Essay: Secret Sharer in Joseph Conrad

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[. . .] Truthfully, the captain wishes to go as close to shore as possible so that Leggatt has a chance of swimming to shore, but the captain poses that the reason behind this treacherous decision is obvious. He says to his shipmate, "If there are any regular land breezes at all on this coast one must get close inshore to find them, mustn't one?" (Conrad 84). The crew member knows that going so close to the shore, in the dark and without the benefit of any visible villagers to guide them is very likely a death sentence. Yet, by this time the captain has so established himself as an authority figure that the crew follows his orders. They may wonder what the reason is for such decisions, but they are so indoctrinated into his leadership at this point that they would never dear vocalize their reservations or to wonder aloud if this is the right course of action.

In the J.D. O'Hara article, the author points out that Captain Archibald was in the legal right in pursuing Leggatt. Yet, he is portrayed as an ethically inferior person to the protagonist. O'Hara writes: "Critics agree that he behaved badly during the storm, and they seem to feel that his pursuit of Legatt, though legally justified, is undertaken in order to make him a scapegoat for Archibald's own sins" (445). Therefore, although the captain does not follow the letter of the law by hiding Leggatt, he is in the moral right because Archibald searches for Leggatt in an unethical manner and for unethical reasons. Being able to make such a decision makes the captain a superior leader as well because he is willing to do what is ethically right even if that defies the law. O'Hara writes: "The narrator's initiation into life, then, is a specific, limited test -- an initiation into the fullest responsibility, the responsibility of command. By making this them clear, Conrad emphasizes the standards by which we must judge the narrator, Leggatt, Captain Archbold [sic], and the narrator's ideal conception of himself" (447). When the reader does meet Captain Archibald, it is apparent that Leggatt's version of events and the Sephora captain's version vary greatly. However, the perspective of which man is telling the truth is relatively unimportant. The story is not about Leggatt and Archibald, but about the narrator of the story and how his experiences on this first voyage determine the kind of leader he will ultimately become.

In the Gloria Dussinger essay entitled "The Secret Sharer: Conrad's Psychological Study," the author asserts that "The Secret Sharer' becomes coherent, unified, and thoroughly Conradian only when read as a psychological study, an investigation of identity as the basic existential fact. The author has deliberately filtered out social considerations in order to observe without distraction the process of self-discovery" (600). This position is false because the entirety of the narrator's actions are performed based on his sense of morality. Morality is an ambiguous subject and what someone accepts as either moral or immoral is based upon the opinion of the majority population of that person's society. The narrator decides to help Leggatt only after he makes the determination that the man's actions were acceptable in terms of those sociological convictions, even if they were against the code of law which may or may not have similarity in the case of morality.

In Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Sharer," a very young captain sets out on his first voyage and does not know whether or not he is up to the task of being a leader of men. Through his interactions with a fugitive, he comes to realized that the most important tool that he has as a leader are his sense of morals and convictions. He allows his self-confidence to improve and in so doing ensures that others will follow him. Only when a person can get others to follow them can they ever have a chance to lead.

Works Cited:

Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Sharer. Boston: Bedford, 1997. Print.

Dussinger, Gloria R. "The Secret Sharer': Conrad's Psychological Study." Texas Studies in Literature and Language, University of Texas Press. 10:4. 1969. 599-608. Print.

O'Hara, J.D. "Unlearned Lessons in 'The Secret Sharer.'" College… [END OF PREVIEW]

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