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Geneva section of Under Western Eyes, when he dashed o¬ ˜˜The Secret
Sharer™™ in just over two weeks.¹⁹ ˜˜The Secret Sharer™™ works through in
highly distilled form issues that Conrad elaborated in Under Western Eyes.
Both texts feature doubled ˜˜primal scenes™™: a homoerotic primal scene
of two men sharing secrets in bed, and an even more primal scene, a
scene-behind-the-scenes, of murder which is not directly represented in
either text but is intradiegetically narrated by the murderer to his
con¬dant. While murder may be the common ¬gure in the carpet, or
the ultimate ground against which the male ¬gures in these texts stand
out, the motive and ultimate signi¬cation of murder is neither simple or
single.
In ˜˜The Secret Sharer,™™ Leggatt, the chief mate on the Sephora, had
strangled a shirking crewmember when a wave broke over the ship
during a violent storm. This act cannot be resolved as simply signifying
±µ
Bachelor narration in Conrad™s Under Western Eyes
either passion or duty, either the failure of discipline or the apotheosis of
discipline. His crime represents, as he does himself, both the failure and
the quintessence of properly regulated masculine desire and, thus, of
properly regulated masculinity. The narrator™s complicity with Leggatt,
like Leggatt™s original sin itself, has antithetical meanings. The bond
between these men is at once anathema and a necessity to the authority
of the captain narrator; the presence of the stowaway both undermines
the narrator™s command and enables him to achieve full command.
Thus, Leggatt is both the narrator™s main problem, or the main symp-
tom of his problem, and also the solution to his problem. In each of these
positions, Leggatt is doubled: in his roles as the narrator™s super-ego and
his libido, as the emblem of the narrator™s law-abiding conscience and
his law-breaking desire. Leggatt™s ¬‚eshly embodiment as an ˜˜other
man,™™ a man whom the narrator may physically or imaginatively
internalize or incorporate but cannot be summarily reduced to an
externalized projection of the narrator™s psyche, produces the radical
indeterminacy of Leggatt™s status in the text. He is at once a literal and
metaphorical presence, preventing any simple or single reading of his
relation to the narrator.
The multiple and self-contradictory nature of Leggatt™s status in the
text also reveals the competition within and among styles of manhood,
styles that are di¬erently and often incompatibly in¬‚ected by the compet-
ing demands of autonomy and reciprocity, equality and hierarchy,
passion and discipline, and the demands of devotion to oneself, to others,
and to a higher principle or cause. These competing demands, and the
competing models of manhood they in¬‚ect, are at stake in the captain
narrator™s anguished negotiation of his relations to his older and more
experienced ˜˜subordinates,™™ as well as in his own self-relation. But if
multiple versions and sources of manhood are in contention in the
plotting of this all-male, shipboard story, then it is all the more striking that
the resolution of the story ultimately depends upon a symbolic feminine
presence. Despite Conrad™s insistence that ˜˜No damned tricks with girls™™
contaminate this story, it is ultimately the threat of the feminine, the
˜˜feminine within™™ that in¬ltrates the ship along with the illicit stowaway,
that raises the stakes of the contest within and between men.²°
At the story™s climax, the captain narrator steers perilously close to
the land in order to give the stowaway a chance to swim to safety, a
move whereby he both eliminates and rescues the hidden murderer. In
this monumental game of ˜˜chicken,™™ the captain redeems his authority
by mastering his ship:
±µ Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
And now I forgot the secret stranger ready to depart, and remembered only
that I was a total stranger to the ship. I did not know her. Would she do it? How
was she to be handled? . . .
[The maneuver is successfully executed.] Already the ship was drawing
ahead. And I was alone with her. Nothing! no one in the world should stand
now between us, throwing a shadow on the way of silent knowledge and mute
a¬ection, the perfect communion of a seaman with his ¬rst command.²¹

