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Similarities in Joseph Conrad’s Novels

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    Joseph Conrad’s books, The Secret Sharer and Heart of Darkness, both deal witheach of our “dark selves”. These books also have similarities which are overwhelming. In describing the true inner self of humans, Conrad used many symbols which havebecome apparent in many of his novels. Conrad uses the same or very similar objects inmany of his works.

    Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness in 1899 to recount his voyages in theCongo. Conrad hid most of his meaning in his words using a form of writing known as”stream of consciousness”. This made it difficult for people to find the true meaning ofhis work. After about ten years, Conrad realized that he would have to get his pointacross in an easier to understand book. This book was The Secret Sharer. Both of these books include the hero wanting to meet or developing a fascinationfor a truly evil character.

    In Heart of Darkness, Marlow is very eager to meet Kurtz. Marlow is so eager, in fact, that he eventually starts to panic when he thinks he will nevermeet him. Marlow realizes that Kurtz is a very evil person, but this does not stop himfrom wanting to meet this incredibly remarkable person. In The Secret Sharer theCaptain saves a murderer from almost certain death without knowing what the man hasdone.

    Later, The Captain has a discussion with the man and finds out his name isLeggatt. Leggatt tells his story and the Captain becomes more enthralled with Leggattever so more. When Leggatt tells the Captain he has committed a murder, the Captaindoes not throw him overboard. Instead, the Captain harbors this criminal because hefeels a connection with Leggatt that he has never felt before. In both stories the heroidentifies with his evil counterpart to the point that they actually become one in their own minds. Conrad wanted to show the evil that exists within all of us.

    The bulk of Conrad’s stories deal with sea voyages because of his extensivesailing as a young man. The ship in his writing can be thought of as symbolizing thejourney through life, a vessel of sorts. His stories encounter many happenings, showingthe many things one’s soul can go through.

    Pity has a strong grasp on both stories’ plots. Marlow feels pity for Kurtz and hisIntended. In the end, Marlow lies to Kurtz’s Intended about his last words, because hefeels sorry for her. She will be devastated for the rest of her life because of a man whowas truly evil and only realized it in the end with his dying words “The horror. Thehorror”. The Captain thinks that he should help his mirror self escape and riskseverything, his job, his life, even his ship to fulfill this desire.

    The Captain sails his shipinto a reef with rocks and very nearly sinks his ship. This allows Leggatt to jump in thewater and swim to safety and start a new life. Before this, however, the Captain givesLeggatt his hat, which also symbolizes pity. The Captain needed to give the cap toLeggatt to feel good about himself and, ironically, the cap saves the ship from certaindoom in the end.

    Both evil characters in the stories, Leggatt and Kurtz, get away and actuallysucceed in their own way. Leggatt goes free even though he has committed a murder,and Kurtz dies as a god to his native followers. Conrad shows us that evil triumphs overgood much of the time. Through death, Kurtz has found eternal life.

    Marlow and the Captain experience incredible suffering from their “dark sides”. Marlow becomes appalled at the apparent brutality of the Manager and Kurtz and, nearthe end, chases Kurtz down just to realize that Kurtz appears to already be taking on avery ghost-like appearance. Three hundred yards away, a pagan ritual is being held forKurtz which awaits him as he crawls on the ground, one last desperate attempt to die as agod.

    The Captain becomes very stressed that he will be discovered and it builds day byday. The Captain grows to hate the Steward. He is sure that the Steward will be the oneto discover Leggatt in his quarters. The Captain gets so close to discovery that his “voicedied in his throat”. This happens because the Steward hung a wet coat in the Captain’scloset. The Captain is driven nearly to insanity and this near discovery scares him. He iscurious about why Leggatt was not discovered and begins to feel that Leggatt could be afigment of his imagination, and that no one but he can see him. This shows us the mentalstate of the Captain and how tortured he became. Another of Joseph Conrad’s books is Lord Jim. Lord Jim also has somesimilarities with Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer.

    The main character is a mancalled Jim, but by the Malays, a tribe he had helped, he was known as “Tuan Jim” or”Lord Jim”. This book involved sailing and it also contained a character called Marlowas well. Jim fights with his inner self about his ability to do good. He had abandoned hiscrew during a storm when he was first mate and never could forgive himself for his lackof courage. He had his sea papers taken away and could never work at sea again. Hespends the rest of his life trying to make up for his mistake.

    A character named Marlowhelps him and sends him to a job in a rice factory. But later one of the shipmates he hadabandoned shows up and threatens to spread his secret. Jim left and continued to travel,running away from his fears. He is helped by a man named Stein who Marlow knows. Stein compares life and man to a butterfly, saying that life is so “fragile and yet sostrong”. He goes on to say that man will never sit still. If man thinks he is a devil, thenhe wishes to be a saint. Once again, Conrad brings up the inner struggle of one’sconsciousness. Eventually Jim finds his way to a trading post full of natives.

    Jimbefriends a man named Doramin by giving him Stein’s ring. He becomes very wellknown by ridding the natives of their oppression by other tribal leaders. During this time,Jim becomes friends with Doramin’s son, Dain Waris. One day, white men come downthe river and attack the town. They people drive them back and have them cornered. They plead to be given safe passage. Jim says that they should let them through and hewill take full responsibility with his life for what might happen.

    The men then attack andkill many natives, including Doramin’s son. Jim has the option to run for his life andrepeat his mistake again. However, he decides to stand up and accept his failure. Doramin kills him. In the end, Jim finally achieves what he had strived for all his life. He had proved his bravery. In similar ways Marlow and the Captain achieved what theywanted in life at the end of their struggle.

    Joseph Conrad’s books have similar symbols and deep meanings: man hasmisgivings that he must prove to himself no matter what. Most of his novels and storiesinvolve the sea and good versus evil. Good becomes fascinated with evil, but needs to inorder to achieve it’s ultimate goal: to learn more about itself and gain control.

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