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CONRAD'S VICTORY Notes including • • • • •
A Brief Synopsis Critical Commentaries Character Analyses Critical Essays Essay Topics and Review Questions
by J. M. Lybyer Washington University
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA 68501 1-800-228-4078 www.CLIFFS.com ISBN 0-8220-7289-0 © Copyright 1963 by Cliffs Notes, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
A BRIEF SYNOPSIS Axel Heyst, born of titled Swedish parents and raised in England, accepts his philosopher father's concept that life is essentially evil and that participation in it can only increase the evil and involve a man in trouble. The elder Heyst has taught his son that one's only condescension to life should be to watch it from a detached distance, never to partake in its action. Such a philosophy ingrained in Heyst during his impressionable youth leads him to withdraw from life. His inheritance is small, but the income from it will support him in the Malay archipelago, where he has chosen to live the life of a wandering gentleman. Fifteen years pass and nothing occurs to change Heyst's philosophy. He is now in his middle thirties and confirmed in his pattern of life. Then an unexpected happening throws latent forces in his character into conflict. He finds a man, Captain Morrison, in trouble with Portuguese authorities in Timor over a small fine. For lack of a trifling sum of money, Morrison is about to lose his ship. Compassion for this fellow man in distress leads Heyst to offer his help. Morrison accepts but is so deeply grateful that he insists on Heyst joining his now-ransomed vessel. Heyst, embarrassed and ashamed of his involvement, goes along with Morrison. When Morrison decides to organize the Tropical Belt Coal Company, he makes Heyst his manager for the tropics, with headquarters on the island of Samburan, about three hundred miles from Sourabaya. On a fundraising trip to England, Morrison catches a chill and dies. The Tropical Belt Coal Company folds, and Heyst, after dismissing company employees, continues to live on Samburan with no companion but a Chinese servant, Wang. Heyst has no idea of the scandal being raised about him in Sourabaya, where Schomberg, the hotelkeeper, tells all who will listen that Heyst has cheated Morrison out of enormous sums of money and then sent him home to England to die. Schomberg says Morrison's death is murder and Heyst is the murderer. Another master of a sea-going vessel, Captain Davidson, passes Heyst's isolated island at regular intervals, and being a humane person, he interests himself in Heyst; when passing Samburan, he swings in near enough to be hailed from the shore if Heyst should want anything. Heyst, after eighteen months of solitary existence on Samburan following the collapse of the Tropical Belt Coal Company, hails Davidson and travels with him to Sourabaya on business. Knowing nothing of Schomberg's hatred of him or his malicious gossip, Heyst takes up quarters in Schomberg's hotel. A troupe of traveling musicians, Zangiacomo's Ladies' Orchestra, is playing every evening for guests at the hotel. Heyst is annoyed by the wretched music, but out of boredom and mild curiosity, he ventures, one evening, into the room where the orchestra is performing. There he sees a young English girl, Lena, being abused by the dragon-faced wife of the orchestra leader. Immediately compassion rises in Heyst-the same emotion of pity and kindness that involved him with Morrison. He befriends the girl, and when he discovers that the obnoxious hotelkeeper, Schomberg, is pressing his attentions on Lena, he abducts her and carries her to his lonely island of Samburan. Schomberg has hated and slandered Heyst for years; now he is filled with mad fury against the man. Although he and Zangiacomo are deadly enemies, he joins the orchestra leader in trying to hunt down the couple. Their search of the harbor is fruitless, and Schomberg returns to his hotel to plot revenge.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com Schomberg has a colorless wife who appears to know nothing, be nothing, and care nothing for what transpires around her, but it is she who has helped the girl, Lena, to elope with Heyst. She is more perceptive than she looks. Other visitors arrive in Sourabaya, a trio of desperadoes, who make their headquarters at Schomberg's hotel and quickly blackmail him into allowing illegal card games and other gambling in which they profit while amusing themselves. Mr. Jones, leader of the three, seems to be a gentleman of good birth yet so demonic in all his aspects that he appears more of a malevolent specter than a human being. His "secretary," Ricardo, a catlike villain with murder continually on his mind, complements Mr. Jones' talents. Their servant, a man called Pedro, strikes terror into Schomberg. The hotelkeeper sees himself being ruined and destroyed by these three. His own guilty conscience reacts on him and fills him with terrible fear. At last, in a confidential talk with Ricardo, he mentions Heyst and the pile of money Schomberg is sure Heyst has concealed in Samburan. Ricardo picks up this information and relays it to Mr. Jones, and with Schomberg's eager assistance the three set off for Samburan in an open boat. Meanwhile, Heyst and Lena have enjoyed three months of idyllic happiness on Samburan. Yet both of them have reservations. Heyst