d a r i t y . After the storm, however, Donkin's Letter to Henry 3 . Canby, A p r i l 7, 1924. L i f e and Letters, I I , 342. - 6 8 . appeal become e v e n s t r o n g e r . L i k e H e y s t ' s father, the men begin to believe that their efforts make them "indu-bitably good men; our deserts were great and our pay s m a l l . Through our exertions we had saved the s h i p and the skipper would get the credit of i t . What had he done" (NN, 101-102). Donkin's eloquent demands f o r "rights" appeal to th e i r inherent egoism, and James Wait becomes the "emblem of [ t h e i r ] aspirations" (NN, 122) not to be "put upon". Because the s a i l o r s do not resign themselves to the purposes of the ship, they become vulnerable to the "des-truct i v e element". In losing their sense of purpose and meaning, they become corrupted with arrogant pessimism, and begin to think of mutiny. "Through [ J i m ] we were b e c o m i n g highly humanized, tender, c o m p l e x , excessively decadent: we understood t h e subtlety of his f e a r , sym-pathized w i t h a l l his repulsions, shrinkings, evasions, delusions—as t h o u g h we had. b e e n o v e r - c i v i l i z e d , a n d rotten, a n d without any k n o w l e d g e of the meaning of l i f e " (NN, 139). The men h a v e , i n f a c t , l o s t the sense of personal dignity t h a t comes with t h e f a i t h f u l p e r f o r m a n c e o f duty. This becomes a p p a r e n t e a r l y i n t h e n o v e l when, l i k e t h e -69-young captain i n "The Secret Sharer", the crew awakens to i t s inherent weaknesses: "[Jim] trampled on our s e l f -respect, he demonstrated to us d a i l y our want of moral courage; he tainted our l i v e s . Had we been a miserable gang of wretched immortals, unhallowed a l i k e by hope and fear, he could not have lorded i t over us with a more p i t i l e s s assertion of his sublime p r i v i l e g e " (NI, 4-7). The crew's feelings are comparable to those of the corrupt and despicable immortals whom Gulliver meets i n his t h i r d voyage. Like the StruWbru ;e whose immunity from danger and death results i n corruption, Conrad's characters suffer moral disintegration when they f a i l to recognize the dan-gers of l i f e and the necessity f o r exertion. Lacking this sense of purpose i n exertion they become fascinated, l i k e Decoud, with death. As Lain Moroola i n Almayer's F o l l y realizes, death has terror f o r a man only when his commitment to some-body else causes him to cherish l i f e . This commitment enables man to re a l i z e the necessity f o r exertion which alone gives l i f e meaning. For this reason, there i s so much intense c o n f l i c t i n Conrad's f i c t i o n . "On men reprieved by i t s disdainful mercy, the immortal sea con-fers i n i t s justice the f u l l privilege of desired rest. Through the perfect wisdom of i t s grace they are not -70-permltted to meditate at ease upon the complicated and acrid savour of existence. They must without pause jus-t i f y their l i f e " (NN, 90). The later Hemingway whose heroes find their meaning i n the match of strength with bulls or the crucial l i f e and death struggle with a giant marlin echoes Conrad's philosophy. The keen sense of honor i n struggling with a champion, and the brotherly love he displays for his opponent who represents the forces of nature, make Hemingway's Santiago an interesting parallel of Conrad's Singleton. Like Single-ton, Santiago returns from his struggle with "completed wisdom" (NN, 99). Both learn the value of l i f e from their confrontation with death. Therefore, they abhor cowardice: Santiago, the scavenger sharks; Singleton, the scavenger Donkin. Both men beccae representatives of the noblest traditions of their community: Santiago of the historical sense of a fisherman people towards the sea; Singleton of the historical tradition of seamanship. As representa-tives of the only qualities that unite man with his past and his future, they demonstrate what Conrad meant by the invincible conviction of solidarity that unites the "dead to the l i v i n g and the l i v i n g to the unborn" (NN, v i i i ) . Singleton resembles a "learned and savage patriarch, -71-the Incarnation of barbarian wisdom serene i n the blasphemous turmoil of the world" (NN, 6). His wisdom links the i n i t i a t e Charley with the generations of sailors who "knew how to exist beyond the pal© of l i f e and within sight of eternity" (NN, 2 5 ) . Like a prophet, the ancient sai lor appears "colossal, very old; old as Father Time himself, who should have come there into this place as quiet as a sepulchre to contemplate with patient eyes the short victory of sleep;, the consoler" (NN, 2 4 ) . By developing Singleton's individuality, Conrad em-phasizes the fact that the tradition which