The Secret Sharer Critical Analysis




The Secret Sharer written by Joseph Conrad, centers around a character of a sea captain. Its title and opening paragraphs forecast a story of mystery, isolation, duality, darkness and silence. The novel proves true these predictions reveling thematic and image patterns directly proportional to them. The opening of the novel further reveals dialectics in the novel. The clash between the private and the public world or man versus society, in other words is the primary dialectic. The journey theme or the rite of passage theme also reveal themselves. We see a young and inexperienced captain grow and explore himself and the world around him, and in the process becoming a functional member of a society. The novella may be only fifty pages long but its words speak volumes.
The first indication of a course that a novel may take is its title. The three little words contained in the title give rise to many interpretations. An image generated by the title could be that of a gossip. Since a gossip is someone who tells peopleís secrets, or in other words is a secret sharer if the word secret is taken for a noun, it is a possibility that this image might come to mind. Another image is that of a person who shares in secrecy, therefore becoming a secret sharer, if the word secret is taken for an adjective. This could be an image of a miser, who generally does not share his wealth, but does so only in secrecy. A secret sharer could also be an imaginary friend. It would be a person who is secretive, and you share your thoughts with them. A Biblical interpretation of the secret sharer could be that of the snake in the garden of Eden. Since the snake shares the ultimate secret of knowledge with Adam and Eve, it could be considered a secret sharer. The connotations of the two main words in the title show a contradiction. A secret has a mysterious somewhat evil connotation, while a sharer has a benevolent and good connotation. This gives rise to a possibility of a good and evil dialectic. The denotation of secret is something kept private, sharing is, however, a public act. This brings to light the dialectic of the public versus the private world.
The opening paragraphs bring to life the world of the work. The place where the characters move and have their being is a sail ship in this novel. The laws that define the character behavior are similar to the laws of a standard ship operation. There is a chain of command that must be respected. Also, there are rules and regulations to the liberties of the shipmates. This is evident in the greetings between the lower officers and the captain. Also, captainís commands must be respected, as they were when he sent the night watchmen away. The laws of the ship do not permit violations. There is a great need for order for a ship to function. Therefor one can assume since the setting is a ship, that the laws will not permit violations. Later on, we find out of Laggettís predicament. There is punishment for breaking a law. Likewise, captain will face punishment if found to be harboring a criminal. Therefore laws do not permit violations. As for deity, there is little influence of God in the novel, so one is not able to judge if the laws permit the belief in God. There are definite links between cause and effect. Captainís are obeyed. The effect of his first order is mistrust from the crew in his abilities. The world is both real and fictional. It is real in the fact there are no supernatural elements, but fictional in the fact that it came from the authorís imagination. The world is highly structured due to the fact that it is a ship where there is a clear hierarchy and laws. Furthermore, the world is restricted to a place, but not time. Specific circumstances tie the world to the ship, but time plays no role in it.
The archetypal elements found in the opening paragraphs and throughout the book reveal the hidden meanings and intentions of the author. The "two small