realizes that he has again involved himself in life and regrets it. He feels that by opening his heart to Lena, he has opened the door to trouble and has been untrue to himself. Although Lena has come to love Heyst with both gratitude and devotion, she sees that, in spite of himself, he regards her with mixed feelings. Her concern crystalizes into a desire to prove her love for him in some way which will forever allay his doubts and cause him to accept her fully. She has not long to wait; opportunity is on the way. The three bandits arrive on Samburan more dead than alive. Their trip in the open boat has almost killed them, but under Heyst's surprised ministrations, they quickly recover and a deadly battle of wits ensues. Heyst soon realizes that these visitors are desperadoes of the worst sort. He knows that he and Lena are in terrible danger. Wang, the Chinese servant, compounds the difficulty of their situation by stealing Heyst's only weapon--a revolver. Ricardo has concealed from his master, Mr. Jones, the fact of Lena's presence on Samburan. Mr. Jones has such an aversion to women that it borders on insanity. He abhors them. Ricardo does not share his feelings. He spies on Lena in her bedroom and makes a vicious sexual attack on her. Lena, with unexpected strength, repels his advances and wins his respect and admiration as well as his fierce affection. Knowing that Heyst is in mortal danger, Lena has only one intention--she must disarm Ricardo and save Heyst. In order to accomplish her purpose, she deceives Ricardo into thinking that she is favorable to his plan for stealing Heyst's "treasure" and destroying both of the gentlemen. Lena knows that Heyst has no hidden cache of gold, but she plans to use Ricardo's infatuation and his avarice to disarm and destroy him. On the last evening, Heyst sees that they are trapped. He is sure that he cannot escape but tries to save Lena by insisting that she put on a black dress and slip into the forest to hide. He hopes she will escape detection until morning, when she can go to Wang and the natives on the other side of the island for protection. Heyst leaves for a talk with Mr. Jones sure that whatever happens to him, Lena will be safe. Lena has no intention of obeying Heyst. She knows that Ricardo carries a dagger strapped to his leg and that he intends to murder both Heyst and Mr. Jones this very night. She sits in the candle-lighted house waiting for Ricardo. When he comes, she charms him with her show of sweet compliance with all his wishes. He allows her to handle his dagger, which she conceals in the folds of her dress. She pushes out her foot for him to caress. He is in the act of kissing her white ankle when Heyst and Jones appear in the
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com door. Heyst has just revealed to Jones that he has a girl here on Samburan. Jones is furious with Ricardo for concealing this information from him. He knows what a fool Ricardo is about women. Jones is in a murderous rage. Mr. Jones shoots over Heyst's shoulder into the room. The bullet glances off Ricardo's head and pierces Lena's breast. Heyst is so taken back by what he thinks is Lena's betrayal of their love that he is confused and doesn't realize what has happened. Jones slinks away. Ricardo leaps up and rushes out into the night. The two are left alone. Lena is ecstatic. She has disarmed the enemy and saved Heyst; but Heyst turns from her remarking that it is all very "amusing." He is wounded by what he thinks is her falseness, yet his old habit of detachment prevents any angry denunciation. Now she droops before him; there is a look in her eyes which seems to have awful portent. He catches her up and lays her on the bed, puzzling over what can possibly be wrong with her. At this moment, Captain Davidson, whose suspicions have been aroused by the discovery of Pedro's body in an open boat drifting off the island, comes in with the dagger, Ricardo's dagger, which he has picked up from the floor. Heyst, horrified at the idea of a secret dagger-thrust, tears Lena's clothes open and reveals the tiny black wound of the revolver bullet. Lena is dying and begs for some assurance from Heyst that she is at last permitted to enter the intimate inner circle of his love. He is unable to give the cry of love she wants to hear, and which he wants to give. His habit of isolation and detachment is still too strong. He does lift her up into his arms, and she mistakes this for the surrender she has given her life to win. She dies in an illusion of glorious triumph--a victory which transcends all suffering and all joy. Meanwhile, Mr. Jones seeks out Ricardo and shoots him dead. Then he stumbles to the jetty where Wang has already shot Pedro and shoved off the boat. Either by accident or intention, Jones falls into the water and drowns. Heyst makes his last sad pronouncement to Davidson: "Ah, Davidson, woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love and to put its trust in life!" Davidson tells the "Excellency," who has called him in to account for the Samburan tragedy, that Heyst then asked to be left alone with his dead. Later, Davidson discovers that the bungalow is on fire. Unable to do anything to save the property, he sees every building consumed. Later, with Wang, he sifts the ashes and knows that Heyst has died with his beloved Lena. "There was nothing I could do," Davidson tells the "Excellency."
