Comments about "The Secret Sharer", written by Joseph Conrad

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Comments about "The Secret Sharer", written by Joseph Conrad

The Secret Sharer, written by Joseph Conrad, is a book, which has strong connections with the self-report novel, where the main personage, is left alone with his ship, anchored at the head of the Gulf of Siam, and can perfectly be analyzed in accordance with technical elements, presented by Schechter, in his work “Discoveries,” as well as Criticism perspectives. This author also mentions that no true work of art can be reduced to a simple statement of meaning (Schechter 12). Although this is really significant, this paper has the intention to provide a framework for such a beautiful novel that enchanted people throughout the world.

It sounds that Conrad’s method applied to this novel is expository, where the author tells us about a person in the story (Schechter 14). If the theme is considered firstly, it can be said that it provides a sense of mysterious atmosphere, like the author leaving something and someone hidden behind, and creating expectation for the readers who will probably want to know the nature of this secret and also the sharer. It’s like a strategy to attract people’s attention, and leave his point of view very clear, since the visualization of the tittle. "Conrad's life at the sea and in


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foreign ports furnished the background for much of his writing, giving rise to the impression that he was primarily committed to foreign or alien concerns. In reality, however, his major interest was the human condition. Often his narrator is a retired master mariner, obviously Conrad's alter ego, so that some of his novels can be termed autobiographical; one example is his first published work, Almayer's Folly (1895). One of Conrad's best-known novels is Lord Jim (1900), and also The Secret Sharer (1912). (It can be said that "The Secret Sharer" reveals the author’s private life, influences and experiences with real life, by the correlation between the setting of the book, and the environment Conrad’s lived.) He writes in a rich, vivid prose style with a narrative technique that makes skillful use of breaks in linear chronology. His character development is powerful and compelling. He died at Bishopsbourne, in 1924. Joseph Conrad’s autobiography (1857-1924), mentions that he was a Polish-born English novelist, considered to be among the great modern English writers, whose work explores the vulnerability and moral instability at the heart of human lives. His original name was Teodor Józef Konrad Korzeniowski. Born near Berdychev, Poland (now in Ukraine), the son of a Polish noble acquired a love for literature, including romantic tales of the sea. He was orphaned at the age of 12, and when he was 16 years old he left Russian-occupied Poland and made his way to Marseille, France. Love affair brought him into suicide. Conrad published his first novel and married Jessie George in 1895. His strategies managing time and space, have reinforced the ideas and to define the Self. It’s also explained that an examination of an author’s life can determine the extent to which and strategy by which he may embroider the imagination to autobiography."1




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Although this statement is very close to Conrad’s intention as it is observed along the narrative, the description of the characters does not provide lots of details about the character. This relation with the boat is so close, and his sensibility for what the others can feel about this dual relation is reported. He describes beautiful scenes, and makes use of metaphorical language, when he compares his boat, with a friend. "My hand resting on my ship’s rail as if on the shoulder of a trusted friend" (Conrad 02). This relation leads us to an explication of the story in accordance with the perspective of the quest. As Schechter explains, ""The Other" focuses on a figure, male or female, who may be the protagonist’s most intimate friend, or conversely, a mysterious, if oddly familiar stranger. Whether friend or stranger, this figure possesses a personality that is, in very crucial respect, the exact opposite of the hero’s" (Schechter 08).

So this boat suggests a larger meaning beyond itself. It illuminates life in significant ways. As Schechter reports in his work Discoveries, "[. . .] But, whereas the meaning of a symbol is so complex and elusive that it can never be fully expressed in other terms, the "something else"... (Schechter 18).

His relation with the other members of the crew was superficial. As he said: "I knew very little of my officers" (Conrad 03). Leggatt’s voice comes from the darkness of the sea, and then, a mysterious communication was established between the captain and the visitor (Conrad 10).

For instance, the two personages are presented, considering their identities, which are very close to one another, even the way they dress (Then, the sensation of dark heads together, and their backs to the door.). An explanation about Sephora – the ship that the visitor came from as an outsider – takes place, and the fact that he had killed a man. He has the sensation that there’s the shadowy, darkhead, following the captain’s, and his identity with him is observed,


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however the captain had strange sensations, coming from his imagination, having identical attitudes of the outsider.

