Conrad and Imperialism: Ideological Boundaries and Visionary by Benita Parry

By Benita Parry

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6 Ifthe exclusion ofluminous passages7 is a loss to a finished work which perversely retains ornate and merely decorative description, flaccid interpositions and mannered dialogue, as weB as coy and condescending comments on Malayan life and customs which can persuade readers that this is indeed a colonial romance, then the excision of ostentatious and sententious writing makes space far the expansion of the fiction's austere preoccupations. By defamiliarising the received assumptions of the genre, Conrad transformed a melodramatic scenario about a catastrophe in the life of a colonial adventurer, set in picturesque surroundings and enacted in the midst of a mysterious atmosphere, into a tragedy where the warring impulses, divided loyalties and ultimate defection of a protagonist who is both betrayer and betrayed, signify that larger crisis endemie to the European presence in the other hemisphere.

147-8) when he raves about the need for a successful colonialist to demonstrate commitment to ajudicious blend ofmaterial aims and pure ideals: 'You show them you have in you something that is reaBy profitable, and then there will be no limits to the recognition of your ability ... Of course you must take care of the motives - right motives - always' (p. 148). It is then Marlow's own narration that negates his thesis on the redemptive dimensions to imperialism. His confusions about the substance ofhis narration, his misrecognitions, the discrepancies between what he shows and wh at he sees, his positing of certainties which prove to be dubious, these are the fiction's means of exhibiting that his endeavour to devise an ethical basis for imperialism is destined to fail.

47) Since each phrase of this ostensible tribute, in wh ich recognition of mercenary motives is offset by praise for visionary impulses, is to be annulled by the fiction's action, these remarks necessarily serve as an object ofirony, especiallyas the speaker with apparent innocence makes known that he and his companions, who are Marlow's audience, are all connected with 'overseas trade'. However, the imagist manner of his presentation, with its dualistic motifs, metonyms of menace and contrapuntal structure where every expression of positive sentiment is nullified by its opposite, is at odds with the conventions of celebratory rhetoric and makes the speaker an active communicator of irony whose very words carry the seeds oftheir own subversion.

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