CRITICAL COMMENTARIES PART ONE CHAPTER ONE Summary Upon liquidation of the Tropical Belt Coal Company, Axel Heyst, its Swedish manager, does not leave the tropics. Isolated on his own little island of Samburan, he still attracts the attention of his fellow white men in that region. He is all alone except for the shadows of passing clouds and an active volcano. Men in the offices where Heyst conducts his business cannot make him out. He does not appear to be interested in making money. In his playful, courteous way, he speaks of "the great stride forward for these parts." Heyst is not a traveler. Travelers move on to other parts of the world. Heyst does not move on. He stays. Yet he moves about in a circle with a radius of eight hundred miles drawn round a point in North Borneo. The circle touches both Manila and Saigon. He has been seen in both places. Within this area, he is known as "Enchanted Heyst."
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com He is called "Enchanted Heyst" because he once remarked that he was enchanted with these islands. He has other names, too. In his early days, he once stated that "There is nothing worth knowing but facts, hard facts." So he is also called "Hard Facts." His sayings stick to him, and people remember them. He moons around the Java Sea in trading schooners and then disappears in the direction of New Guinea. After men have almost forgotten him, he returns in a native proa full of Goram vagabonds. He is burnt black by the sun and very lean. His hair has thinned, and he carries a portfolio of sketches under his arm. He shows the sketches but makes no comments about his sojourn in the New Guinea area. Years pass; the last vestiges of youth leave his face, and all the hair is gone from the top of his head. His red-gold mustache has grown to noble proportions, and now another man gives him an epithet, "Utopist." At the time events chronicled here take place, Heyst has reached his full physical development. Of broad and martial presence, he resembles portraits of Charles XII. Yet no one thinks of Heyst as a fighting man. Commentary Conrad introduces his hero character in a situation of failure. The T.B.C. Company is defunct, and Heyst lives on Samburan alone. His companions are shadows and a volcano--both symbolic of his fate. Note Heyst's reference to the "great stride forward." He will express an opinion about it later. Heyst's character begins to emerge even in this first chapter. The names given him, "Enchanted Heyst," "Hard Facts," and "Utopist," all show that his sayings impress men and they remember. His martial appearance wins him notice, too, but his outstanding characteristic is a "finished courtesy of attitude, movement" and his delicately playful manner of speaking. Most people like him. The reference to his contact with New Guinea natives and his remark that it "was amusing" are significant. The fact that he is artistic enough to make sketches of what he saw in New Guinea must be kept in mind. CHAPTER TWO Summary One day, Heyst turns up in Timor and meets, on the streets of Delli, a Dorsetshire Englishman, Captain Morrison of the trading brig Capricorn. Morrison is in grave trouble. The Portuguese port authorities have inflicted a fine on him and arrested his brig. If he fails to raise the money in one week's time, they will sell the Capricorn at auction, ruining Morrison. The week is almost up. With the utmost courtesy, "as one prince to another," Heyst begs Morrison to allow him to pay the fine. Morrison's intense gratitude and relief embarrass Heyst. Later, onboard the brig, Morrison figures that he can never repay Heyst and declares that he has robbed his benefactor. Heyst is deeply touched. At last Morrison hits on the plan of taking Heyst with him as a partner on the Capricorn until the debt is paid. Both men agree to keep the matter secret. Morrison is embarrassed and doesn't want to be joked about his trouble with the Portuguese authorities. Heyst's "natural delicacy" makes him eager to maintain silence. Morrison's intense gratitude, however, leads to some small remark which sets the island gossips whispering. An opinion wins wide circulation that Heyst has leached onto the generous Morrison and is sucking him dry. The origin of these vicious suggestions is Schomberg, the hotelkeeper in Sourabaya, a big, bearded German with a suspicious mind and a slanderous tongue. He styles himself a lieutenant of the Reserve.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com On seeing Heyst and Morrison pass his hotel one day, he remarks to his guests, "The Spider and the fly have just gone by, gentlemen." Then he cautions them, in an important and confidential tone, never to get mixed up with "that Swede." Commentary Morrison is "one of us." Heyst is not. Throughout this chapter, Conrad emphasizes Heyst's consummate courtesy: • • • • •
". . . a prince addressing another prince." "A slight motion of surprise which would not have been misplaced in a drawing-room . . ." ". . . that consummate good-society manner of his . . . with a delicate intonation . . ." "His politely modulated voice . . ." "He continued with austere politeness . . ."
