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Shadow-Line, The

English Review, Metropolitan Magazine, Lord Jim, Hamlet

conrad ‘the maritime self

a novel by Joseph Conrad, published in 1917 (serialized in English Review, and Metropolitan Magazine 191617). Commonly regarded as the masterpiece of his final years, the novel draws, like Lord Jim and ‘The Secret Sharer’, on Conrad's maritime experiences in the Far East in the late 1880s. It treats of the themes of isolation and community, of youthfulness and maturity gained through the testing extremes of experience; and it does so through a predominantly sombre tone and vision which endorses a morality of unsung heroism and dogged endurance in the face of the absolute indifference of the natural elements. The first-person narrator takes unexpected charge of his first maritime command, and is forced to cope with a becalmed sailing-ship, manned by a crew bedevilled by sickness, whose former captain, in his death-throes, has betrayed and tricked them, with near-fatal consequences. Echoes of Hamlet and ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ suggest the struggles of self-doubt, evil, and responsibility. The realities and metaphors of disease, stasis, and guilt prevail. But through this rite of passage is won self-knowledge and ultimate confirmation of human dignity and solidarity.

Shadow of a Gunman, The - The Shadow of a Gunman, Juno and the Paycock, The Plough and the Stars [next]

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