˜˜She™™ who is the ship replaces the signi¬cant other who is another man;
in mastering ˜˜her,™™ the captain gains full control over himself. His
successful maneuvering of the ship signi¬es the masculine authority
associated with his internalized self-regulation and his autonomy. In
mastering this feminine other, the captain makes himself appear auton-
omous and undivided; he now displays an apparently uni¬ed selfhood
that had been undermined by the presence of his ˜˜Other Self™™ or
˜˜Secret Self,™™ both early titles for the story.²² I emphasize his monolithic
appearance rather than any actual attainment of singularity since one can
read the ˜˜disappearance™™ of Leggatt in terms of an internalization of
discipline, a concealment of counternormative excesses or displays of
passion. In other words, the performance of discipline exempli¬ed by
the removal of Leggatt from the ship paradoxically indicates the agonis-
tic struggle that the captain endures. If the story ends with ˜˜a free man, a
proud swimmer striking out for a new destiny,™™ it also ends with a man
who ˜˜take[s] his punishment,™™ a performance of internalized discipline
upon which his masculine normativity depends.²³
The heterosexual ˜˜communion™™ of the captain with his feminine
ship, then, does not compromise his autonomy and predominance but
rather epitomizes and enables them. The symbolic presence of the
feminine thus occasions masculine singularity and hegemony, symboliz-
ing the need for them and providing a means to them. The feminine
ship as an object to be regulated also stands for the pervasive hierarchi-
cal order by which the captain commands his crew, and the order by
which he regulates his own manhood. His control over ˜˜her™™
metonymically expresses the captain™s now unquestionable authority
over his men and himself. Thus, the naturalized hierarchy of the
sex/gender system obscures yet enforces the di¬erences between men “
here, not of race or class, but of rank “ that undergird the captain™s
command. The introduction and mastery of the feminine conceals the
ways in which men are subject to other men by naturalizing this
hierarchy as a male/female binary, that is, as gender di¬erence.
Razumov™s plot to betray Natalia by marrying her does comparable
±µµ
Bachelor narration in Conrad™s Under Western Eyes
double duty. It enacts his assertion of dominance over, as well as his
desire for union with, another man by displacing both onto a woman.
Razumov initially conceives of his marriage plot as a way to ful¬ll his
longing for revenge, but also for communion “ ˜˜I want to be under-
stood™™ (p. ) “ and for self-reintegration “ ˜˜In giving Victor Haldin up,
it was myself, after all, whom I have betrayed most basely™™ (p. ).
However, he eventually comes to see this plot as the consummation of
duplicity and his ˜˜ultimate undoing.™™ It is his burgeoning love for
Natalia that awakens him to the utter damnation that marriage to her
would mean:

It was as if your pure brow bore a light which fell on me, searched my heart and
saved me from ignominy, from ultimate undoing. And it saved you too. Pardon
my presumption. But there was that in your glances which seemed to tell me
that you . . . Your light! your truth! I felt that I must tell you that I had ended by
loving you. And to tell you that I must ¬rst confess. Confess, go out “ and
perish. (p. )

In Under Western Eyes, true love means having to say you™re sorry even
though forgiveness is impossible; true love necessitates the truth, even
though the truth is so terrible that it will extinguish love. Razumov
ultimately does the right thing under the in¬‚uence of his love for Natalia
“ ˜˜You fascinated me “ you have freed me from the blindness of anger
and hate “ the truth shining in you drew the truth out of me™™ (p. ).
Heterosexual love is portrayed here as a kind of romantic antivenin that
deactivates the poisonous humors of self-serving and violent feelings,
and also of the betrayals associated with male“male desire.
Razumov™s revision of the marriage plot against Natalia re¬‚ects
Conrad™s own revision of the novel™s plot. By January of ±°, Conrad
had ¬nished the Russian section and had planned, but not yet written, a
second section in which Razumov marries Natalia and confesses to her
only after the birth of their child.²⁴ The completed manuscript, how-
ever, reveals a plot of marriage only in Razumov™s ex post facto written
confession to Natalia. I have found no external evidence explaining
what motivated Conrad to alter his plans for the novel™s plot. But the
e¬ects of this plot change, if not the authorial intentions behind it, are
clear. In the revised plot, Razumov saves Natalia, along with the love
that she generates and represents, by renouncing his marriage plot and
sacri¬cing his life. He chooses to remain a bachelor in order to save
Natalia from the trauma of marrying her brother™s betrayer, and in
order to preserve what little integrity he has left.
±µ Bachelors, manhood, and the novel