Conrad presents Heyst as a man who masked his detachment from life with princely courtesy and playful politeness. Yet he is a "hollow" man, incapable of real cordiality. In this chapter, Conrad sets the pattern of behavior which will bring calamity upon Heyst. He comes out of his isolation and is moved by pity to perform a kind act for a fellow human being, but he is able to give only politeness--never real warmth. CHAPTER THREE Summary Many persons believe Schomberg's gossip. Others regard it as funny to call Heyst "The Spider" behind his back. Heyst knows nothing of any of his nicknames. Soon everyone has more important matters to discuss. Morrison makes Heyst manager on the spot of the newly organized Tropical Belt Coal Company with offices in London and Amsterdam. Heyst's "great stride forward" has begun. Morrison takes leave of his brig and goes home to England to push the coal company, but he contracts a fatal illness. Heyst is shocked at his partner's death and disappears for a time. When he reappears, he shows a guarded attitude, almost as though he expects to be reproached for Morrison's death although it could not possibly be his fault. The hotelkeeper, Schomberg, however, months after the disaster, makes up a piece of sinister gossip. He declares that Heyst squeezed Morrison like a lemon and then sent him home to die. Meanwhile, Heyst's appointment as manager of the T.B.C. Company is confirmed and he chooses Samburan, or Round Island, for the central station. Engineers come out, coolies are imported, bungalows are erected on Samburan, and some coal is mined. There is talk of large contracts and a large fleet of steamers. Never has Heyst been so much talked about. People remember that he is of noble birth---a Swedish baron. And now they begin to regard Heyst as "the enemy" because everyone fears the new coal company and what it may do to their own trade. Schomberg alone hoots at the idea and prophesies doom for the. T.B.C. Company and its manager. He is right. The company folds and Heyst disappears. Almost everyone forgets the Swede, but not Schomberg. Hatred seems stronger than casual friendship, and Schomberg hates Heyst with all the strength of a blind fool.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com Then Schomberg gets news of Heyst. He is still on Samburan. He has dismissed all company employees and lives there alone. Captain Davidson, coming by from the west, has seen Heyst on the wharf at Samburan, has put off in a small boat, and has talked with him. Schomberg gloats over his notion that Heyst can't possibly have anything decent to eat on the deserted island of Samburan. Commentary This chapter develops Schomberg's character more fully, showing such motivation as exists for his enduring hatred of Heyst. Conrad attributes Schomberg's stupidity, his cowardice, his unreasoning hatred to the fact of his being German: "Observe the Teutonic sense of proportion and nice forgiving temper." Conrad wrote Victory between October 1912 and May 1914. It was published during the first months of World War I. Conrad never had any use for the Germans. His dislike stemmed from his own Polish ancestry but was fortified and augmented by sympathy with his adopted country--England. These prejudices appear in other places throughout the book. CHAPTER FOUR Summary Certain persons go to Captain Davidson of the Sissie to learn more of his contact with Heyst. He tells them that Heyst looks exactly as always, with a book in his hand, very neat. Heyst has explained to Davidson that he always had a taste for solitude. Davidson, himself a fellow of fine feeling, is one whom Heyst's finished courtesy of manner most strongly disconcerts, yet his fineness is real enough so that he makes a practice of taking the passage along the north shore of Samburan, within a mile of the wharf. Few people are interested enough to ask about the lonely white man on Samburan, but Davidson's Chinese owner-employer always asks and so does Schomberg. And Schomberg regales his patrons with stories of Heyst's villainy, declaring that the Swede has turned hermit from shame. So Heyst acquires another nickname, "The Hermit." Now Heyst comes out of retirement. Davidson gives him a lift on the Sissie; and Davidson finds out some of Heyst's background. He is the son