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A Short Analysis of Joseph Conrad’s The Shadow-Line

A reading of a late work by Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad’s 1916 novella The Shadow-Line is much more conventional, at least ostensibly or superficially, than some of his most celebrated earlier fiction, such as Nostromo (1904) or Under Western Eyes (1911), even though it was written later than both of those novels. In many ways it signals a return to Conrad’s earlier writing, from the 1890s, and in particular such stories as ‘Youth’ (1898). Unlike his most famous work, Heart of Darkness (1899), there is no frame-narrative device employed in The Shadow-Line; instead the narrator tells the story in the first person, direct to us, the reader (cf. Marlow in Heart of Darkness, who tells the story orally to a group of men on the boat with him in the Thames). Unlike Under Western Eyes, we are not encouraged to view the protagonist from a detached perspective, through the lens (or under the eyes) of another person; Razumov’s ‘confession’ may come to us, in his diary, mediated through the English narrator, but the narrator’s confession in The Shadow-Line (its full title is The Shadow-Line: A Confession) comes to us direct. Conrad also draws very closely on his own life experiences for the story of The Shadow-Line (he had served in the British Navy and taken command of a ship in the Gulf of Siam, like the novella’s narrator), unlike Nostromo, for which he had to rely heavily on written accounts of colonial life in South America. These features are important for any analysis of the style and structure of The Shadow-Line, in some ways an underappreciated work in Conrad’s oeuvre. Read the rest of this entry


A Short Analysis of William Blake’s ‘The Lamb’

A summary of a classic poem

‘The Lamb’ is one of William Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence’, and was published in the volume bearing that title in 1789; the equivalent or complementary poem in the later Songs of Experience (1794) is ‘The Tyger’.

The Lamb

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb: Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s ‘I cannot live with You – ’

A summary of a classic Dickinson poem

‘I cannot live with You’ is one of Emily Dickinson’s most famous poems, but like much of her greatest poetry, it eludes any easy or straightforward analysis. Somewhat unusually among Dickinson’s most celebrated poems, ‘I cannot live with You’ is a love poem – but it is far from a conventional one.

I cannot live with You –
It would be Life –
And Life is over there –
Behind the Shelf

The Sexton keeps the Key to –
Putting up
Our Life – His Porcelain –
Like a Cup –

Discarded of the Housewife –
Quaint – or Broke –
A newer Sevres pleases –
Old Ones crack – Read the rest of this entry