Singleton repre-sents and which redeems man i s a purely human achievement. Unlike Merlin and other figures who rescue the heroes of medieval romance with magic and super-human powers, Conrad's Singleton experiences the dangers and suffering of exis-tence. His anguish i s intensely individual: "He looked upon the immortal sea with the awakened and groping perceptions of i t s heartless might; he saw i t unchanged, black and foaming under the eternal scrutiny of the stars; he heard i t s impatient voice calling for him out of a piti less vastness f u l l of unrest, of turmoil, and of terror. He looked afar upon i t , and he saw an immensity tormented -72-and blind, moaning and furious, that claimed a l l the days of his tenacious l i f e , and, when l i f e was over, would claim the worn-out body of its slave. . ." (NN, 99). The grace that enables Singleton to appease his an-guish also originates, not in divine intervention, but in the human sense of duty. Singleton does not succumb to passive despair when the storm makes him aware of his own mortality (NN, 99) but "at midnight. . . turn[s] out to duty as i f nothing had been the matter" (NN, 98). When the other sailors, like Singleton, recover their sense of duty towards the ship, they are able to complete the voyage. If separation from the land suggests the loneliness of human responsibility, the return to shore signifies the kind of reconciliation and solidarity that becomes possible i n the Conradian universe. This solidarity manifests it s e l f in the feeling that binds the sailors together, and in the feeling that causes Singleton, like Santiago, to regard with affection and respect, the sea with which he has struggled. The "destructive element" then becomes a hospitable element. As Conrad says, "Water is friendly to man. . . . And of a l l the elements this is the one to which men have always been prone to trust them-selves, as i f its immensity held a reward as vast as -73-i t s e l f . " (MS, 101). When Singleton i s claimed, he takes "with him the long record of his faithful, work into the peaceful depths of a hospitable s e a " (MM, 172). Thus, the individual who escapes the egoistic shadow and commits himself to something greater than himself, finds reconciliation,meaning, and identity. Conrad's philosophy reminds one of Dame Philosophy's advice i n The Consolation of Boethius. In the Boethian universe, only men who learn to regard themselves within the larger framework of a chain of love can escape the anguish a n d tragedy of fortune. The closer man can approximate, i n his thoughts and hopes, the divine, unchanging centre of the chain, the less he becomes the victim of fortune and the more his w i l l becomes i n f l u e n t i a l . In the Conradian universe, the larger framework i s the commonwealth of man-kind. Man finds his sustaining hope i n the sense of s o l i -darity which r e s u l t s , paradoxically, from t h e loneliness a n d anguish of responsibility: "Hadn't we, together and upon the immortal s e a wrung out a m e a n i n g from o u r s i n f u l lives? "(WH, 173) Razumov, t h e captain i n "The S e c r e t S h a r e r " , a n d t h e crew of t h e ' N a r c i s s u s ' a r e a b l e to f i n d t h e i r i d e n t i t y b y successfully engaging t h e hostile forces w h i c h t h e y encounter o n their q u e s t t h r o u g h l i f e . The forces w h i c h -74-Conrad's characters confront are not of the elaborate and supernatural type normally encountered by heroes of ro-mance. This fact does not reduce, but rather intensifies the dramatic conflicts of the quest. However, not being a heroic world, Conrad's universe "rests on a few very simple ideas" (PR, xxi) lik e th© devotion to duty, the conviction of fidel i t y , the belief i n the value of work which gives man—the chance to find [himself], [His] own r e a l i t y — f o r [himself]" (HD, 85) . Although humble, these truths are exacting, and the individual who i s equal to them becomes successful i n his quest for identity. -75-CHAPTER FOUR: THE MOMENT OF VISION It was natural for a writer of romantic and adven-turous temperament, who spent most of his youth and early manhood i n travel, to use the metaphor of the journey when writing about the search for truth, meaning and purpose i n l i f e . For Conrad, "any task undertaken i n an adven-turous s p i r i t acquires the merit of romance" (PR, 96). He not only used the journey as a structure for many of his stories, but also used the idea of the pjlgrimage i n his discussions of the art ist ic endeavour. For example, i n the "Preface" to The Nigger of the 'Narcissus', Conrad writes: "The sincere endeavour to accomplish that creative task, to go as far on that road as his strength -76-w i l l carry him, to go undeterred by faltering, weariness or reproach, i