of a philosopher who wrote books. He has been on his own, knocking about the world since his father's death. Davidson pronounces Heyst a "genuine gentleman." After eighteen months of absence, Heyst lands in Sourabaya to conduct some legal business with the House of Tesman, but he stays at Schomberg's hotel. Davidson confides to the person narrating the story that he intends to pick Heyst up on his return trip and will take him back to Samburan in twenty days' time. Commentary Note that Davidson is a little in awe of Heyst. The Swedish baron's polished politeness disconcerts him. The reader will remember this feeling of Davidson's at the climax of the story. In this chapter, we get the first glimpse of Heyst's background, of his aristocratic upbringing and education, his philosopher-author father and his devotion to books. CHAPTER FIVE Summary Davidson returns to Sourabaya two days late and goes to Schomberg's hotel to find Heyst. Schomberg tells him in sulky tones that Heyst is not there. Davidson, puzzled by Schomberg's manner, decides to wait around for a while. He falls into conversation with Mrs. Schomberg, a lifeless, wooden woman with
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com a "blue" tooth. They talk about Zangiacomo's Ladies' Orchestra, which has just closed a series of concerts at the hotel, and Mrs. Zangiacomo tells Davidson that one of the girl musicians has run away with his friend, Heyst. Davidson is shocked. He knows that Heyst is a gentleman. He also knows that Heyst has never shown any interest in women. He cannot figure out why Heyst would do such a thing. Mrs. Schomberg confides that she herself assisted the girl to escape and wrapped the girl's belongings in her own shawl and threw the bundle out the window for her to pick up. A bystander puts in his word and tells of the terrible fight Schomberg had with Zangiacomo and how the two joined in search of the harbor. They seemed ready, the man says, to fall on Heyst and murder him on the wharf, but they found no trace of the runaways. Meanwhile, Heyst and the girl were miles away on one of the Tesman steamers which had left Sourabaya in the night. The Javanese boatman who rowed the couple out to the steamer adds this bit of news. After hearing this astonishing report, Davidson concludes that this escapade, in its essence, must be the rescue of a human being in distress. Yet he thinks that Heyst will regret what he has done, and "Heyst being a gentleman only makes it worse." Commentary In this chapter, Conrad develops the growing fury Schomberg directs toward Heyst. What had been a mischievous dislike and senseless hatred now has a definite object to feed upon. Heyst has stolen the girl. Zangiacomo is revealed as a German, too. He has changed his name for business purposes. Both these scoundrels are German, and Conrad makes much of their nationality. Davidson's mental picture of Heyst's home on Samburan gives a daylight version of the moonlighted scene in Chapter One. By sunlight, the desolation is even more appalling. CHAPTER SIX Summary Three months pass and Captain Davidson reports again. In answer to Heyst's signals from Samburan wharf, he puts in to speak with him and finds him unchanged. Nothing betrays the presence of the girl. Heyst's little speech to Davidson shows that he is still strong in his belief that action, participation in any activity of humankind, is evil and will do harm: I suppose I have done a certain amount of harm, since I allowed myself to be tempted into action. It seemed innocent enough, but all action is bound to be harmful. It is devilish. That is why this world is evil. . . . But I have done with it. I shall never lift a little finger again. Davidson thinks at first that Heyst must be mad. Then he reflects that the girl's presence here on the island probably accounts for Heyst's unusual talk. Heyst now tells Davidson that he has called him in order to return Mrs. Schomberg's shawl. Davidson points out that the shawl is of little value, but Heyst says that Schomberg is such an unconscionable ruffian that he may ask his wife about the shawl and find an excuse to further mistreat her. Heyst explains Mrs. Schomberg's strange action in aiding him and Lena to escape, as "defending her own position in life--a very respectable task."
