The Secret Sharer Analysis

Topics: Joseph Conrad, Captain Pages: 5 (1624 words) Published: May 2, 2013
Daniel Migowski
Professor Zephyrhawke
ENC 1102
Research Paper “The Secret Sharer”
The story “The Secret Sharer” by Joseph Conrad is a novella that many consider a work of critical and cultural significance. Throughout this story, Conrad depicts the adventure and struggle that a young ship captain faces when confronted with the complexities of leadership, his duty as a captain to follow the law, and his identification and compassion for Leggatt who has confessed to killing a man. As a result the theme revolves around the idea of initiation and self-definition, from the start the captain is confronted with the duties and responsibilities of a captain, he is not only overwhelmed but also impressed with all the responsibilities that he has taken on. Through these experiences, the captain emerges more confident in his abilities to lead his crew. Prior to writing the “The Secret Sharer” Conrad wrote a number of elaborate narratives, which dealt with the moral and psychological problems of leadership. Among these include, “Heart of Darkness” and “The Secret Agent” in these narratives a steady theme written by Conrad focuses on the struggles of leadership through difficult decision-making. In the “The Secret Sharer” Conrad shifts his focus to the narrator’s successful integration of professional function and personal needs. In “The Secret Sharer” the narrator is a young sea captain who has just been given his first command, the young captain feels unsure of his role and authority on the ship, so he decides to take the first watch of the night. On the watch, he comes across what he thinks is a dead naked man entangled in the side rope ladder. He soon discovers that the man is not dead, his name is Leggatt who shares with the captain that he wanted for killing a man on the Sephora. Leggatt shares with the captain that he saved his vessel by killing the man; therefore, his actions are justified. He does not see himself answerable to the law of his actions because it was for the “right reasons”. Leggatt states to the narrator, “My fathers a parson in Norfolk. Do you see me before a judge and jury on that charge? For myself, I cannot see the necessity” (Conrad 14) The captain believes his story and by doing so provides Leggatt with a sympathetic ear and acceptable motive. It seems as though the captain is more than eager to believe Leggatt even though he has only been provided one side of the story. Richardson demonstrates this in the following statement..."if you were to meet a largely naked stranger outside a bus depot who admits he just killed a man most people would not be so quick to offer the man excuses, clothing, and a hiding place." (Richardson 308). As the two continue their conversations, the captain learns much about Leggatt and believes they have many things in common; this sharing creates a bond that keeps the captain from disclosing the presence of Leggatt on the ship. Leggatt symbolizes an uncontrollable side of one's self, which may be overlooked until a caused moment of ethical stress. Conrad depicts this symbol to be revealed to the audience throughout many ways in the story. When making the decision to hide Leggatt on his ship the captain not only risked his ship, but also the safety of his crew and first command. Unannounced, Captain Archibald of the Sephora boards the narrator’s ship in search of Leggatt. From this experience, the narrator is confronted with both the demands and struggles of leadership through his lack of disclosure of Leggatt’s whereabouts to Captain Archibald. Helping Leggatt escape plays a large role in the development of the captain as an authority figure. The captain intentionally sails abnormally close to a neighboring island to give Leggatt a chance to jump ship and swim to safety. The crew could have perceived the captain's actions as endangering the ship and them. Even though the crew does not know the reasons for the captain's actions they must obey...
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