The Shadow Line: A Confession

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Doubleday, Page, 1917 - Fiction - 195 pages
The Shadow-Line is a short novel based at sea by Joseph Conrad; it is one of his later works, being written from February to December 1915. It was first published in 1916 as a serial in New York's Metropolitan Magazine (September-October) in the English Review (September 1916-March 1917) and published in book form in 1917 in the UK (March) and America (April). The novella depicts the development of a young man upon taking a captaincy in the Orient, with the shadow line of the title representing the threshold of this development.The novella is notable for its dual narrative structure. The full, subtitled title of the novel is The Shadow-Line, A Confession, which immediately alerts the reader to the retrospective nature of the novella. The ironic constructions following from the conflict between the 'young' protagonist (who is never named) and the 'old' drive much of the underlying points of the novella, namely the nature of wisdom, experience and maturity. Conrad also extensively uses irony by comparison in the work, with characters such as Captain Giles and the ship's 'factotum' Ransome used to emphasise strengths and weaknesses of the protagonist.

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Page 186 - And there's another thing: a man should stand up to his bad luck, to his mistakes, to his conscience, and all that sort of thing. Why — what else would you have to fight against?" I kept silent. I don't know what he saw in my face, but he asked abruptly: "Why — you aren't faint-hearted?" "God only knows, Captain Giles,
Page 55 - A sudden passion of anxious impatience rushed through my veins and gave me such a sense of the intensity of existence as I have never felt before or since. I discovered how much of a seaman I was, in heart, in mind, and, as it were, physically — a man exclusively of sea and ships; the sea the only world that counted, and the ships the test of manliness, of temperament, of ! courage and fidelity — and of love.
Page 67 - What was his tone? Mocking? Threatening? Or only indifferent? I could not tell. I suspected some malice in this unexpected manifestation of interest. He left me, and I leaned over the rail of the bridge looking over the side. I dared not raise my eyes. Yet it had to be done — and, indeed, I could not have helped myself. I believe I trembled. But directly my eyes had rested on my ship all my fear vanished. It went off swiftly, like a bad dream. Only that a dream leaves no shame behind it, and that...
Page 68 - At the first glance I saw that she was a high-class vessel, a harmonious creature in the lines of her fine body, in the proportioned tallness of her spars. Whatever her age and her history, she had preserved the stamp of her origin. She was one of those craft that, in virtue of their design and complete finish, will never look old. Amongst her companions moored to the bank, and all bigger than herself, she looked like a creature of high breed — an Arab steed in a string of cart-horses.
Page 7 - I'll do. I'll buy you two bottles, out of my own pocket. There. I can't say fairer than that, can I?" (or generosity) at the merest sign of weakening on my part. By that time, however, I was more discontented, disgusted, and dogged than ever. The past eighteen months, so full of new and varied experience, appeared a dreary, prosaic waste of days. I felt — how shall I express it? — that there was no truth to be got out of them.
Page 2 - Yes. One goes on. And the time, too, goes on — till one perceives ahead a shadow-line warning one that the region of early youth, too, must be left behind.
Page 140 - The words that passed between us were few and puerile in regard of the situation. I had to force myself to look them in the face. I expected to meet reproachful glances. There were none. The expression of suffering in their eyes was indeed hard enough to bear. But that they couldn't help. For the rest, I ask myself whether it was the temper of their souls or the sympathy of their imagination that made them so wonderful, so worthy of my undying regard.
Page 91 - would have my hands full" coming true, made it appear as if done on purpose to play an evil joke on my young innocence. Yes. I had my hands full of complications which were most valuable as "experience." People have a great opinion of the advantages of experience. But in that connection experience means always something disagreeable as opposed to the charm and innocence of illusions.
Page 72 - ... after-hatch ten minutes ago." "Tell him I am on board." The mahogany table under the skylight shone in the twilight like a dark pool of water. The sideboard, surmounted by a wide looking-glass in an ormolu frame, had a marble top. It bore a pair of silver-plated lamps and some other pieces — obviously a harbour display. The saloon itself was panelled in two kinds of wood in the excellent, simple taste prevailing when the ship was built. I sat down in the arm-chair at the head of the table —...
Page 117 - Are you still thinking of your late captain, Mr Burns?' I said. 'I imagine the dead feel no animosity against the living. They care nothing for them.' 'You don't know that one,' he breathed out feebly. 'No. I didn't know him, and he didn't know me. And so he can't have any grievance against me, anyway.

About the author (1917)

Joseph Conrad is recognized as one of the 20th century's greatest English language novelists. He was born Jozef Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski on December 3, 1857, in the Polish Ukraine. His father, a writer and translator, was from Polish nobility, but political activity against Russian oppression led to his exile. Conrad was orphaned at a young age and subsequently raised by his uncle. At 17 he went to sea, an experience that shaped the bleak view of human nature which he expressed in his fiction. In such works as Lord Jim (1900), Youth (1902), and Nostromo (1904), Conrad depicts individuals thrust by circumstances beyond their control into moral and emotional dilemmas. His novel Heart of Darkness (1902), perhaps his best known and most influential work, narrates a literal journey to the center of the African jungle. This novel inspired the acclaimed motion picture Apocalypse Now. After the publication of his first novel, Almayer's Folly (1895), Conrad gave up the sea. He produced thirteen novels, two volumes of memoirs, and twenty-eight short stories. He died on August 3, 1924, in England.

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