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com Davidson then tells Heyst of the violence which followed his abduction of Lena. Before the tale is ended, Heyst's polite attention deepens into sombre contemplation. Then, without comment, he hands down the shawl and Davidson shoves off contemplating Heyst's final remark: "The world is a bad dog. It will bite you if you give it a chance; but I think that here we can safely defy the fates." Davidson remarks, on recounting the experience, that Heyst has a strange notion of "defying the fates" by taking a woman in tow. Commentary Again Heyst's polite courtesy is emphasized in this chapter, also Davidson's innate delicacy which will not allow him to intrude on Heyst's privacy. While Davidson feels respect for Heyst and enough interest to pass close by his island every twenty-three days, he doesn't understand the Swedish baron. From Heyst's remarks to Davidson, he feels secure on Samburan. He feels "no uneasiness" for himself or Lena. He says, "I don't care what people may say, and of course no one can hurt me." When Davidson asks if he has run out of stores, Heyst indicates that they are well supplied with all necessities: "We are fairly well off here." CHAPTER SEVEN Summary Captain Davidson relates his experience in returning the shawl to Mrs. Schomberg. He finds it almost impossible to believe that this inane and apparently senseless woman is in reality a "miracle of dissimulation." His insight into her true character almost frightens him. Balked in his efforts to understand Mrs. Schomberg, Davidson turns to contemplation of Heyst's astounding abduction of the girl from the orchestra. He is curious to learn more about the girl and hangs around the hotel for a whole afternoon. He does find out that the hubbub is subsiding and only Schomberg's vicious gossip keeps the matter alive. Schomberg speaks in Davidson's presence, calling Heyst a public danger, a spy, and a murderer. He says that he has lined his pockets with other men's money, and now he has kidnapped the girl and taken her off to live in luxury on his island. Now Davidson gives out a piece of unrelated information. He suspects, he says, that there is gambling going on around Schomberg's hotel. He thinks they must be using the building where the orchestra used to play, although the windows are so well shuttered that not one glimmer of light shows. The narrator of the story says it seems impossible that Schomberg would risk illegal gambling on his premises. Commentary In the first paragraph of this chapter, the impression is given that Schomberg's hotel is located in Samarang. This reference must be a mistake since the Schomberg establishment is firmly placed in Sourabaya in all preceding chapters as well as the following ones. Note how Schomberg now pictures Heyst and Lena as living in luxury on the fruits of Heyst's robberies, while in Chapter Three he gloats over the idea that about all Heyst can find to eat on Samburan will be a piece of dried fish now and then. Throughout the first seven chapters of this novel, the viewpoint is kept out of Heyst's mind. The reader sees him through the eyes of a narrator who may be Conrad himself, and also through the eyes of Morrison and Davidson, objectively. By these objective views of the hero, the author shows Heyst's
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com character, his courtesy, his compassion, his bleak philosophy of life, and his pattern of behavior--how he may be expected to react under given circumstances. Conrad, master craftsman that he is, uses this objective viewpoint with artistic purpose. The effect is to make Heyst a larger-than-life figure of loneliness withdrawn from ordinary people, separated by his habit of solitude and detachment, yet somehow noble and admirable.
