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MonkeyNotes-The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad
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Notes

The meeting with the skipper of the Sephora reveals how deeply entrenched the Captain is in Leggatt's perspective of the events. He immediately is on the defensive with the skipper and regards him as not only quite physically unappealing but also dense and unsophisticated. He is made out to be ineffectual and boorish. The skipper represents the law and he is in search of vindication for the murder of his crewmate. The Captain refuses to be even slightly persuaded by this man's version of the incident. In fact, the Captain uses what the skippers says to support Leggatt's version of what happened.

After the skipper of the Sephora departs, Leggatt informs the Captain that Archbold did not give the order and Leggatt took the matter in his own hands and ordered the sail set. This statement indicates that Leggatt submitted himself to authority only when convenient. He is capable of taking command and saving the day and although admirable this is not the protocol for a ship where every man understands his place in the hierarchy. Still, the Captain condones his actions. It is as if he would have done the same thing or in Freud's terms, he is seeking a wish fulfillment in Leggatt's actions, as the Captain is unable to be capable of such daunting action. Conrad shows here how subjectivity often determines moral behavior. Although murder is a reprehensible act and insubordination on a ship calls for punitive measures, here both of these actions are seen as being heroic not deplorable.

The Captain attributes the murder to a justifiable sense of desperation: "The same strung-up force which had given twenty- four men a chance, at least, for their lives, had, in a sort of recoil, crushed an unworthy mutinous existence." In the Captain's eyes, Leggatt has proved adequate where the Captain as well as Archbold had failed. Archbold tries to cover up his weakness by having Leggatt put to death and thereby sealing the knowledge of his weakness as a captain in a decisive moment.


Leggatt is a man of passion and intuition. He goes against convention and is punished for it. He goes against the laws of the sea and must be put to death. His unconventional bearing is what attracts the Captain to him. Here is an outlaw who is misunderstood and isolated like the Captain himself. Again the role of public versus private life is shown here as being part of the Captain's conflict. He cannot reveal his fears and anxieties to anyone because he is the captain and therefore must maintain a certain stoicism that conveys leadership. If he does anything outside the norm, it is immediately noticed and seen as either an act of drunkenness or insanity. This is seen when the Captain is on deck with his mate and he turns to whisper in his ear. This kind of intimacy is unorthodox and immediately perceived as odd by the mate.

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