Joseph Conrad


If the characteristic theme of the 18th century and 19th century novel was the relation between gentility and morality that of the 20th century is the relation between loneliness and love. To Joseph Conrad the testing time comes when a man finds himself in a situation where the normal public codes are not relevant or real. He either finds strength out of self knowledge and loneliness or goes down to destruction in the heart of darkness.

Where Conrad took up public themes as in Nostroma it was to write a political novel of a very different kind. It is not a story of surrender to temptation. It is a symbolic rendering of the inevitable fate of political man. His first important novel is "The Nigger of the Narcissus". It probes the necessary corruption of any kind of human society. In "Heart of Darkness" he portrays the evils of nineteenth century colonialism in Africa with extraordinary vividness though the Congo he portrays is the Congo of the mind. "Under Western Eyes" is a novel whose universality of implication Conrad deliberately disguises by suggesting that it is a strange Russian story incredible to westerners.

However, Conrad's interest in the relation between loneliness and the demand of society derives from his own history as a pole who became first a British merchant seaman and then an English novelist. 

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