s the only valid justification for the worker i n prose" (UN, i x ) . In A Personal Record, he refers to the literary pursuit as "something for which a material parallel can only be found i n the everlasting sombre stress of the westward winter passage round Cap* Horn. For that too i s the wrestling of men with the might of their Creator, i n a great isolation from the world, without the amenities and consolations of l i f e , a lonely struggle under a sense of over-matched littleness, for no reward that could be adequate, but for th* mere winning of a longitude" (PR, 98-9). The parallel i s illuminating. For the artist, l i k e the sailor, the struggle is a matter of survival: "Th* artist i n his calling of interpreter creates . . . because ho must. Ho is so much of a voice that, for him, silence is like 1 death." Consequently, both artist and seaman must relinquish egoistic purposes. "The good artist," Conrad writes, "should expect no recognition of his t o i l and no admiration 2 of his genius." Rather than concerning himself with the reward, the good artist concerns himself with his task. The task i s to "carry . . . justification i n every lino" "Henry James: An Appreciation 1905," Notes, p. 14. 2 "Books," Notes, p.9. -77-ln a "single-minded attempt te render the highest kind of justice te the risible universe, by bringing to light the truth, manifold and one, underlying Its every aspeet" (NN, v l l ) . Just as the crew of the 'Narcissus* finds meaning In successfully completing th« voyage, Conrad felt convinced ef his own reality and identity when his art had meaning for other men. In a letter to Edward Gamett dated April 20, 1897* Conrad wrote: "My dear fellow you keep me straight In my work and when i t is done you s t i l l direct its des-tinies! And i t seems that i f you ceased to do either l i f e itself would cease. For me you are the reality out-side, the expressed thought, the living voice! And without 3 you I would think myself alone In an empty universe." To Richard Curie he wrote (July 14, 1923): "Without man-4 kind, my art, an Infinitesimal thing, could not exist." Discussing Nevalis* comment that " i t is certain my convic-tion gains infinitely the moment another soul will believe In i t , " Conrad argues: "And what is a novel i f not a con-viction of our fellow-men's existence strong enough to take Letters from Joseph Conrad: 1895-1924. ed. Edward Garnett (Indianapolis: Bebbs-Merrill, 1925), p. 97. 4 Conrad to a Friend: 150 Selected Letters from Joseph Conrad te Richard Curie, ed. Richard Curie (New York: Doubleday, 1928), p. 150. -78-upon i t s e l f the form of imagined l i f e clearer than reality" (PR, 15). As Marlow's experience indicates, belief i n the exis-tence of one's fellow men comes with the realization that the hard realities of l i f e are shared by a l l mankind. Marlow believes most strongly i n Jim's reality whenever Jim's hope, despair, sorrow, and exuberance reminds him of his own experiences. The conviction of solidarity persuades Marlow that he can make Jim exist for his listeners. Simi-larly, the belief i n human solidarity i a the "saving illusion" which enables the artist to "convey the life-sensation of [a] given epoch of . . . existence—that which makes i t s truth, i t s meaning—its subtle and penetrating essence" (HD, 82) . Thus, Conrad's artistic quest involves the test which Conrad describes by again using the metaphor of the journey: "The artist descends within himself, and in that lonely region of stress and strife, i f he be deserving and fortunate, he finds the terms of his appeal" (NN, v i i i ) . l ike his characters, Conrad must accept the human condi-tion, or submit. In doing so, the artist appeals "to our - 7 9 -capacity for delight and wander, to the sense of mystery surrounding our l i v e s ; to oar sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with a l l creation—and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity i n dreams, i n joy, i n sorrow, i n aspirations, i n i l lusions, i n hope, i n f«ar, which binds men to each other*1 (NN, v i i i ) . Marlow's despair ever the impossibility of communicating i n a world where truth i s relative because "we l i v e , as we dream—alone" (HD, 82) indicates the difficulty of the art ist 's task. In a letter to Edward Noble dated November 2 , 1895, Conrad wrote: "No man's l ight i s good to any of his fellows. That's ray creed from beginning to end. That's my view of l i f e , — a view that rejects a l l formulas, dogmas, and prin-ciples of other people's making. These are only a web of i l lusions. We are too varied. Another man's truth i s only 5 a dismal l i e to me." Nevertheless, although the meaning of l i f e may differ for every individual, the basic realities of l i f e are universal and make communication