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John Conrad Essay, Research Paper
One of the finest sytlist of modern English literature was Joseph Conrad, was a Polish-born
English novelist, short story writer, essayist, dramatist, and autobiographer. Conrad was
born in 1857 in a Russian-ruled Province of Poland. According to Jocelyn Baines, a literary
critic, “Conrad was exiled with his parents to northern Russia in 1863 following his his
parents participation in the Polish independence movement”. (Baines 34). His parents’ health
rapidly deteriorated in Russia, and after their deaths in 1868, Conrad lived in the homes of
relatives, where he was often ill and received spradic schooling (35). Conrad’s birth-given
name was Jozef Tedor Konrad Valecz Korzeniowski, however, his name was legally
changed (39). Conrad died of a heart attack, August 3, 1924, in Bishopsbourne Kent,
England (34). With such an innovative style, Joseph Conrad was perhaps one of Britain’s
most remarkable authors of modern English literature.
Throughout Conrad’s career, his works have became influential as well as
remarkable. Cited by Ted E. Boyle, a short story analysis, “Conrad’s novels are complex
moral and psychological examinations of ambiguous nature of good and evil” (Boyle 93).
Conrad’s characters are repeatedly forced to acknowledge their own failures and the
weakness of their ideals against all forms of coruption; the most honorable characters are
those who realize their fallibility but still struggle to up hold the dictates of conscience (99).
Early in life, Conrad pursued a career as a seaman, sailing to Martinique and the West
Indies. In 1894, he began a career as a writer, basing much of his work on his experience
as a seaman (100). Throughout his career, “Conrad examined the impossibility of living by a
traditional code of conduct”. His novels “postulate that the complexity of the human spirit
allows neither absolute fidelity to any ideal nor even to one’s conscience” (Baines 49).
Conrad’s work failure is a fact of human existence, and every ideal contains the possibilities
for its own conniption (Boyle 34).
Most of Conrad’s greatest works take place on a ship or in the backwaters of
civilization. After assessing Conrad’s works, Douglas Hewitt, a renown critic, claimed that ”
a ship or a small outpost offered an isolated environment where Conrad could develop his
already complex moral problems without unnecessary entanglements that might obscure the
concentration of tragedy”. Nostromo is widely recognized as Conrad’s most ambitious
novel. An account of a revolution in the fictitious South American country of Costaguana,
Nostromo examines the ideals, motivations, and failures of several participants in that confict
(Hewitt 60). Conrad himself referred to “Nostromo” as his “largest canvas”, and many
critics consider the novel as one of the greatest in twentieth century (Boyle 90). Conrad’s
current reputation rests with such relatively early works a “Lordd Jim”, “Heart of Darkness”,
and “Nostromo”, in which imagery, symbolism, and shifts in time and perspective combine to
create an intriguing, mystical series of fictional settings. The two greatest examples of moral
tragedy in his work are “Lord Jim” (1900), which “examines the failures of a man before
society and his own conscience, and “Heart of Darkness” (1899), “a dreamlike tale of
mystery and adventure set in central Africa that is also the story of a man’s symbolic journey
into his own inner being” (Hewitt 68). In his own preface to the Niger of the “Narcissus”
(1897), an essay that has been called his artistic credo, Conrad expressed his intention of
forcing the reader’s involvement in his work:
…my task which I am trying to achieve is,
by the power of the written word,
to make you feel — it is, before all to reach his audience.
That– and no more, and it is everything. (Conrad 3)
Bruce Johnson, a renown essay critic, stated that “Conrad’s examination of the ambiguity of
good and evil is generally considered too stylized and heavy-handed”. Johnson claimes that
Conrad’s most highly regarded works, however, are acknowledged as masterpieces of
English literature and continue to generate significant critical commentary. Conrad produced
thirteen novels, tow volumes of memoirs, and twenty-eight short stories, athough writing was
not easy or painless for him (Johnson 11).
