Edited By Jadwiga Wegrodzka
Joseph Conrad’s “The Partner”: Character and language
“And that tongue of his”
Critical discussions of literary characters in Conrad’s prose provide for a popular trend running in the scholarly reflection on this writer. Much of that commentary approaches literary character as a psychological construct (sometimes in relation to the author’s personality and life). One might mention for example works such as Albert Guerard’s Conrad the Novelist, Robert Hampson’s Joseph Conrad: Betrayal and Identity, or Joseph Dobrinsky’s The Artist in Conrad’s Fiction: A Psychocritical Study; among the more recent publications, Hearts of Darkness: Melville, Conrad and Narratives of Oppression (2010) combines postcolonial and psychoanalytical interpretations of Conrad’s texts1. The present paper offers observations from a different angle. Here, the figures populating the fictional world of “The Partner” – one of the less frequently studied short stories from Conrad’s Within the Tides2 – are discussed strictly as literary phenomena. This seems to me an approach perhaps more faithful to the general notion of Conrad as a consciously artistic ← 42 | 43 → writer who repeatedly directs the reader’s attention to the process of literary creation and craftsmanship (compare Zgorzelski 1984a: 7).
A recognised strategy Conrad uses to this end is often that of multiple narrations3. This is also the case with “The Partner”. In this text, the main narrator learns about the unfortunate partnership of two businessmen from a company stevedore in the smoking-room of a coastal hotel; the introduction of more than one narrating voice is accompanied by other elements and motifs...
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