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Date of Award

1-1993

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Supervisor

Maqbool Aziz

Language

English

Abstract

Although much has been written on Joseph Conrad's major novels, novellas and short stories, very little has been done on his collection of tales and novellas entitled A Set of Six. This study attempts to elucidate the significance of these tales in the light of recent yet limited criticism on them. Avrom Fleishman, Addison C. Bross, and Daniel R. Schwarz have written short studies of the collection as a whole, and this thesis endeavours to extend and expand upon the works of these critics.

The approach taken is to provide a moral and political context for the interpretation of the work as a whole by summarizing Conrad's political thought and convictions as found in his writings generally. To this end, I rely upon Fleishman's excellent study, Conrad's Politics: Community and Anarchy in the Fiction of Joseph Conrad. From there I establish a fundamental "conflict" between Conrad's commitment to the values of the organic or traditional community as the repository of the moral grounds for human action, and the attempts in modern society to establish utopian or radical solutions to problems of a political nature. Indeed, the thesis is an attempt to show that for Conrad the grounds of all moral action and human goodness are threatened by these various modern "experiments" because they imply the creation of new and artificial grounds for human mortality, grounds which ultimately are based upon the worst sort of material selfishness.

Furthermore, because the deepest moral values inhere in the organic community, the destruction of the values it represents by the forces of history necessarily results in the moral isolation and tragic alienation of the Conradian hero. Only the spiritual reaffirmation of those fundamental communal values--fidelity, trust, loyalty--can lead to spiritual victory and new life for the alienated hero. The tales and novellas of A Set of Six all treat this theme of tragic alienation and the possibility of a victorious return to life. As such, they treat in a lesser yet equally significant key the central themes of Conrad's greatest works. Any study of these stories, therefore, helps to illuminate our understanding not only of Conrad's greatest novels but of his work as a Whole.

McMaster University Library

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