Humanity in J. Conrad's and W. Somerset's creativity

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all possible desires of change and renovation. The prose poem continued to be written in France and found profound expression, in the mid-20th century, in the prose poems of Francis Ponge. At the end of the 19th century, British Decadent movement poets such as Oscar Wilde picked up the form because of its already subversive association. This actually hindered the dissemination of the form into English because many associated the Decadents with homosexuality, hence any form used by the Decadents was suspect.

The term English literature refers to literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; Joseph Conrad was Polish, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad, Vladimir Nabokov was Russian.




2.1 The Moral Sense in Joseph Conrads Lord Jim


Lord Jim (1900), Joseph Conrads fourth novel, is the story of a ship which collides with "a floating derelict" and will doubtlessly "go down at any moment" during a "silent black squall." The ship, old and rust-eaten, known as the Patna, is voyaging across the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea. Aboard are eight-hundred Muslim pilgrims who are being transported to a "holy place, the promise of salvation, the reward of eternal life." Terror possesses the captain and several of his officers, who jump from the pilgrim-ship and thus wantonly abandon the sleeping passengers who are unaware of their peril. For the crew members in the safety of their life-boat, dishonor is better than death [8, 183].

Beyond the immediate details and the effects of a shipwreck, A breach of this novel portrays, in the words of the storys narrator, Captain Marlow, "those struggles of an individual trying to save from the fire his idea of what his moral identity should be. . . ." That individual is a young seaman, Jim, who serves as the chief mate of the Patna and who also "jumps." Recurringly Jim envisions himself as "always an example of devotion to duty and as unflinching as a hero in a book." But his heroic dream of "saving people from sinking ships, cutting away masts in a hurricane, swimming through a surf with a line," does not square with what he really represents: one who falls from grace, and whose "crime" is "a breach of faith with the community of mankind." Jims aspirations and actions underline the disparity between idea and reality, or what is generally termed "indissoluble contradictions of being." His is also the story of a man in search of some form of atonement once he recognizes that his "avidity for adventure, and in a sense of many-sided courage," and his dream of "the success of his imaginary achievements," constitute a romantic illusion.

Jims leap from the Patna generates in him a severe moral crisis that forces him to "come round to the view that only a meticulous precision of statement would bring out the true horror behind the appalling face of things." It is especially hard for Jim to confront this "horror" since his confidence in "his own superiority" seems so absolute. The "Patna affair" compels him in the end to peer into his deepest self and then to relinquish "the charm and innocence of illusions." The Jim of the Patna undergoes "the ordeal of the fiery furnace," as he is severely tested "by those events of the sea that show in the light of the day the inner worth of a man, the edge of his temper, and the fibre of his stuff; that reveal the quality of his resistance and the secret truth of his pretences, not only to others but also to himself." Clearly the Patna is, for Jim, the experience both of a moment and of a lifetime.

This novel, from beginning to end, is the story of Jim; throughout the focus is on his life and character, on what he has done, or A story not done, on his crime and punishment, his failure of nerve as a seaman. It is, as well, the story of his predicament and his fate, the destiny of his soulof high expectations and the great "chance missed," of "wasted opportunity" and "what he had failed to obtain pretences.," all the result of leaving his post, and abdicating his responsibility. Thus we see him in an unending moment of crisis, "overburdened by the knowledge of an imminent death" as he imagines the grim scene before him: "He stood still looking at those recumbent bodies, a doomed man aware of his fate, surveying the silent company of the dead. They were dead! Nothing could save them!"

For Jim the overwhelming question, "What could I do what?", brings the answer of "Nothing!" The Patna, as it ploughs the Arabian Sea ("smooth and cool to the eye like a sheet of ice") on its way to the Red Sea, is close to sinking, with its engines stopped, the steam blowing off, its deep rumble making "the whole night vibrate like a bass ring." Jims imagination conjures up a dismal picture of a catastrophe that is inescapable and merciless. It is not that Jim thinks so much of saving himself as it is the tyranny of his belief that there are eight-hundred people on ship and only seven life-boats. Conrads storyteller, Marlow, much sympathetic to Jims plight, discerns in him an affliction of helplessness that compounds his sense of hopelessness, making Jim incapable of confronting total shipwreck, as he envisions "a ship floating head down, checked in sinking by a sheet of old iron too rotten to stand being shored up [16, 121]." But Jim is a victim not only of his imagination, but also of what Conrad calls a "moral situation of enslavement." So torn and defeated is Jim, that his soul itself also seems possessed by some "invisible personality, an antagonistic and inseparable partner of his existence."

Jims acceptance of the inevitability of disaster and his belief that he could do absolutely nothing to forestall the loss of eight-hundred passengers render him helpless, robbing him of any ability to take any kind of life-saving action". . . I thought I might just as well stand where I was and wait." In short, in Jim we discern a disarmed man who surrenders his will to action. The gravity of Jims situation is so overwhelming that it leaves him, his heroic aspirations notwithstanding, in a state of paralysis. His predicament, then, becomes his moral isolation and desolation, one in which Jims "desire of peace waxes stronger as hope declines . . . and conquers the very desire of life." He gives in at precisely the point when strenuous effort and decisive actions are mandated, so as to resist "unreasonable forces." His frame of mind recalls here Jean-Paul Sartres pertinent comment, in The Age of Reason (l945), "Thats what existence means: draining ones own self dry without a sense of thrust." [12, 128]

Everything in Jims background points to his success as a career seaman. We learn that, one of five sons, he originally came from a parsonage, from one of those "abodes of piety and peace," in England; his vocation for the sea emerged early on and, for a period of two years, he served on a "training-ship for affairs of the mercantile marine." His station was in the fore-top of a training-ship chained to her moorings. We learn that, on one occasion, in the dusk of a winters day, a gale suddenly blew forth with a savage fury of wind and rain and tide, endangering the small craft on the shore and the ferry-boats anchored in the harbor, as well as the training-ship itself. The force of the gale "made him hold his breath in awe. He stood still. It seemed to him he was whirled around. He was jostled." We learn, too, that a coaster, in search of shelter, crashed through a schooner at anchor. We see the cutter now tossing abreast the ship, hovering dangerously. Jim is on the the midst of certitude.

Point of leaping overboard to save a man overboard, but fails to do so. There is "pain of conscious defeat in his eyes," as the captain shouts to Jim. "Too late, youngster. . . . Better luck next time. This will teach you to be smart."

This incident, related in the first chapter of the novel, serves to prepare us for Jims actions later on the Patna, and also suggests a Danger in kind of flaw in Jims behavior in a moment of danger. Early on in his career, then, Jim had displayed a willingness to "flinch" from his obligations, thus revealing a defect in the heroism about which he romanticized and which led him to creating self-serving fantasies and illusions. "He felt angry with the brutal tumult of earth and sky for taking him unawares and checking unfairly a generous readiness for narrow escapes." Jim, as a seaman, refuses to admit his fear of fear, and in this he shows an inclination to escape the truth of reality by "putting out of sight all the reminders of our folly, of our weakness, of our mortality." Clearly the episode on the training-ship serves both as a symptom and as a portent, underscores an inherent element of failure and disgrace in Jims character that, in the course of the novel, he must confront if he is to transcend the dreams and illusions that beguile him, and that he must finally vanquish if he is to find his "moral identity." His early experience on the training-ship makes him a marked man [16, 132]. It remains for his experience later on the Patna to make him a "condemned man."

That nothing rests secure, that