possible. Accordingly, for Conrad, as for Marlow," th* meaning of an -80-episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought i t out only as a glow brings out a haze, i n the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine" (HD, 48). The meaning i n Conrad's fiction, therefore, exists i n the reader's imagination where, alone, truth can find an "effective and undeniable existence" (PR, 25). Conrad's role as an artist was to present the ©vents and aspects of l i f e i n a manner that would e l i c i t an imaginative response from the reader. Conrad's words serve as a "medium for meaning, an enveloping fact or action which makes visible a 6 halo". Concerning his method, Conrad wrote: "It is only through complete, unswerving devotion to th© perfect blending of form and substance; i t i s only through an unre-mitting never-discouraged care for the shape and ring of sentences that an approach can be made to plasticity, to colour, and that the light of magic suggest!veness may be brought to play for an evanescent instant over the common-place surface of words: of the old, old words, worn thin, defaced by ages of careless usage" (NN, ix). "The artistic 6 Perry, "Action, Vision, or Voice," p. 9. - 8 1 . aim when expressing i t s e l f i n written words must . . . make i t s appeal through the senses, i f i t s high desire is to reach the secret spring of responsive emotions" (NN, i x ) . "My task which I am trying to achieve i s , by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you f e e l — i t i s , before a l l , to make you see" (NN, x). In his perceptive study of Conrad's art, Ramon Fernandez suggests that the art of Conrad "does not trace the reality before man but the man i n face of reality; i t evokes subjec-tively integrated experiences because the impression is equivalent to the totality of the perception and because man 7 suffers i t i n i t s entirety and with a l l his might." Because Conrad's appeal i s made to the reader's subjective faculties, the reader participates i n the confrontation with reality. He, too, subjectively integrates the experience and the reality "with [its] true meaning" by "creat[ing] the moral, the emotional atmosphere of the place and time" (NN, ix). In other words, the reader participates in the quest for meaning. Francis Cutler writes: "With Conrad we actually enter the creative process: we grope with him "The Art of Conrad," Critical Symposium, p. 9. -82-through blinding mists, ire catch at fleeting glimpses and 8 t h r i l l with sudden illumination." Hostromo i s one of the best examples of Conrad's abi-l i t y to oommunicate through the appeal to the senses. Al-though the novel deals with an imaginary situation, i t s reader confronts the reality of human experience which is "based on the reality of forms and the observation of 9 social phenomena." The novel's "accumulated verisimilitude of selected episodes puts to shame the pride of documentary history" (PR, 15). The illusion of the novel acquires meaning and truth for the reader just as the dream of Conrad's charac-ters become real when i t i s transformed into action. Through his appeal to the senses, Conrad makes the imaginary world of Costaguana exist for the reader. For example, i n the opening paragraph he provides the historical details of Sulaeo i n a manner that allows the reader to feel i t s Latin American atmosphere: "In the time of Spanish rule, and for many years afterwards, the town of Sulaeo —the luxuriant beauty of the orange gardens bears witness to i t s antiquity—had never been commercially anything more 8 "Why Marlow," p. 37. 9 "Henry James: An Appreciation 1905." p. 17. -83-important than a coasting port with a f a i r l y large local trade i n ox-hides and indigo" (Mos, 3). The slow cadence of the sentence, established by i t s regular breaks, and the specific details which suggest that historically, Sulaco has been economically insignificant are particularly effective i n creating a feeling of the somnolent tran-quility which characterizes isolated and backward tropical and semi-tropical countries. The f i r s t chapter of Nostromo i s a good example of how Conrad uses natural description to create a desired effect upon the reader. By gradually becoming more spe-c i f i c i n the use of adjectives and detail, he creates the effect of diminishing distance from the vantage point and the coastline of Costaguana, The reader feels as i f he himself i s entering Costaguana. The historical details, superstitions, legend, and rumors associated with the natural landmarks which Conrad describes not only create atmosphere, but also convey the sense of time elapsing during the approach to Sulaco. Conrad f i r s t describes the entire coastline from the point of view of a person seeing Costaguana from a