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‘Secret Sharer, The’

Harper's Magazine, Twixt Land and Sea, Doppelgänger

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: William Sansom (William Norman Trevor Sansom) Biography to Dr Seuss [Theodor Giesel] Biography

a story by Joseph Conrad, published in Harper's Magazine (Aug.Sept. 1910), then in 'Twixt Land and Sea (1912). This enigmatic tale, with haunting Doppelgänger motif, is set in the Malay Archipelago, where Conrad's own maritime experiences provided crucial source material. The story is told in the first person by a youthful, apparently law-abiding, sea captain on his first command. His routine is shattered by Leggatt, a fugitive who emerges from the water and confesses to the captain that he has murdered a mutinous fellow sailor. In thoroughly uncanny ways the young captain's mirror-image, Leggatt's appearance challenges the captain's sense of professional and moral duty as he secretly protects Leggatt and engineers his dramatic escape at almost fatal risk to his own ship and crew. Though courting disaster, the captain paradoxically achieves his moral and professional coming of age through this clandestine test of will, solidarity, self-knowledge, and sheer nerve.

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