The Secret Sharer


Joseph Conrad

Plot Summary
Joseph Conrad’s novella, The Secret Sharer, centers on the character of a young sea captain. Its title and opening paragraphs display a story of mystery, isolation, darkness and silence. A young and inexperienced captain grows and explores himself and the world around him. The story begins when the young narrator recently became the captain of an English ship whose crew had been together for at least 18 months. He feels insecure about his position and is alienated by the rest of the crew because of his youth and inexperience. Leggatt a man who was found floating naked near the captain’s ship, was once a crewman on a boat called the Sephora. He was held captive on the boat until he escaped and swam towards the captain’s boat. The captain hides Leggatt, and puts himself under a lot of stress because the rest of the crew is ignorant of the mysterious fugitive. The captain talks with the skipper about this fugitive and tricks him into talking loud so that Leggatt hears their conversation and he runs to a hiding place. The crew begins to see certain awkwardness by captain at this time and he nearly goes insane because of this secret sharer. Finally, the crew found out about Leggatt. They were quite offended by what the captain did, but they all worked together to get past this hindrance, and the captain was glad to be victorious in his first command of the ship.

A major theme of this novella was the thought of meeting one’s identical personality unknown to others. In order to tell the way a person acts they can look at themselves in a different aspect, such as the way the captain looked at the fugitive. Throughout the story, the captain constantly refers to Leggatt as his double due to the fact that they have many things in common, physically and mentally. One image generated by the title could be that of a gossip. Since a gossip is someone who tells people\'s secrets, or in other words is a secret sharer, it is a possibility that this image might come to mind. Another theme of this novel is “A secret will never remain a secret if one tells someone else.” The captain never told the crew until the end, when the fugitive got away, thus giving great value to the theme. Another image is that of a person who shares in secrecy, therefore becoming a secret sharer. A secret sharer could also be an imaginary friend, one that a person can share their inner thoughts and personal feelings with. The captain shared his gold with Leggatt without anyone knowing and they both shared their thoughts with each other. This represents another theme of friendship, when two people just connect without knowing each other for a long while. Finally the theme of good vs. evil arises in that the word secret has an evil connotation, whereas the word shares shows generosity and purity of a person’s heart.

The captain describes a connection that he begins to feel with Leggatt by showing that he feels that he has the same characteristics with Leggatt that would make him unfit for the Sephora. When Captain meets Leggatt in the water, he is "glimmering white in the darkness." A shadowy, dark head, like mine," is used to describe Leggatt, suggesting that they both have similar physical features. He also said, after Leggatt put on his sleeping suit, “In a moment he had concealed his damp body in a sleeping suit of the same gray-stripe pattern as the one I was wearing and followed me like my double on the poop.” After the captain briefly talks with Leggatt in the water he says, “The voice was calm and resolute, a good voice. The self-possession of that man had somehow induced a corresponding state in myself." This soothing effect is what allows the two men to continue to develop their close bond. The captain used phrases like "double," "other self," and "secret sharer" to identify himself with Leggatt nearly forty times during the course of the novella.

One of the main similarities is that both men have very similar physical appearances and the captain said this