distance: - 8 4 -"On on© side of this broad curve i n the straight seaboard of the Republic of Costaguana, the last spur of the coast rang© forms an insignificant cape whose name is Punta Mala" (Nos, 3). Upon crossing the "imaginary line" connecting the "two outermost points of the bond which bears the nam© of th© Golf© Placido" (Nos, 5 ) , th© eye is able to se© landmarks i n greater detail because the shoreline i s closer. The adjectives become more specific: one sees th© "towering and serrated wall of th© Cordillera, a clear-cut vision of dark peaks rearing their steep slopes on a lofty pedestal of forest rising from the very edge of the shore" (Nos, 6). The description becomes even more particularized as the imaginary ship passes the three islets that stand opposite to Sulaeo harbour. Specific details like dead leaves on coarse sand, bushes, an old ragged palm, and th© smooth trunks of trees create th© effect of proximity. And "from that low end of the Great Isabel the ©y© plunges through an opening two miles away, as abrupt as i f chopped with an ax© out of the regular sweep of coast, right into the harbour of Sulaeo" (Nos, 7 ) . Next, the eye is able to pick out the cupola, the "white ndradors on a vast grove of orange trees" and the "tops of walls" (Nos, 8 ) , which suggest the entry into the port. With the description of -85-activity i n the port (Chapter Two), the reader's point of view i s from within Sulaco and he becomes an involved observer i n the unfolding drama. The drama centers upon human aspirations which are constantly threatened by the "destructive element". Conrad uses the concrete situation of man's struggle for economic prosperity to present the difficulties man encounters i n makinghis dream come true. Economic prosperity depends upon trade. But natural forces have, i n the past, kept Sulaco from being an important port. The Golfo Placido cannot be penetrated by deep sea galleons or their fleet successors: "Sulaco had found an inviolable sanctuary from the temptations of a trading world in the solemn hush of the deep Golfo Placido as i f within an enormous semi-circular and unroofed temple open to the ocean, with its walls of lofty mountains hung with the mourning draperies of coulds" (Nos, 3). Ships entering the bay become the prey of "capricious airs that play with them." The "head of the calm gulf is f i l l e d on most days . . . by a great body of motionless and opaque clouds" (Nos, 5). At night, the sky "smothers" the "quiet gulf" with an "impenetrable - 8 6 -darkness" (Nos, 6). Th© ship "floats" and. her sails "flutter" (Nos, 7). In addition to making the reader sense the placidity of the bay, which i s an obstacle to the fulfillment of human aspirations, Conrad introduces the legend of treasure seekers who were unable to leave Azuera with their "forbidden wealth". By introducing the story of the "imjdous gringos" as a legend, Conrad surrounds i t s truth with an air of mystery and superstition. Certain human desires are unattainable, or "forbidden", and best not pursued. Recurring allusions to the legend make the reader sense i t as a pervading truth with which the major characters i n the novel must contend. Technological advances i n mining techniques and trans-portation, and sophistication of world trade and finance appear to repudiate the truth of the legend. Gould's idea-l i s t i c dream of improving the human conditions i n Costaguana on the premise that social progress accompanies economic prosperity seems attainable. The "forbidden wealth" of the San Tome silver mine becomes the symbol of men's dreams and aspirations. The mine "was to become an institution, a rallying point for everything i n the province that needed order and stability to li v e . Security seemed to flow upon this land from the mountain-gorge" (Nos, HO). The mine - 8 7 -does, Indeed, become a rallying point, but not In the way Gould Intended. Silver, l i k e Donkin's "rights", stands between the people of Costaguana and the sense of moral res-ponsibility, the only dream that enables social progress to occur i n Conrad's world. The inhabitants of Costaguana revolt i n the desire to possess silver, the trusted Capataz becomes a thief, and Gould's idealism changes Into an obsession with the economic success of the mine. Silver, l i k e the egoistic dream, has no Inherent value and protects neither individuals nor communities from the destructive tendencies of human nature. Through the use of concrete situations, Conrad enables the reader to recognize the fact that scientific advances and civilization do not alter the need for a "saving illusion" that commits man to the community. Ironically, i t i s the accomplices of the "destructive element", not Gould, who possess the advantage of technology i n the most crucial situation of