The Secret Sharer


The Secret Sharer is a short story by John Conrad about a young captain who is insecure and unconfident in his job as the captain of a ship. However, the protagonist meets Leggart, a castaway, whose encounter molds him into the kind of leader and character he has always been held from by his fears. The closing remark, “a free man, a proud swimmer striking out for a new destiny,” is very significant to the story and they offer a deeper understanding of the central theme of the novel ( Conrad ,21). The statement was made by the captain about Leggatt and self. The words mean that Leggatt was no longer a captive; he was now free and has set out to discover his destiny and live it. Likewise, the statement refers to the state of the captain. He was a captive too, trapped in his self-doubts and isolation and the constant stress of hiding the killer, Leggatt. The closing remarks are a metaphorical summary showing how the captain’s relationship with Leggatt has enabled him to be free, confident and embracing his destiny as a more commanding and confident person.

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The closing remark is so significant to the story for they indicate the final liberation of the captain from his naivety, into the commander he has always wished to be. The captain was young and naïve in his assignment. He had low esteem and was not assertive enough to even issue out orders to the crewmen under his command. “.. I was somewhat of a stranger to myself. The youngest man on board (barring the second mate), and untried as yet by a position of the fullest responsibility, I was willing to take the adequacy of the others for granted.” (Conrad, 1) The remark symbolizes how far the captain has come since meeting Leggatt. The captain always wanted to be a commanding and effective leader while on board. However, his young age and inexperience made it difficult for him to strike a rapport with the crew and fulfill his duties as a commander of the vessel. The captain was fearful and wondered whether he will be able to meet the crews expectations and get their respect. He states “That ideal conception of one’s own personality every man sets up for himself.”(Conrad, 2). However, upon meeting Leggatt, the captain does the unthinkable by hiding a fugitive in his ship. Ideally, the captain would have acted typically and ensured that Leggatt faced the law as usual. Through this experience of having to deal with the weighty issue of hiding a fugitive, the captain can slowly overcome his doubts. The ordeal molds him to be a risk-taker and a commander. For instance, when he is questioned by the second mate about opening the quarter-deck ports, he responds, “The only reason you need concern yourself about is because I tell you to do so.” Earlier on, the captain could not even issue orders, but here he was barking out instructions to the crew members. Besides, guiding the ship in very dangerous territories show that the captain is unmasked and is now an authoritative and brave leader.

This remark enhances the main themes of the novel. Notably, they also show the new path individuals chart when they overcome their fears. In the story, Leggatt is depicted as the doppelgänger to the narrator, who helps him to unmask and identify his potential as a seafarer. Through the encounter with Leggatt, the captain sets out to do many things he would not have done prior. For instance, he orchestrates the escape of Leggatt precariously and boldly, unlike his old ‘captive’ self. By risking the lives and wrath of his crew, he sacrifices his respect to enable the fugitive to escape. The captain orders the sailing of the ship to unsafe territories to allow Leggatt to escape. The captain is now more assertive, and for instance, he gives an order such as “Don’t check her away.”

The appearance of Leggatt in the story is the onset of the captain’s long liberation from his fears. Since he has to protect his new friend, he has to remain assertive and take risks. The ordeal enables him to become a better leader, unlike the skipper of Leggatt’s vessel. The skipper is a coward and a lousy leader since he was unable to take charge and instead wanted to capture Leggatt, who had helped him. Leggatt assisted the captain in becoming a brave captain, unlike the skipper of the Sephora. The remark summarizes how people may become free when they fight through their fears. Therefore, by rescuing and hiding Leggatt, the captain risks his relationship and respect from the crew members. This way, he can discover himself, face his fears, and become a more vocal and authoritative leader. In conclusion, Conrad shows us that, when persons can face their fears and challenge themselves to be bold, they gradually become more confident, free, and master their destiny.

All in all, the closing remark explains the refuge or saving of Leggatt and the captain from the chains of inadequacy and insecurity, which held them back. It illustrates how Leggatt was now free and had escaped possible trial and captivity. However, in a deeper sense, the remarks explain how the captain was now free from his own old self-doubting, non-confident person to a more daring and free man. The encounter with Leggatt has enabled the captain to fight his fears as he attempts to protect his secret sharer from being detected by the crew. The captain is now free and no longer timid as he sets out on his future as the commander of the vessel to know his destiny.



Conrad, Joseph, and Frank Taylor. The secret sharer. Royal Blind Society of New South Wales., 2000.

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