The captain confesses a dual working of his mind distracted him almost to the point of insanity. He was constantly living a dual image, until the point he confesses in the narrative, that he had found out the secret sharer of his life, admitting the existence of a second self which was invisible. A late report can be observed: "but at this distance of years I hardly am sure." (Conrad 27). These facts represent only a plot of a beautiful narrative where Conrad involves the readers in an attractive description of facts. Conrad impresses everyone with stylistic collocations like "That mental feeling of being into places at once affected me physically as if the mood of secrecy had penetrated my very soul". (Conrad, 37) His identity gets closer so that he doubts the possibility that a person is not visible to other eyes than his own and admits the presence of a ghost (Conrad 42). In some novels and stories, symbolic characters make brief came on appearances. Such characters often are not well rounded and fully known, but are seen fleetingly and remain slightly mysterious. His relation with the ship is also very curious. It is for him, the whole miraculous little world where he is inserted, but not free of invasion. There are displacements of time and space. Day and night, sea and land. He also provides philosophical concepts along the narrative – [. . .] I became annoyed at this, for exactitude in small matters is the very soul of discipline. His loneliness with the ship (he treats it like her), which seems to be the real symbol of love, is not in dispute anymore. His secondself has kept the invader far away for his new destiny. Obviously Conrad's alter ego is in evidence.


1 "Conrad, Joseph". Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2002, May 11, 2002 –

   Microsoft Corporation.


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As explained by Schechter in his work Discoveries, "The Other", also known as the double or the alter ego, frequently appears in stories of the quest and is a common character in literature of all kinds. Like a shadow, which is a dark, distorted, but ultimately recognizable image of the person who casts it, "The Other" may at first glance bear little resemblance to the hero (Schechter 95).

The author provides explanations about what is going on: "The time had come to exchange our last whispers for neither of us was ever to hear each other’s natural voice" (Conrad 48). He concludes by saying that his second self had lowered himself into the water to take his punishment: a free man, a proud swimmer striking out for a new destiny (Conrad 55).

In accordance with Forster, a novella should be at least 50,000 words in length. A short novel normally focuses one or two personages, examining them in greater depth and detail. In his comment he points out many authors, and Conrad is named as one of those who believes that novels are perfect medium between the necessary compression of the short story and the potential sprawl of the novel. (Gioia, 302).

By searching myths, it’s being reported on the book "The lively Image”(Hughes, 132) that The Secret Sharer is a new quickening of the Orpheus myth. The final discussion of this book is in Albert Guerard’s Conrad the Novelist (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1958), which pays due attention to the Jungian mode of analysis. Jung should report the attempt to understand the captain’s behavior. He was left alone with his ship, and the presence of the swimmer coming from the vast ocean, is the way to have a dialogical relation, and his presence is really the point where the captain participates of his crime. He’s killed a man, and the fear to be convent with such a situation, provides a sense of guilty, challenging the captaincy and the


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safety of his ship. It’s a test of nerves in the golf of Siam.

Conrad also demonstrates the concept of courage by the opposite version of the word. He was not a coward to admit the stranger in his life. And this is the demonstration of his faith and brave position from the beginning to the end of the novel. "[. . .] I was somewhat of a stranger to myself. The youngest man on board (barring the second mate), and untried as yet by a position of the fullest responsibility, I was willing to take the adequacy of the others for granted." (Conrad 03). He does not demonstrate that life can be possible in firm land. The sea is his world.

To conclude these brief comments of Conrad’s novel, Criticism should be applied to the book to let some topics clearer, like the present voices of "he" and "I" which induces the readers to analyze the duality of the speeches, (Psychoanalytic Criticism) practiced by the same person, the Reader-Response Criticism demonstrating Conrad internalizes the masculine values of the captain and the feeling of jealousy considering the ship as "her" - - as adored as a woman - - and of course the fact interfaces Feminist Criticism ( a woman as an object of possession and property). Deconstruction can also reveal fragments of speech where the captain’s egocentric voice claims for someone to put him in freedom of the chains of loneliness he seems to be arrested. The New Historicism permits an interpretation of facing the captain as a genius, "a man different in kind from other man" as it is explained in one of the essays of R. B. Kershner, Genius, Degeneration, and the Panopticon 2 (Kershner 384).  As it’s reported in the study material, Conrad’s nautical tale, for instance, examines psychological and emotional dilemmas faced not simply by sailors but by everyone. His experience with the sea has provided him with his fundamental metaphor. The secret was shared - - the captain’s dual identity.

 2 Joyce James. A portrait of an artist as a young man, edited by R.B. Kershner Boston, USA, 1993.

                                                               Works Cited



 Conrad, Joseph. Secret Sharer, New American Library, Penguin, 1978.

 Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, New York:

                     Modern Language Association, 1988.

Gioia, Dana. Literature,  Longman, 2002.

Joseph Conrad – Encarta – Online Concise, June 11, 2002,

Joyce James.  A portrait of an artist as a young man, edited by R.B. Kershner

        Boston, USA, 1993.


Hughes, Richard E. The lively Image: Four Myths in Literature (Little, Brown &

        Co., 1975).

Schechter, Harold. Discoveries, Oxford University Press, 1992.




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