   µ ¬© ®  ¦ ¦© ¬ ©   © ® , ¬  ¦ ©®©  ,  ® ¤   
    ¬ ™  ˜ ˜· ¦ ¬ « ©®§  ®™ ™
Ironically, it is Razumov™s very isolation, his exclusion from the patro-
nymic and the property that would have been his birthright had his
parents™ union been legitimate, that inspires Victor Haldin to choose
him for a con¬dant: ˜˜you have no one belonging to you “ no ties, no one
to su¬er for it if this came out by some means. There have been enough
ruined Russian homes as it is™™ (p. ·), explains Haldin to the resentful
Razumov. And it is also this lack of what Razumov bitterly calls
Haldin™s ˜˜domestic tradition “ your ¬reside prejudices™™ (p. ±°°) that
inclines him to betray Haldin to the authorities:

Razumov thought: ˜˜I am being crushed “ and I can™t even run away.™™ Other
men had somewhere a corner of the earth “ some little house in the provinces
where they had a right to take their troubles . . . Razumov stamped his foot “
and under the soft carpet of snow felt the hard ground of Russia, inanimate,
cold, inert, like a sullen and tragic mother hiding her face under a winding sheet
“ his native soil! “ his very own “ without a ¬reside, without a heart! (p. ·)

Conrad elaborates on the connection for Razumov between the dead
mother and mother Russia in his Author™s Note: ˜˜Being nobody™s child
he feels rather more keenly than another would that he is a Russian “ or
he is nothing™™ (p. µ°). Razumov explains himself even more succinctly to
Natalia: ˜˜I am independent “ and therefore perdition is my lot™™ (p. ).
But in the world of this novel, the Russian illegitimate son is no more
utterly ˜˜independent™™ than the English bachelor. Bachelorhood, like
illegitimacy, does not signify absolute autonomy from marriage or
family, those privileged markers of the private, the domestic, and the
emotional. Rather, in this novel bachelorhood and illegitimacy alike
require delicate and sometimes torturous negotiations of the con¬‚icting
imperatives of proximity and distance, of intimacy and disengagement,
of a¬liation and autonomy. Thus in substantiating his ˜˜very real sym-
pathy™™ for the Haldin women, the bachelor narrator a¬rms that ˜˜the
anguish of irreparable loss is familiar to us all. There is no life so lonely
as to be safe against that experience™™ (p. ±°). This mournful re¬‚ection
sounds very much like that standard of the popular bachelor tradition,
the bachelor™s gesture toward a love lost long ago to death or marriage, a
gesture that sometimes explains and sometimes provides an alibi for his
non-marriage. The narrator™s gesture toward loss may also, or alternate-
ly, indicate the loss of his parents or family of origin either through death
±µ·
Bachelor narration in Conrad™s Under Western Eyes
or distance, or perhaps a more generalized sense of loss associated with
his expatriate status.
As the examples of Razumov and the narrator make clear, bachelors,
like illegitimate sons, are no more ˜˜safe™™ from loss than anyone else;
their plight signi¬es the inevitability rather than the avoidability of loss.
As I will argue at greater length in the ¬nal section of this chapter, a
primary sense of loss precedes the narrator™s ¬xation on Natalia, just as
it precedes both Razumov™s conception of the marriage plot against her
and, later, his renunciation of that plot. While Razumov™s confession
traumatizes Natalia, it is intended to avert the worse trauma of mar-
riage; the damage in¬‚icted by Razumov™s experience of loss, a primary
loss that Razumov™s betrayal of Haldin repeats rather than causes,
cannot be completely undone by revising the marriage plot.
Although the proceedings of this novel are represented from the
perspective of a bachelor, marriage per se is not the principal target of the
novel™s criticism. Indeed, this bachelor narrator idealizes marriage: in a
passage canceled in the typescript (that is, canceled much later than
Conrad™s revisions of Razumov™s marriage plot) in which he criticizes
the ˜˜modern™™ marriage plans of his niece;²µ in Sophia Antonovna™s
failed romance with the Americanized Yaklovitch; in Tekla™s unfailing
devotion to her dying Andrei. In these examples, heterosexual romance,
