The Secret Sharer By Conrad Essay, Research Paper
The Secret Sharer by Conrad
In the many critical articles that we have read in class on Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer” many of the authors believed that a secret that was being shared with the reader. They also believed that the secret is Leggett and the captain are sexually attracted to each other. They go on to say that since Conrad wrote the story and this relationship is in the story than Conrad must have had these feelings himself. I do not believe that these authors are correct. They seem to be bringing aspects to the story that are not apparent to me. I am not saying that their ideas are not possible but they do seem far-fetched.
Cesare Casarino wrote in his article “The sublime of the closet; or Joseph Conrad’s secret sharing.” That the secret that is shared with the reader is that the captain and Leggett are involved in a homoerotic relationship.
in scenes replete with touching, groping, mingling, and clasping, “He caught hold of my arm, but the ringing of the supper bell made me start. He didn’t though; he only released his grip” For whose glances “mingle” and whose hands meet “gropingly” and linger “united in a steady and motionless clasp” except the glances and hands of lovers? (Casarino 235)
Casarino seems to use the language of the story to make his point. He makes assumptions that since Conrad uses certain words than he must have meant to give an underlying meaning, a “secret” meaning that I do not see. I am not familiar with Conrad’s other works, but could this just be the writing style that Conrad uses? Could the writing style and words be common for the time when the “Secret Sharer” was written? These two ideas need to be considered before we start placing judgements on words. Casarino does not take these consideration into account.
James Phelan writes that the secret that the narrator is sharing with the reader is one that is covert. He goes on to say that as the story goes on the secret should be come more apparent to the reader. Mr. Phelan uses scenes to prove his point that seem odd to me. The section of the story that he uses that gives me the most problem is when the narrator sees his hat in the water. ” — yes, I was in time to catch an evanescent glimpse of my white hat left behind ” (Conrad 60) Mr. Phelan uses this section to compare the captain giving his hat to Leggett as if he had given him a ring. He than says Leggett leaving the hat behind is a way for Leggett to give the gift back as ” a powerful symbol of their unconsummated relationship ” (Phelan 138) I do not see how the hat can represent a gift between lovers. It is a gift between friends at most collaborators at least. Phelan writes about when the narrator and Leggett are in bed together they are experiencing a homoerotic moment “I would smuggle him into my bed-place, and we would whisper together ” (Conrad 49) Phelan seems to believe that since the two are whispering they must be whispering sweet nothings into each others ears. He believes that they stop at whispering because if the continued with any other expressions would be loud and alert the crew. He fails to remember that the narrator is hiding Leggett from the rest of the crew. They must remain quite otherwise they will be discovered. This seems self-evident to me. I will admit that my interpretation skills may not be as skilled as Phelan’s but I feel he may be looking at the story too critically.
Bonnie Kime Scott has some ideas that I do not agree with. In her article “Intimacies Engendered in Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer”, She says that because the captain and Leggett have been around other men without women around they are more likely to have a homosexual relationship. Kime Scott says that, “Leggett and the captain were trained at Conway, an all-male school; they have spent years on voyages, almost exclusively in the company of men.” It seems if this is true than there would have been a larger number of homosexual relationships during the time “The Secret Sharer” was written. Kime Scott uses Eve Sedgwik’s Epistemology of the Closet to show proof of the eroticism that the sea produces. In Kime Scott’s article, she quotes parts from Sedgwik’s piece that talks about Billy Budd and Portrait of Dorian Gray. I am unfamiliar with the second work but I have read Billy Budd and I do not remember the eroticism that she is trying to prove in this story. She also is saying because Conrad’s name is on a list that is compiled by Sedgwik her statement holds some kind authority. The idea that by using Sedgwik’s piece as briefly as she did weakens her article to me. She is depending on the reader of her article to accept the authority of another to prove her point.
The proof that Leggett and the narrator are involved in some kind of homosexual relationship seems to lack the evidence that many of the critics say it holds. The critics above all hold the same opinions even though the where using different theories to interpret the work. I believe that they may have latched on to an idea that was proposed by someone else and ran with it. Not that they did not have original ideas but they all relied on other articles to prove their point or to justify their views.