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The Secret Sharer

“The Secret Sharer”, by Joseph Conrad, is considered to be one of Conrad’s more personal works of fiction.  The story utilizes events and characters that Conrad encountered during his seafaring days.  The basis of the entire tale, can be said to mirror the real events of the famous clipper ship, the Cutty Sark.  Conrad’s dark narrative, brilliantly twists the plot to shift sympathy from the story’s victim to the perpetrator.

The Secret Sharer

The tale begins with a young captain taking command of his first ship.  His inexperience and naiveté make him wonder how he might handle the conception of full authority, to his crew, but more so to himself and the inner thoughts and beliefs he has.  When he discovers a stowaway that happens to be the former first mate from the ship Sephora, who has escaped after killing a fellow sailor, the young captain finds his ideal imaginings tested.

The captain begins to feel a secret bond with the stowaway, named Leggatt, and even hides him in his own cabin.  The captain, feeling like a stranger to his crew, since he only joined them two weeks prior, connects with Leggatt, and refers to him in the book at least eighteen times as “my double”.  He even goes as far as calling Leggatt “my other self”, “my second self”, “my secret self”, and “my secret sharer”.

The captain is described as an interesting man, but the character of Leggatt reveals a dark side, almost the dark half of the insecure young captain.  The two men are depicted by Conrad, to even resemble each other to the degree of almost physical duplicity.  The captain’s insecurities seem so great, in the face of the darkness of Leggatt, that his personality almost disintegrates, as he feels himself being torn in two with the secret of Leggatt being on board. 

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