Secret Sharer

Shaping the Self

The potential for self-discovery, complemented by the capacity for transformation, lies latent within each man. When circumstances instigate a strong stimulus for change, man finds a way to actuate his innate potential. In Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer, the overly rational captain finds himself lacking the courage needed for his new "position of the fullest responsibility" (677). He impulsively carries out his desperate "[self-]appointed task of [change]" (677) when catalyzed by Leggatt, a murderer whom he illegally protects. By breaking free of hesitancy and rationality and hurling himself into a dangerously intense trial of his own capabilities, the captain emerges as a matured and balanced individual.

The captain is a logical man of restraint and intellect who is thrust into his position of leadership "in consequence of certain events of no particular significance" (677). The resulting responsibilities, however, are of immense magnitude, and he doubts his ability to simultaneously handle the crew, the ship, and himself. Now that the "quiet communion [and comfort of subordination is]... gone for good" (677), the captain faces the undeniable fact that he is not only "a...

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