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Professionalism in Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer

The Importance of Professionalism in Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer

A reader would be hard pressed not to see Conrad’s “tales of the sea” as representations of imperialism. The adventurous seafaring life that Conrad is most famous for depicting is relied upon the strong European merchant navy, which was the vehicle of the great colonial empires of the late nineteenth century. And, as Conrad declares, the European colonial venture is driven not by humanistic impulses but by the profit-seeking search for exotic products, in Lord Jim for pepper or in Heart of Darkness for ivory. While the earlier criticism of Conrad focused more on literary issues, such as Conrad’s impressionism or the journeys of his flawed heroes, contemporary criticism largely devolves upon this historical context, debating whether Conrad is critical or supportive of imperialism, and whether he resists or reproduces the racial biases implicit in it.

However, while the general historical context of imperialism is essential to understanding Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer, there is a more specific context that decisively informs them and that has rarely been commented upon: professionalism. The ideology of modern professionalism helps to explain the motivations, actions, comportment, judgments, and loyalties of Conrad’s primary characters. The characters that Conrad most privileges–Marlow and those with whom Marlow identifies, such as the unnamed auditors on the deck of the Nellie and some of the agents that he meets along his journey in Heart of Darkness, and the narrator’s double in The Secret Sharer–are crucially figured as professionals. They mutually recognize each other in their adherence to a professional code of c…

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…Capital. Ed. Pat Walker. Boston: South End P, 1979. 5-45.

Glenn, Ian. “Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.” Literature and History 13 (1987): 238-56.

Johnson, Terence. “The Professions in Class Structure.” Scase 93-110.

Larson, Magali Sarfatti. The Rise of Professionalism: A Sociological Analysis. Berkeley: U of California P, 1977.

Macdonald, Keith M. The Sociology of the Professions. London: Sage, 1995.

Parry, Noel and José. “Social Closure and Collective Social Mobility.” Scase 111-21.

Scase, Richard, ed. Industrial Society: Class, Cleavage and Control. New York: St. Martin’s, 1977.

Watt, Ian. Conrad in the Nineteenth Century. Berkeley: U of California P, 1979.

Williams, Jeffrey. “Narrative Calling (Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim).” Theory and the Novel: Narrative Reflexivity in the British Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. 146-83.

The Hero of Aeneid and the Non-Hero of Dante’s Inferno

The Hero of Aeneid and the Non-Hero of Dante’s Inferno

Although Dante bases much of Inferno’s structure on the Aeneid, the central characters, the central voices in each, are used very differently. Dr. Andrew Bernstien, in his essay The Philosophical Foundations of Heroism, defines a hero as

… an individual of elevated moral stature and superior ability who pursues his goals indefatigably in the face of powerful antagonist(s). Because of his unbreached devotion to the good, no matter the opposition, a hero attains spiritual grandeur, even if he fails to achieve practical victory.

And that “… the four components of heroism: moral greatness, ability or prowess, action in the face of opposition, and triumph in at least a spiritual, if not a physical, form.” The intrinsic conflict needed to create a hero also enhances the elements of rhetoric. Also, a hero needs moral stature, which is a strong appeal to pathos. The form of the tale itself, with the establishment of an antagonist the conflict itself, offers an orderly appeal to logos for the greater argument to take a hold of. Nevertheless, the ethical appeal is the most forceful element; the hero must hold fast to his beliefs and demonstrate courage and sacrifice. These actions are the basis for ethics and lend credence to the cause he is championing. Aeneas fulfils the role of hero, developing into an excellent rhetorical tool; however, Dante fails in this endeavor. While not being a hero does not forbid his use as a good rhetorical tool, Dante amplifies the comparative shortcomings by relying on his single voice and period specific details.

Virgil uses forceful diction that focuses on the actions of the Aeneas, and continuously develo…

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…ustify the existence of Rome and his audience; he is brave, valiant, loyal, and he defends these ideals against any odds. Dante creates himself, and then uses himself to justify nothing; he is timid, fearful, a hypocrite, and he never has to defend anything. The failure of Dante to create a hero, even though he relies on him as the mouth through which the tale is told, deflates the overall argument. Virgil, on the other hand, makes use of the main character, develops a hero, and enhances every element of his argument.

Works Cited

Alighiere, Dante. Inferno. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighiere: A Verse Translation. Trans. Allen Mandelbaum. New York: Bantam, 1982.

Dr. Bernstien, Andrew. “The Philosophical Foundations of Heroism.” 2000.

Virgil. Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Ventage, 1985.

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