The Darker Side(Secret Sharer) Essay, Research Paper
The Darker Side
People learn from experience. This is a very common expression in society. Different experiences in a person s life can be advantageous and make him a better person. He can learn from other people or from what is going on in his life at the time. With the new knowledge or outlook he has obtained, he is now able to use it to his advantage and make his life better. In the novel, The Secret Sharer, by Joseph Conrad, the Captain becomes more confident and mature from his experience with his double Leggatt.
The Captain and Leggatt have an uncanny amount of similarities. The first thing that is noticed is their looks. The Captain constantly refers to Leggatt as my double , my other self , my second self , my secret self , and my secret sharer . It is mentioned so many times that it cannot be ignored that Leggatt is analogous in many features to the Captain. They are both dark haired and equal in size. Moreover, they are around the same age. When the Captain and Leggatt first meet the Captain even states, It was, in the night, as though I had been faced by my own reflection in the depths of a sombre and immense mirror (Conrad 755). After Leggatt put on the Captain s sleeping suit, it was even more amazing how much they resembled each other. Another similarity would be their experiences. Both of the young men served on the Conway maritime training ship. Additionally, accounts of Leggatt s experiences on the Sephora attest that he, like the Captain, was the only stranger on board. Leggatt was secluded from the rest of the men on the ship because he killed a man, although from that he saved the lives of everyone else. The Captain felt secluded because he was a new captain and he was young. He felt as if the others despised him for being younger and in charge. To the Captain, it was as if our experiences had been identical as our clothes (Conrad 755).
There are also the characteristics of the two that are opposite. Many people view Leggatt as the embodiment of that ideal conception of one s own personality that the Captain has set up to compare his behavior to (Steiner 103). Conrad has asserted that the two qualifications imperative for a trustworthy seaman are, contradictory, a healthy sense of insecurity and an absolute confidence in himself (Steiner 103). Leggatt reveals these qualities by the time he meets the Captain, yet the Captain does not initially possess them, only after his experience with Leggatt. On page 104 of Joan E. Steiner s criticism there is a passage that justifies that fact that the Captain envies Leggatt s confidence. It says:
Through most of the story, the captain, despite his feeling of identity with Leggatt, contrasts his own deficiencies with Leggatt s strengths. After Leggatt s account of the murder and his subsequent confinement, for example, the narrator notes, there was nothing sickly in his eyes or in his expression. He was not a bit like me, really, and imagines the manner of his thinking over the incident as a stubborn if not a steadfast operation; something of which I should have been perfectly incapable. Later, then the captain feels that he is appearing an irresolute commander, he envies Leggatt s looking always perfectly self-controlled, more than calm – almost invulnerable. And after the incident of near-discovery, he marvels at that something unyielding in his character which was carrying him through so finely . . . . Whoever was being distracted, it was not he. He was sane.
Another main difference between the two is that Leggatt committed a crime and can be considered impulsive and violent. Many people consider this the shadow side or dark side of the Captain, otherwise the side that is unknown to him. This dark side represented by Leggatt is something the Captain accepts and becomes consumed by in his effort to help Leggatt. He realizes that Leggatt is that other side of him. A symbol of this is the white floppy hat that the Captain shares with Leggatt and then helps the Captain steer the ship. With the sharing of the hat, it shows a sharing of personalities. A passage to support this would be:
Leggatt, who is impulsive and violent, who has been under arrest, who is now a fugitive, represents what some psychologists call the shadow side of the captain, that part of himself which he does not really know. Now this unknown shadow self does not belong (we quote the captain s own words) to that ideal conception of one s own personality . . . . And people who refuse to accept this shadow self, who idealize their own personalities, are dangerously lacking in self-knowledge. They may sooner or later find themselves at the mercy of this unknown part of the self, just because they have rejected it. But when the captain accepts, hides, and helps Leggatt, he is really accepting this other side of himself. The shared hat symbolizes the whole personality, which is whole because the shadow side has not been rejected, and therefore becomes the steering mark that enables the completed self to bring the ship out of danger to face life with confidence. (Priestley 784)
Since Leggatt and the Captain have so many characteristics the same, it helps make the Captain realize that it could be him in Leggatt s position. He sees that the daringness and confidence that Leggatt possesses, it is something that he wishes he could possess. This is a reason why the Captain is so consumed by Leggatt and by helping him. One can even say that he looks up to Leggatt since he has so much confidence in himself.
If one looks at symbolism from the beginning it can also be noted that one would already now that Leggatt has an evilness to him, yet good will evolve from him. When the captain finds Leggatt, he is pale with a cadaverous glow. The paleness represents evil, yet the light coming from him can symbolize the coming of something good. The goodness, which resulted from the effects of Leggatt s dark impulses, was the Captain s maturation.
In conclusion, The captain became obsessed with Leggatt s darker side because it was the side of him he needed to discover to help him mature. While hiding Leggatt his daringness showed through, since it was a crime to be hiding him. Moreover, when he brought the ship close to shore to let Leggatt swim to safety, his confidence level rose, since he had enough confidence to believe he would not ground his ship. Conrad helps this story become universal by leaving the Captain and the ship nameless. Therefore, this novel emphasizes that each of us has a dark side that we must confront at sometime on life s path.