the novel. Nostromo and Decoud rely upon wind to escape with the lighter and it s cargo of silver. Sotillo, who has come to steal the silver, i s able to enter Sulaeo on a steamship. Unable to escape from the Golfo Placido because there i s no wind, the lighter i s struck by Sotillo*s ship. The accident initiates a chain of - 8 8 -events that culminate i n Decoud's suicide and Nostromo's corruption. Possessing none of the "inborn strength" which man acquires when he has a sense of obligation to the community, Decoud and Nostromo are dragged into the "destructive element" by the silver. The novel completes i t s f u l l circle, beginning where i t ended, with legendary seekers of "forbidden wealth" guarding the treasure which they cannot use to achieve the peace and f e l i c i t y which they, like a l l mankind, seek. Decoud's body lie s at the bottom of the gulf weighted with bars of silver; and, "from Punta Mala to Azuera and away to the bright line of the horizon, overhung by a big white cloud shining like a mass of solid silver, the genius of the magnificent Capataz de Cargadores dominated the dark gulf containing his conquests of treasure and love" (Nos, 566). The reader has recrossed the "imaginary line" (Nos, 5) that f i r s t marked his entry into the Golfo Placido and the imaginary country of Costaguana. Nostromo becomes part of the legend of unfortunate treasure seekers to which Conrad introduced the reader i n the opening pages of the novel. However, because the concrete events of the novel enable the reader to see, hear, and feel, the legend is changed from a superstition into a truth. . 8 9 -Conrad's art also enables the reader to apprehend the subjective feelings of the characters involved i n the struggle with the "destructive element." Because he senses the placidity of the bay, and the hostility of nature, part-icularly Azuera, where, i t i s rumored, not even a blade of grass draws nourishment, the reader understands the mental anguish of solitude that causes Decoud to despair and f i n a l l y commit suicide. The fog, and awesome stillness enveloping the lighter which carries Nostromo's and Decoud's hopes, accentuates the sense of f u t i l i t y and helplessness of imprison-ment within the Golfo Placido. The brutal physical tortures inflicted upon Hirsch externalize the inner spiritual suffering of Dr. Monyghaa, Gould, Decoud, Nostromo, Giorgio Violo, and Gould's wife. Similarly, the natural forces which make "forbidden wealth" inviolable externalize the internal qualities i n man that keep him from achieving the good which he seeks when he clings to an ego-centric dream. Like Giselle, the reader admits when the raging conflict i s over: "I cannot understand. I cannot understand. But I shall never forget thee. Never! . . . Never! Gian' Battista!" (Nos, 566) Although Conrad stresses the fact of human corrup-t i b i l i t y , Nostromo i s not a cynical novel. Scenes like the one i n which Giselle weeps over Nostromo and the one -90-where Mrs. Gould protects Nostromo's reputation by not revealing the import of his final confession to Dr. Monygham suggest the redeeming power of human solidarity. In the "Author's Note," Conrad invokes this sense of solidarity: "In bis mingled love and scorn of l i f e and i n the bewildered eonviction of having been betrayed, of dying betrayed he hardly knows by what or by whom, he i s s t i l l of the People, their undoubted Great Man—with a private history of his own" (Nos, x i i i ) . The presentation of human corruptibility i n Conrad's works has a similar effect upon the reader as the awakening and discovery of personal insufficiency has on characters li k e the crew of the 'Narcissus', Jim, and the captain i n "The Secret Sharer". Like the characters, the reader faces the choice of trying to escape, or submitting. If he submits, and accepts the fact that "they are one of us" he awakens to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity", the "wider feeling" to which Marlow refers i n a comment on his attitude towards Jim*. "Hadn't we a l l commenced with the same desire, ended with the same know-ledge, carried the memory of the same cherished glamour through the sordid days of imprecation? What wonder that when some heavy prod gets home the bond i s found to be -91-dose; that besides the fellowship of the craft there is felt the strength of a wider feeling—the feeling that binds a man to a child. He was there before me, believing that age and wisdom can find a remedy against the pain of truth" (LJ, 129). Having himself felt th© anguish of alienation, loss of identity and condemnation, the attempt to understand Jim awakens in Marlow the feeling of solidarity. Therefore, Marlow stands between Jim and the darkness of oblivion: "He existed for me, and after a l l i t is only