In most of Conrad’s writings his outlook is bleak. He writes “in a rich, vivid prose
style with a narrative technique that makes skillfull use of breaks in linear chronology” (Boyle
80). His character development is powerful and compelling. Conrad’s life at sea and in
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 (Johnson 11). According to
editor Zdzislaw Najder, Conrad’s major interest was the human condition (Najder 34).
Conrad studied at schools in Poland and uder tutors in Europe (Baines 49). Conrad himself
claims “the truth is necessarily a function of one’s own personal sensory experience, a writing
may be lost; a lie may be written, but what the eye has seen is truth and remains in the mind”
(Conrad 3). His narrative style is characterized by vivid sensory descriptions of immediate
experience (Baines 49).
Conrad’s “The Lagoon” is a curiously inconclusive story which prefigures many of
the moral ambiguities found in his later works. The story presents a problem typical of many
Conrad narratives (Johnson 87). As in the later narratives, the question of the protagonist
final choice entails “the more general one of how indeterminate Conrad believes all
conceptions of truth and mortality to be” (89). “The Lagoon”, “has an omniscient narration,
who presumably represents Conrad’s point of view”, and who conveys this point of view
through a wealth of complex imagery. Although this imagery has been considered excessive
according to Zdzislaw Najder, “it actually carries the thematic burden to a degree found in
few prose narratives” (Najder 33). In many ways, imagery in “The Lagoon” “serves the
functions which make complex narrators” and narrations serve in later stories. Like the
inverted order of many Conraian plots, the imagery of “The Lagoon” reveal meaning
recusively rather than linearly (Najder 43).
The nature imagery which dominates the story from the beginning is, at first reading,
overwhelming – especially with no story of human experience. Rather, “it usually represents
a state of delusion”, a clinging to false ideals – as do the “false down” mist in the lagoon and
the irony and skills which represent Kurtz’s ideals in “Heart of Darkness” (Johnson 53). “As
in several of Conrad’s works, sunset and sunrise frame a main action which involves a
symbolic setting of one way of seeing the world and the dawn of an other way” (54). This
imagery implies that the source of truth is never fully present; our apprehension of it keeps
changing, never reappearing in the same form from day to day. Each conception of truth is
overwhelmed by illusions just as the literal “enormous conflagration of sunset” is put out by
the swift and stealthy shadows (58). Brutal knowledge about Conrad’s goal remains
changing and amiguous since the east “harbours both light and darkness, sunrise and the
rising of the night, truth and illusion” (Conrad 2). In other works, especially “Heart of
Darkness”, Conrad describes nature as a jungle whose stillness represents not emptiness but
an implacable force, a primal reality of vital life which calls forth something related in human
psyche. The force behind the stillness in the lagoon sums equally real and inaccessible. As
in “Heart of Darkness”, the human darkness within is more dangerous than the natural
darkness without (4). The distortions of perception caused by human emotions make it even
more important to be suspicious of all apparently definite, changeless truths and goods
(Johnson53). Moreover, his works focus on the “suppression of selfishness, dedication to
others, and realism about human limitations necessary to survive morally in the shadowy
country” (Baines 34). Futhermore, “The Lagoon”, in particular doesn’t even have sufficient
“dualistic mechanism erolled to develop the paradox inherent in the hero’s action, and the
story remains simple and without Conrad’s usual psychological interest (Johnson 12).
In conclusion, Joseph Conrad, succeeded as an innovative novelist as one of the
finest stylist of modern English literature. Stephen Land similarity maintains that “purposive
action in Conrad is impossible” because his works depict “a dualism of antagonistic forces”
against which “the hero’s compromised exertion of will contains or brings about its own
negation” (13). Conrad urges that his essay “The Lagoon” argues that the imagery no only
provides a fundamental metaphysical “dualism” between reality and human desire, but also
provides sufficient context to distinguish between meaningul and self-deluding “urpose
action”. but his conclusion that there is no light and no peace, just death for manuy, is drawn
when he is in a dumb darkness of human sorrow” in which hecan “see nothing” despite the
dazzling dawn around him (Baines 39).
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