- “My eye followed the light cloud of her smoke, now here, now there, above the plain, according to the devious curves of the stream, but always fainter and fainter away, til I lost it at last behind the miter shaped hill of the great pagoda. And then I was left alone with my ship, anchored at the Gulf of Siam.”
The young Captain watches as the tug boat, which has until then guided him, leaves him on his first command. He is nervous and feels like a stranger and must now prove to himself and his unknown crew that he can take command.
- “That ideal conception of one’s own personality every man sets up for himself.”
The fearful captain wonders whether he will ever be able to live up not only to his crew’s expectations but the enormously high expectations he has set for himself.
- “The shadowy dark head, like mine, seemed to nod imperceptibly above the ghostly gray of my sleeping suit. It was in the night as through I had been faced with my own reflection in the depths of a somber and immense mirror.”
Facing Leggatt, the Captain realizes just how much they look alike, and feels like he is looking in a mirror. This suggests that Leggatt is indeed the Captain’s double.
- “As we stood leaning over my bed-place, leaning side by side, whispering side by side, with our dark heads together and our backs to the door, anybody bold enough to open it stealthily would have been treated to the uncanny sight of a double captain busy talking in whispers to his other self.”
One of the many references in which Conrad writes of Leggatt as the Captain’s double or his other self.
- “It wasn’t a heavy sea; it was a sea gone mad! I suppose the end of the world will be something like it.” P. 102
Leggatt describes the sea to the Captain explaining how conditions were on the stormy night the crewman died and when he subsequently took control of the crew in an attempt to save the ship. Conrad himself spent years at sea and realistically conveys its many moods.
- “His people had some interest with my owners. I was in a way forced to take him on. He looked very smart, very gentlemanly and all that. But do you know—I never liked him.”
Conrad uses few words yet provides much information. Here Captain Archbold of the Sephora tells the Captain that he himself never hired Leggatt who gained his position as an officer on the Sephora through personal contacts. Also, there is a class discrepancy here in that Archbold feels outclassed by Leggatt who proves to be braver and far more competent as a leader.
- “The Sunday quietness of the ship was against us; the stillness of air and water around her was against us; the elements, the men were against us—everything was against us in our secret partnership.”
The Captain and Leggatt whisper to each other in the stateroom after the Captain of the Sephora departs. This illustrates how completely connected the men feel together yet how separate, how like strangers, they feel from other men.
- “This is not the place to enlarge upon the sensations of a man who feels for the first time the sensations of a ship moving under his feet to his whole independent word…I was not wholly alone with my command; for there was a stranger in my cabin. Or rather, I was not completely and wholly with her. Part of me was absent.”
This is the Captain’s first command. Although he should have felt great joy in feeling his ship move after he gives the command, the feeling is watered down because of Leggatt lurking beneath in his stateroom. He doesn’t feel the intensity he should feel because the part of him that is absent is hiding in his stateroom.
- “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 affection, the perfect union of a seaman and his first command.”
This statement sharply contrasts with the Captain who feels strange, insecure and intimidated about his first command at sea. Here the Captain is fully in control and has just won the admiration of his crew.
- “Yes, I was in time to catch an evanescent glimpse of my white hat left behind to mark the spot where the secret sharer of my cabin and of my thoughts, as though he were my second self, had lowered himself into the water, to take his punishment: a free man, a proud swimmer striking out for a new destiny.”
The final sentence in “The Secret Sharer” demonstrates Conrad’s power of language in its fluidity that suggests the ship’s smooth motion at the hands of a now competent captain able to release his double self.
Secret Sharer: Top Ten Quotes