through me that he exists for you. I've led him out by the hand; I have paraded him before you" (LJ, 22k). The capacity of art to "snatch . . . a passing phase of l i f e . . . [and] hold up unquestioningly, without choice and without fear, the rescued fragment . . . [to] reveal the substance of its truth" (NU, x) caused Conrad to compare the creative art of fiction to rescue work: "The creative art of a writer of fiction may be compared to rescue work carried out in darkness against cross gusts of wind swaying the action of a great multitude. It is rescue work, this snatching of vanishing phases of turbulence, disguised in fair words, out of the native obscurity into a light where the struggling forms may be seen, seized upon, endowed with the only possible form of permanence in this world of relative values—the permanence of memory. And the multitude -92-feels i t obscurely too; since the demand of the individual to the artist is , in effect, the cry 'Take me out of myselfJ' meaning really, out of my perishable activity into the light 10 of imperishable consciousness." The artist's response is an affirmation of solidarity, as Conrad indicates when reminiscing on his work: "It seems now to have had a moral character, for why should the memory of these beings, seen in their obscure sun-bathed existence, demand to express itself in the shape of a novel, except on the ground of that mysterious fellowship which unites in a community of hopes and fears al l the dwellers on this earth?" (PR, 9) Therefore in an imaginary argument with Almayer, Conrad writes: "I wrapped round [your name's] unhonoured form the royal mantle of the tropics and have essayed to put into the hollow sound the very anguish of paternity—feats which you did not demand from me—but remember that al l the toil and a l l the pain were mine. . . . Since you were always complaining of being lost to the world, you should remember that i f I had not believed in your existence . . . you would have been much more lost" (PR, 88). The "mantle" is enough to assure Almayer, and Conrad's other characters a place in the community of fiction and in the tradition of art. 10 Ibid., p. 13. -93-And, li k e the characters i n his novels who acquire a sense of their own reality when they affirm solidarity with their fellow-men, Conrad*s artistic loyalty to mankind gives him the sense of his own reality. "There i s that handful of 'characters* from various ships to prove that a l l these years have not been altogether a dream" (PR, 110). The quest for identity i n Conrad's fic t i o n thus involves the author as well as his characters. Its aim "is not i n the clear logic of a triumphant conclusion; i t i s not i n the unveiling of ©ne of these heartless secrets whieh are called Laws of Nature. It i s not less great, but only more di f f i c u l t " (NN, x i - x i i ) . Man must immerse himself i n the "destructive element", or plunge into l i f e , while exerting himself to give a personal meaning and value to l i f e . The involvement i n l i f e gives l i f e i t s meaning. Then the individual awakens to a sense of solidarity of belonging to the community of mankind and of being an integral part of the visible world. This feeling of oneness with the world i n which he lives gives the individual the sense of personal identity which is so essential for peace and happiness. Conrad's manner of self-expression was to create a fictional world. The human failure and success which he depicts become part of the tradition which is mankind's -94-legacy and guide, the source of "inborn strength". Like the beauty, cracks, and discolorations of stone on Teats's "Lapis Lazuli", Conrad's "presented vision of regret or pity, of terror or mirth" (NN, x), achieves the beauty and triumph of art. For "when i t is accomplished—behold! a l l the truth of l i f e i s there: a moment of vision, a sigh—and the return to an eternal rest" (NN, x i i ) . Thus, as he traced his heroes' quest for identity i n a fictional world and communicated to his readers those moments of vision which disclose the meaning of human existence, Conrad found his own identity as an artist. -95-BIBLIOGRAPHT I. Conrad's Fiction Almayer's Folly and Tales of Unrest. London: Dent, 1947. Lord Jim: A Romanee. Hew York: Doubleday, 1926. The Nigger of the 'Narcissus', Typhoon. Amy Foster, Falk, To-Morrow. London: Dent, 1950. Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard. London: Dent, 194?. The Rescue: A Romanee of the Shallows. New York: Doubleday, 1926*: ~ Romance: A Novel. New York: Doubleday, 1926, Tales of Hearsay. New York: Doubleday, 1926. 