Literary interpretation is an important tool of analyzing any genres and characteristics, and the sterling domains of literary analysis and presentation are short story and novel. So, it is in this context, a short story “The secret sharer” written by Joseph Conrad - deals with the challenges of maintaining secrecy in deep sea, a ship, its new captain, and an interesting experience of aloofness aboard the ship. All these form the crux of the story that mirrors the human touch with which a new captain shares the secrecy, and save a life of person. On the other hand, the novel "Wide Sargasso Sea" written by Jean Rhys, mirrors her life, challenges, customs,cultural diversity, racial pluralism, and belief systems of the native Caribbeans.
Believe it or not, the beauty of life lies in leading one’s journey of life in a generous, helpful, and moralistic manner. Using these ethics, one ought to adhere to moral values to protect and save others. And, there is no point thinking about right or wrong, and planning about a prospective future if one does not comes to rescue of someone in the need of hours. In this background of this bitter facts of life, the short story, “The secret sharer” deals with the multiple and deep layers of life and reflects a moot question of maintaining secrecy and helping others.
This short story deals with an interesting story of a ship’s captain who is aloof and isolated from the rest of the world, helps an stranger secretly, and saves his life. The entire incident takes place in the gulf of Siam, which is presently in Thailand. This region has no trace of land but full with silver lines of water. In this circumstances of solitude, loneliness, and isolation, it is matter of great interest to visualize the mental state of the captain and total silence of sea. Believe it or not, in this short story, nothing seems to move as the captain stands gazing at the sky, nor is there a sound to be heard. Going by all these signs, the only thought that strikes the captain is the endless journey that awaits him.
As the captain lies enjoying his solitude in the darkness and dead silence of sea, he observes a sudden disturbance as a result of movement of a passing ship, and a passenger on board. By the time, all this ends, there is plenty of other things to the disturbance – external noises, footsteps and a loud sound of a bell in the main deck underneath. On discovering this situation, the captain comes across to meet two colleagues of the ship, and starts discussing about a ship that he sees anchored near the island. Finally, he draws his own conclusions and convinces himself that the ship might have taken in too much water than it could hold. Therefore, it might have drowned. Because of fear and safeguard from any possible attack, the crew members spend some sleepless nights and put in lots of efforts in the last two days to keep vigil. Then, the captain returns to the deck to acquaint himself with the strangeness of his new ship and its members, gripped by the loneliness and the solitude. But, suddenly the captains notices a pale shadow – something that could not be dismissed as a floating object. On moving closer, he observes an elongated, pale, naked body of a man, having no power to make any utterences. On further investigation, the stranger then wants the captain of the ship to be called, but this man declare that he is the captain himself.
This is the point of juncture when the man declares himself as Leggatt, in a rather soft tone. Further, the stranger unravels that he has committed a murder in the anchored ship, and for fear of being caught, he has swum to this ship and placed himself hidingly, thinking no other best possible option for his rescue and survival. In this situation of perplexity, the captain advises the stranger to cool, calm, normal, and assertive so that no one can doubt about his identity. But, soon after this, a person comes to the captain in search of Leggatt, but he remains hidden throughout.
His hiding and secrecy is possible because of the smart moves made by the captain of the ship. Finally, the captain of the anchored ship who comes searching for Leggatt decides that Leggatt will have to be declared missing or as having committed suicide the moment his ship returns home. Despite all this, the captain and Leggatt fear that someone on board might discover the secret visitor and he might get caught. So, in order to avoid it, Leggatt requests the captain that he must be deserted and sent to some unknown island. Though the captain disagrees initially, he finally relents. The writer beautifully presents the case that though they feel that this isn’t a safe move, they don’t have a choice but to follow their captain’s orders. And, finally the new captain enable Leggatt to escape, and have safe passage to the unknown land secretly. This gesture of captiain’s unconditional help to Leggatt allows him to jump to safety, and offers help for the person who is in great need.
Central Theme of "Wide Sargasso Sea"
This novel displays a fragrance of modernism of European values with traditionalism of the West Indian sensibilities. a cultural and racial pluralism. Using the linguistic features of imagery and symbolic representation, the writer, Jean Rhys, goes deep into the inner world of the female protagonist, Antoinette, and uncovers the challenges she faced in her life. Further, the main character's soliquocy and physical landscape of sea is also presented beautifully to co-relate with the aloofness of the new captain in the short story "The Secret Sharer." Due to the socio-cultural circumstances of her family, Antoinette is forced to lead a life of isolation,loneliness, depravity, and disturbance. Similarly, such kinds of isolation and disturbance are also displayed in the "The Secret Sharer" from the geographical locations and factual mindsets of the camptain and the stranger, Leggatt who commits a murder, and resort to the help of another ship with a great physical disturabnce and mental agony.
Practical Circumstances and Challenges of Antoinette
In her life, Antoinette neither gets an opportunity to feel the love of mother, nor finds respect and companionship from her friends. This circumstances makes her become introvert and introspective at the young age. Even later, after her arranged marriage with an English man, her condition seems like moving from frying pan to fire, thereby making her emotionally fragile and mentally violent. Therefore, the central idea of the novel is the mirroring of enslavement, racial discrimination, and exploitation of the poor by the rich and the black by the white. In the context of Antoinette, it also shows the compulsive dependence of a daughter and wife over her father and husband. Based on the practical circumstances of life, it is crystel clear to see the presence of hovering of imminent death on the life of the main character.
Comparative and Contrastive Analysis
Based on the aforesiad facts and circumstances of the characters of the ""Wide Sargasso Sea" and "The Secret Sharer," it makes good sense to draw some of the saleint common and contrastive elements. These are:
a) Both the literary pieces deal with a sense of aloofness and lonliness.
b) Deep sense of fear and hovering of death is prevalent in both the literary contents.
c) Presence of difficulty and challenges is the integral components of both contents.
d) "Wide Sargasso Sea" is a novel dealing with the journey of a struggling life of a woman whereas "The Secret Sharer" is a short story focusing on the secret and unselfish help extended to a stranger.
e) "Wide Sargasso Sea" has a female as lead role whereas "The Secret Sharer" offers a male as a protagonist.
f) "Wide Sargasso Sea" mirrors a sea of problems and challenges without the presence of sea whereas "The Secret Sharer" is deeply embedded and coated with the settings of sea.
g) "Wide Sargasso Sea" has a female as lead role whereas "The Secret Sharer" offers a male as a protagonist.
In the light of the aforesaid facts and analysis of thee short story and novel , it gives us a true meaning help and mental torture in the true sense. Further, it offers a mmesage as to what help and assistance is, and how we should try to protect the life of a stranger with a human face, how life can turn from bad to worse, and many more. The predicament of “Captain” and “Antoinette” is the true reflection of the predicament that all of us encounter in life. This message of “help and not to help” and “racial suffering and discrimination” is not just limited to the crew members of the ship or Antoinette , but has a universal significance and relevance in human life. Therefore, time has come for us to learn positive elements of the short story and novel in a rational manner, and bring smiles to the face of others by making their life happy, and secure in a true sense. Such an approach will go a long way to serve the purpose and inner motive of the writers of the short story “The secret sharer” and the novel "Wide Sargasso Sea."
- Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Sharer. Chicago: Dramatic Publishing Company. 1969.
- Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. London: Andre Deutsch, 1966.
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- Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer. New York: Penguin Group, 1997.