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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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