UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The larger pattern : formal and thematic links between selected novels and shorter fictions by Joseph Conrad Fraser, Caroline Gail


The formal and thematic links between Conrad's short fiction and his novels provide a useful context in which one can study individual works. Thus, one of Conrad's earliest short stories, "An Outpost of Progress," anticipates some of the ironic techniques that control the reader's responses in The Secret Agent and the later fiction in general. Similarly, in "The Lagoon" and "Karain" Conrad experiments with the "teller and listener" device, which he then develops and refines in more complex works such as "Heart of Darkness" and Lord Jim. In contrast to the ironic mode, this type of narration reflects man's attempts to integrate personal experiences with the social order and to affirm certain moral values or "saving illusions." The coexistence of these two modes in Conrad's earliest short fictions points to his search for appropriate techniques to express a conflict that was deeply rooted in his outlook. A close study of "Youth" brings into relief Conrad's use of a dramatized narrator to mediate between contrasting views of the world and to direct our interpretation of moral issues. Because Conrad developed these and other aspects of the short fiction in Lord Jim and "Heart of Darkness," the analysis of "Youth" attempts to shed light on the longer works as well. Similarly, in "Amy Foster" Conrad presents another variation on the told-tale device in a way that reveals larger, formal patterns in his writing as a whole. While the most significant links between these five short fictions and Conrad's novels are formal rather than thematic, in the case of "Heart of Darkness" and "The Secret Sharer" there are important thematic ties with Lord Jim and Under Western Eyes. By adapting certain basic situations and motifs from one work to the other Conrad explores different aspects of a central idea or theme. Thus, in "Heart of Darkness" and Lord Jim he treats Kurtz and Jim as complementary portraits of idealistic egoists, while in "The Secret Sharer" and Under Western Eyes he depicts contrasting responses to a plea for understanding and assistance. The dialectical approach reflects the complex structure of his creative imagination. Therefore, a study of the connecting links yields a more comprehensive understanding of Conrad's meaning than analyzing the works separately.

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