The True Bond Between Men
As human beings we are forced to accept the inevitability of being confronted with situations that test our ethical bounds and character. In the middle of a moral conflict we become lost in thought and make decisions based on intuition with the belief that it will guide us to ethical ground. However, we cannot always be morally correct where we must revisit our past to examine whether our choices were correct. Being torn between what is moral and immoral arises in the story The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad. Conrad presents a moral conflict between the Captain who remains unnamed, and an escaped criminal, Leggatt. By observing the choices and the thoughts of ...view middle of the document...
Phelan analyzes the captain’s first sight of Leggatt and how it supposedly shows the “sexual undertones” of the text shown by the Captain describing the event.
… I saw at once something elongated and pale floating very close to the ladder. Before I cold form a guess a faint flash of phosphorescent light, which seemed to issue suddenly from the naked body of a man, flickered in the sleeping water with the elusive silent play of summer lightning in a night sky. (Conrad, 28)
Phelan goes on to say that “the captains gaze follows the line of Leggatt’s naked body from foot to neck” but contrary to this statement anyone who would see a body floating in the ocean would examine it for any signs of life (Conrad, 28). One may look to see if there are any signs of life or if there appears to be any injuries on the body floating in the water. The captain does this saying, “[I] leaned over the rail as far as I could, to bring my eyes nearer to that mystery floating alongside” (Conrad, 29). The captain further takes moral action and helps Leggatt on board the ship prior to his knowledge of Leggatt’s crime. There is no attraction in the situation, but rather a humane act of helpfulness.
Another scene where Phelan states that there is a mutual sexual attraction and that the captain seeks the longing of Leggatt is when the Captain must make things seem perfectly normal in his cabin for the stewards who tend to him. The captain says,
I took a bath and did most of my dressing, splashing, and whistling softly for the steward’s edification, while the secret sharer of my life stood drawn up bolt upright in that little space. (Conrad, 40).
Phelan takes this scene and contorts it to better fit what he is analyzing. This scene is merely a show of how the captain wants to ensure that no one on board the ship suspect that something may be out of the ordinary. The captain even states that he is solely taking a bath and resuming his normal routine for the “steward’s edification”. Even though Leggatt remains present, there is no other place for him to go. He is confined to the captain’s quarters unable to leave or there would be a possibility that someone might spot him.
Moreover, Phelan uses the scene where the captain gives Leggatt his hat as a sign of mutual affection where Phelan quotes Conrad: “Our hands met, gropingly, lingered united in a steady, motionless clasp for a second… No word was breathed by either of us when they separated” (Conrad, 56). Though this scene may seem to have some sexual tension, it is only that way when you read Phelan’s essay. When reading this passage in the story it does not seem strange or indicate anything other than a coincidental action. The captain is just handing his hat over to a man who will forever remain a foreigner to the land on which he will land, showing an act of kindness a gift from a friend to a new friend. The Captain says in full,
A sudden thought struck me. I saw myself wandering barefooted, bareheaded,...