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Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer Essay

1477 words - 6 pages

Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer”

“ In order to live with direction and an understanding of what is going on around you, one must understand and know what goes on inside himself.” - William Page

In Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer”, the Captain of the vessel finds that he does not know himself as well as he thinks. It is not until a castaway, Leggatt, arrives that the captain finally achieves a level of self understanding and completion. Leggatt serves as the Captain’s complimenting double, and his actions and thoughts eventually help the captain learn about himself and create stronger character.

As the story opens, the young captain is standing out on the deck looking at the scenery as the ship pulls away. In the distance he notices a ship and on his right, two clumps of trees marking the river's mouth. He notices the “flat shore joined to the stable sea (83).” The captain can scarcely discern where one element of nature begins and another ends. Similarly, at this point he himself is at a faintly discerning line between immaturity and maturity, between landsmen and seamen. He is an outsider according to the skeptical crew and he is a stranger to his ship and himself.

At this point, the captain’s lack of confidence in himself as a leader, and his fearful awe of the ship dominate his character. This is illustrated as the captain decides to stand guard over the anchor. While this task is often left to lower ranking officers on the ship, he does not allow any one to do the task but himself. The captain remains because of his overwhelming feeling of inadequacy as leader of the ship. He feels a clear distinction between what he must become and what he currently is. However, the captain is soon given help in finding himself and his place on the ship.

While he stands guard, a man appears from the ladder. Leggatt was a persecuted sailor from the nearby ship. He decided to jump in the water and swim to the light he saw (the ship) as opposed to taking the punishment on his ship. As the captain allows him to come aboard, readers notice an almost immediate connection between the two men. Leggatt hops up on board and introduces himself to the captain, “the name’s Leggatt (88).” He presents himself to the captain as man who has nothing to hide. He does not try to conceal anything but shows “his hand”, and this is something the captain immediately appreciates. While the two do not say very much, the captain recognizes a connection between them. “A mysterious communication was established already between us two—in the face of that silent, darkened tropical sea (88).” While he cannot implicitly state why this connection was made, the captain recognizes it as being there.

The closeness of this mysterious communication is emphasized from the very beginning of their relationship, first beginning with their clothes. The captain decides to give Leggatt one of his sleeping suits so his new friend can get out of his wet clothes. Leggatt...

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