THE MORALITY OF CONRAD'S IMAGINATION / Daniel Melnick IN A LETTER written as he was beginning Lord Jim, Conrad describes the problem of discerning and firmly holding the values by which life may be lived, and his remarks identify an issue central to the reading and criticism of his works: the difficulty of defining Conrad's values. In his letter, the same English novelist of decent commitments who would write that Jim is "one of us," speaks with the voice of the profound pessimist of obscure European origin. There is no morality, no knowledge and no hope: there is only the consciousness of ourselves which drives us about a world that is always but a vain and floating appearance.1 What exactly was the novelist's view of the social and moral condition of human life? The difficulty of answering the question grows out of the conflict between Conrad's basic yet sometimes only suggested pessimism and his explicit affirmations. His finest novels lead the reader into a world of "vain and floating appearance," into a symbolic heart of darkness where he is made to doubt the reality and effective value of all social and personal order. Yet, in the face of
The Missouri Review – University of Missouri
Published: Oct 5, 1981
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