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DOI 10.12887/35-2022-2-138-14

Katarzyna SOKOŁOWSKA, Subject and Seeing in “The End of the Tether” by Joseph Conrad

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Joseph Conrad’s novella “The End of the Tether,” written in his mature phase, concludes the trilogy featuring such iconic texts as “Youth” and “Heart of Darkness.” The central theme of the story is the tragedy of Captain Whalley, an outstanding sailor who trusts that nothing would shatter his life. However, when he faces bankruptcy he has to swallow his pride and secures a job as the captain of a steamer. Soon, affected by eyesight deterioration and eventually blindness, Whalley compromises his integrity and conceals his vision loss, thus putting the ship in danger. Whalley’s attitude is representative of the modern subject, the cogito, who recognizes himself as a source of perceptual and cognitive certainty, and seeks to confirm the position of power and control both over himself and over external reality. Levin relates this model of subjectivity to the style of seeing that confronts the perceiving “I” with the object in front of it and turns Being into representation. Discarding the ocularcentric tradition with its affirmation of sight as an instrument of reaching the truth, Levin maintains that sight isolates an object in the flux of sensations, immobilizes it in order to make it open to scrutiny and, thus, expresses the will to power that correlates with the desire for certainty. The motif of Whalley’s declining eyesight undermines his status of the subject, the Cartesian cogito, who establishes himself as the centre and, eager to assert his will, aspires to creating coherent representations. The images of darkness, glaring light and a multitude of tangled or disintegrating shapes subvert representation and foreshadowing the protagonist’s blindness, invoke questions on the relationship between the perceiving subject and reality which are typical of Conrad’s fiction and modernist literature. 

Keywords: Joseph Conrad, sight, blindness, the subject, representation

Contact: Katedra Anglistyki i Amerykanistyki, Instytut Językoznawstwa i Literaturoznawstwa, Wydział Filologiczny, Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej, Pl. M. Curie- Skłodowskiej 4A, 20-031 Lublin, Poland
E-mail: katarzyna.sokolowska@mail.umcs.pl

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» Sokolowska.pdf

  1. ISSN 0860-8024
  2. e-ISSN 2720-5355
  3. The Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education Value: 100.00
  4. Quarterly “Ethos” is indexed by the following databases: EBSCO, CEEOL, Index Copernicus (ICV 2017: 55.26), Philosopher’s Index, ERIH Plus.
  5. DOI Prefix 10.12887