Sunday, January 30, 2022

The Last Sentence in Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer”

The last sentence in Joseph Conrad’s short story, “The Secret Sharer”: 

“Walking to the taffrail, I was in time to make out, on the very edge of a darkness thrown by a towering black mass like the very gateway of Erebus—yes, I was in time to catch an evanescent glimpse of my white hat left behind to mark the spot where the secret sharer of my cabin and of my thoughts, as though he were my second self, had lowered himself into the water to take his punishment: a free man, a proud swimmer striking out for a new destiny.”

This 90-word sentence captures the new destiny of both the story’s unnamed narrator, the captain of a British vessel anchored in the Gulf of Siam, and the murder accused, a sailor called Leggatt, who was being hidden in the captain’s cabin before being allowed to swim to the nearby island of Koh-ring to escape the fate of being hauled to England, where he would be tried for murder and hanged.

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