love, and marriage are potentially ideal sources of meaning and mutual-
ity, but the world of politics fatally adulterates them. The bourgeois
bachelor narrator views the sphere of the private/personal as potentially
redemptive, but as not fully enough separated from the public/political
realm. Marriage is thus corrupted, in his eyes, by the exploitation and
violence that he associates with the public and the masculine. The
novel™s chief representative of these twin evils is Peter Ivanovitch. Thus,
the novel™s ˜˜epilogue,™™ in which Sophia Antonovna announces and
defends Peter Ivanovitch™s marriage to a peasant girl, reads as a grim
travesty of the closure device closely associated with the marriage
tradition of the novel.²⁶ The only character rewarded with wedded bliss
at the end of this novel is one of its worst villains.
For the narrator, Peter Ivanovitch™s villainy resides in his exploitation
of women under the cover of revolutionary feminism. His ˜˜symbolic™™
autobiography and his other books are ˜˜written with the declared
purpose of elevating humanity™™ and they set forth ˜˜the cult of the
woman,™™ but their popular and ¬nancial success only promotes the
cause of the ˜˜burly celebrity™™ (pp. ±µ“·) himself. Just as he attends the
horri¬c Madame de S- in pursuit of her fortune, he is motivated to
±µ Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
marry the peasant girl by his hypocritical opportunism. Peter
Ivanovitch™s identity as the ˜˜great feminist™™ (pp. ±, ±) is ¬nally a
front for his true identity as the ˜˜great man.™™ Tekla, the abused dame de
compagnie, clari¬es the stakes of ˜˜great man™™-hood when she warns
Razumov against bringing Natalia to Peter Ivanovitch: ˜˜He is a great
man. Great men are horrible™™ (p. ).²· She makes things even more
explicit in her parting words to Razumov: ˜˜Don™t you understand that
Peter Ivanovitch must direct, inspire, in¬‚uence? It is the breath of his
life. There can never be too many disciples. He can™t bear thinking of
anyone escaping him. And a woman, too! There is nothing to be done
without women, he says. He has written it™™ (p. ). For the ˜˜great
feminist,™™ marriage is just another way of enhancing his own power in
the world.
In his representation of the ˜˜great feminist,™™ the narrator establishes
a rivalry between himself and Peter Ivanovitch, an explicit rivalry over
Natalia Haldin and an implicit competition over who is the better man
. . . and the real male feminist. A confrontation in a cafe between Peter
Ivanovitch and the narrator “ in an episode excised from the typescript,
probably to refocus attention on the Natalia/Razumov plot “ dramatiz-
es their rivalry and encapsulates their respective positions on the
Woman Question:
[Peter Ivanovitch:] ˜˜I know your inherited prejudices. Charity, good works,
gentleness, compassion and all that. Now, I think that women are quite ¬t to
take the highest line of action. You hereditarily don™t think so. For the self-
e¬acement under whatever disguise it has been forced upon them is not
women™s part. Their very nature revolts against it. It is they who are created for
freedom “ not the men.™™

[Narrator:] ˜˜Which in other words amounts to saying that you want to subject
to your in¬‚uence a young girl chance has thrown in your way. What do you
want her for? For an active revolutionist? Or is it simply that you must get hold
of her to make her your disciple.™™²⁸

Each man is essentially right about the other; Peter Ivanovitch™s defence
of women™s rights is self-serving and the narrator does want to shelter
Natalia from the world of politics and ˜˜action,™™ a public sphere that
extends beyond the acceptably limited interventions of ˜˜charity™™ and
˜˜good works.™™ While this showdown exposes the di¬erences between
their two versions of male feminism, between paternalistic protective-
ness and opportunistic exploitiveness, it also suggests the similarities
between the narrator and Peter Ivanovitch. That is, the rivalry between
±µ
Bachelor narration in Conrad™s Under Western Eyes
two men over a woman ¬ts a more conventional model of gender

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