The Secret Sharer Essay, Research Paper
“The Secret Sharer”
The short story “The Secret Sharer” by Joseph Conrad centers around a character of a sea captain who is insecure and has great feelings of inadequacy on his fist job as Captain of a ship. In the story the Captain befriends a fugitive by the name of Legatt who is clearly shown to be a figment of the Captains imagination rather than an actual human being. The title of the story alone suggests that the “secret sharer” is an imaginary friend that is secretive and that the Captain can share his thoughts with. The Captains feelings of inadequacy and his insecurities leave an empty space in him, which he fills by imagining his “secret sharer”. Legatt helps the Captain overcome his feelings of inadequacy and his fears and helps the Captain become a good leader and the man he always wanted to be.
This is the Captains first job at being the captain of a ship and he feels like he is a stranger on his own ship “my position was that of the only stranger on board…I was somewhat a stranger to myself (725). The captain feels more intimidated because he is the only new person on board the ship the crew already know each other and the Captain believes they don’t like him very much. At this point the Captain is unsteady in his new command but has good intentions. He keeps anchor watch one night, to the astonishment of the crew, as a gesture of benevolence. However, his attempt toward friendliness serves to alienate the captain even further because his crew is so taken aback by his actions. The Captain needs to show leadership in order to gain respect of his crew, but being his first time in command of a ship and being a stranger to himself he does not know how.
When Legatt first appears the Captain seems to treat him like a distinguished guest rather than a fugitive. The Captain discovers that they have a few things in common and feels like he has someone he can relate to on the ship. He refers to Legatt as his double numerous times because he says they look so much alike. When Legatt first enters the ship the Captain gives him a sleeping suit identical to his and it fit him perfectly. Some very great similarities can be seen from this and it appears that the Captain and Legatt are one and the same person “One of my hands, too, rested on the end of the skylight…the strange Captain having a quiet confabulation by the wheel with his own gray ghost”(730). This quote suggests that the Captain may be imagining Legatt to have someone on the ship to confide in and not to be the only stranger on the ship. The Captain hides Legatt in his quarters for a few days and becomes almost inseparable from him, which in turn makes the crew dislike him even more because they perceive him as strange and unpredictable. The biggest fear the Captain has is the steward finding the “secret sharer” in his cabin. When the steward comes to clean the Captains cabin Legatt hides in the closet sitting very still on a little stool. One day as the Captain watches Legatt he notices how awkwardly still he is sitting with his head bowed down the Captain says he looks almost inhuman. The Captain also refers to Legatt’s movements “ghostly” many times almost as if he isn’t really there at all.
It makes no difference at all to the meaning of the story whether Legatt is actually a real human being or just an imagination of the Captain. The Captain still gets his strength and ability to become a good Captain and a good leader through Legatts friendship. Whether or not Legatt really exists is irrelevant to the meaning of the story because the Captain become a better person, finds the confidence he needs and saves his ship to become the hero to his crew through Legatt.