'Twixt Land and Sea, New York: Doubleday, 1926. Under Western Eyes. New York: Doubleday, 1926. Victory. New York: Doubleday, 1926. Youth, Heart of Darkness, and The End of the Tether. London: Dent, 1946. II. Autobiography, Letters, Essays, and Prefaces Conrad to a Friend: 150 Selected Letters from Joseph Conrad to Richard Curie. Edited with an introduction and notes by Richard Curie. New York: Doubleday, 1928. Conrad's polish Background: Letters to and from Polish Friends. Translated by Helina Carroll and edited with an introduction byZdw.slaw Najder. London: Oxford University Press, 1964. -96-Conrad's Prefaces to his Works. With an introductory essay by Edward Garnett. London: Dent. 1937. Letters from Joseph Conrad: 1895-1924. Edited with an introduction and notes by Edward Garnett. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1928. Letters of Joseph Conrad to Marguerite Poradowska 1890-1920. Translated and edited by John A. Gee and Paul J. Sturm. Hew Haven: Yale University Press, 1940. The Mirror of the Sea. New York: Doubleday, 1926. Notes on Life & Letters. London: Dent, 1924. A Personal Record. New York: Doubleday, 1926. III. Biographical and Critical Studies of Joseph Conrad. Bancroft, Wm. Wallace. Joseph Conrad: His Philosophy of Life. Boston: Stratford, 1933. Boyle, Ted E. Symbol and Meaning i n the Fiction of Joseph Conrad. London, 1965. Bradbrook, M.C. Joseph Conrad: Poland's English Genius. Cambridge, Eng.: Univ. Press, 1941. Busza, Andrzej. Conrad's Polish Literary Background and Some Illustrations of the Influence of Polish Literature on His Work. Rome, 1966. Curie, Richard. Joseph Conrad: A Study. London, 1918. Fleishman, Avrom. Conrad's Politics: Community and Anarchy i n the Fiction of Joseph Conrad. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1967. Ford, Ford Madox. Joseph Conrad: A Personal Remembrance. New York: Octagon, 1965. -97-Guerard, Albert J. Conrad: The Novelist. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1966. Gillon, ABatti. The Eternal Solitary: A Study of Joseph Conrad. New York: Bookman, I960. Gordon, John Dozier. Joseph Conrad: The Making of a Novelist. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1941. Haugh, Robert F. Joseph Conrad: Discovery i n Design. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma, 1957. Jean-Aubrey, G. Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters. 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1927. Knapp, ELoise Hay. The Political Novels of Joseph Conrad. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1963. Hodges, Robert R. The Dual Heritage of Joseph Conrad. The Hague: Mouton, 1967. Wiley, Paul L. Conrad's Measure of Man. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin, 1954. IV. Essays and Periodical Literature on Joseph Conrad. Benson, Donald R. " 'Heart of Darkness': The Grounds of Civilization i n an Alien Universe," TSLL, 7 (1965/66), 339-347. Cutler, Frances Wentworth, "Why Marlow]" Sewanee Review, XXVI (January, 1918), 28-38. Dike, Donald A. "The Tempest of Axel Heyst," NCF, XVII (1962), 95-H3. Guerard, Albert J. "Introduction," Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer. Toronto: Signet Classic, 1950. "Introduction," Heart of Darkness, Almayer's Folly. The Lagoon. New York: Dell, i960. -98-Gose, ELLiott B. Jr., "Pur© Exercise of Imagination: Archetypal Symbolism i n Lord Jim." PMLA, T.XXTY (March, 1964), 137-147. Lorch, Thomas M. "The Barrier Between Youth and Maturity i n the Works of Joseph Conrad," MPS, X (1964), 73-80. McCann, Charles J. "Lord Jim vs. The Darkness: The Saving Power of Human Involvement," CE, 27 (1965/66), 240-243. Mclntyre, Allan 0. "Conrad on the Functions of the Mind," 25 (1964), 187-197. Moore, Carlisle. "Conrad and the Novel as Ordeal," PQ, 42 (1963)» 55-74. Mudrick, Marvin, ed. Conrad: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood C l i f f s , N.J.: Prentice-Hall, I966. Perry, John Oliver. "Action, Vision, or Voice: The Moral Dilemma i n Conrad's Tale-Telling," MFS, X (Spring, 1964), 3-14. Stallman, R.W., ed. The Art of Joseph Conrad: A Critical Symposium. Michigan State Univ. Press, I960. Stein, William Bysshe. "Conrad's East: Time, History, Action, and Maya," TSLL. 7 (1965/66), 265-283. IV. General Works Consulted Allan, Walter. The English Novel: A Short Critical History Penguin Books, 1958. ' — Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. New York: Atheneum. 1966. Gassner, John, ed. A Treasury of the Theatre. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1950. -99-Kafka, Franz. Selected Short Stories of Franz Kafka. Trans. Willa and Edwin Muir. Hew lorks Modern Library, 1952. Kant, Immanuel. The Metaphysic of Ethics. Trans. J.W. Semple and ed. Rev. Henry Calderwood. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1871. Leavis, F.R. The Great Tradition. Penguin Books, 1962. Williams, Oscar, ed. A L i t t l e Treasury of Modern Poetry. Hew York: Scribners, 1952. 


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items