PART TWO CHAPTER ONE Summary Part Two begins with Heyst's arrival at Schomberg's Hotel in Sourabaya while Zangiacomo's Ladies' Orchestra is established there as regular entertainment. Heyst, while still fascinated by the islands, is disenchanted with life in general. The failure of the T.B.C. Company affects him in a subtle way, "like a gnawing pain." He also grieves and feels guilty over Morrison's death although no one could possibly have foreseen the effect of Dorsetshire's cold and damp weather on the good sea captain. Heyst is in no mood for frivolous entertainment and spends his evenings sitting on the hotel verandah. Sounds of the orchestra reach him in fragmentary and rasping plaints which aggravate his loneliness. He has only lately become aware that nowhere in all the world is there a single soul belonging to him. He is hurt. One evening, driven to desperation by the squawking tunes, Heyst descends to the concert hall and sees the white-frocked women of the orchestra sawing away at their violins. When the music ends, the women come down to mingle with the audience, an arrangement of Schomberg's to stimulate sale of drinks. Heyst is disgusted yet pities these poor unfortunates. He is about to leave when he sees the youngest girl in the troupe being abused by the orchestra leader's wife. She pinches the girl and forces her down off the platform into the audience. Heyst rises, impelled by the same emotion of pity which moved him to relieve Morrison in Delli; he speaks to the girl and invites her to sit with him. They study each other across the little table. Heyst receives a definite impression of a face with unusually fine features, both audacious and miserable, and the girl's voice seduces him with its amazing and exquisite quality. He talks to her with "delicate, polished playfulness," and she responds by accepting his sympathy. Commentary In Heyst's study of the girl from the orchestra, there is a suggestion of the artist. Remember, he brought back a portfolio of sketches from New Guinea. And, like most artists, he can appreciate art on more than one level. He is infinitely sensitive to the girl's melodious voice. Her sordid origin is suggested in several references: • • •
". . . a pair of hands, not very white." "Never had much reason to sing since I was little." "Haven't come across many pleasant people in my life."
Heyst is alluding to his New Guinea trip when he says that the orchestra leader's wife is more disagreeable "than any cannibal I have ever had to do with." The suggestion here is that Heyst must have had some terrifying experience among the natives.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com In his pity for the girl, Heyst follows, without realizing it, the same pattern he followed when he relieved Morrison. CHAPTER TWO Summary The narrator supposes that Heyst does not reflect on his course of action. There is no evidence that he thinks of pausing at any time between this particular evening and the morning of their flight. Heyst's inexperience gives him the audacity to plunge in and rescue the girl. Now the narrator picks up the story on a later evening (Heyst goes every evening now, it seems) when the girl tells Heyst more about herself. Abandoned by her mother, she has been almost a child of the streets suffering the hopeless grip of poverty at all times. She has never had friends nor met the simplest forms of courtesy. Her father is in a home for incurables. She has no money at all. Heyst cannot defend himself against compassion, and when the girl insists that he must do something to rescue her, he tells her that although he is not rich enough to buy her out of her employment, he can steal her. The girl, comforted, goes back to her place in the orchestra, and Heyst, unable to bear the horrible racket, leaves the concert hall. He goes back to his chair on the verandah, where he muses over his new involvement and decides that his adventures among the New Guinea cannibals were not so daring as the action he is about to undertake. He gets up and walks in the darkened hotel garden and meets the girl. She is almost hysterical with fear and begs Heyst to rescue her. He will never be sorry, she says, and she is not yet twenty years old, but she knows how to stand by a man. Schomberg is pressing his attentions upon her, and she declares that if Heyst fails her now, the consequences will be "a thousand times worse than killing a body." Heyst has no illusions about the girl, but his skeptical mind is controlled by "the fullness of his heart." He holds her close and comforts her. She intimates that she has often been pursued by fellows like Schomberg. Heyst, ashamed of his fastidiousness, shrinks at the thought of those "other fellows." Her name, the girl says, is Alma or Magdalen. She assures Heyst that Schomberg's wife will help them escape; and again Heyst promises to steal her as soon as he can find a way. They part. Back in his room, Heyst goes to bed but cannot sleep. He tosses until morning, then gets up and looks in the mirror half expecting to see some change in his appearance. He smiles at his own naivete. He is already past thirty-five and knows that men don't really change much at that age. All his life he has made a project out of his own detachment. It is the essence of his life. He has not withdrawn like a hermit but wanders from one place to another, rootless and free of all ordinary entanglement. So, up to this time, he has passed through life without suffering and almost without care, "invulnerable because illusive." Commentary This important chapter sets up the Heyst-Lena relationship on which the remainder of the story hangs. Remember that Heyst is a titled nobleman, well educated, refined, accustomed to a detached life, fastidious. Lena is almost a child of the streets, a waif with nothing to commend her but physical charm, a lovely voice, and her deplorable helplessness.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com The plot of this story is often referred to as the Pygmalion and Galatea plot. Kipling used it in The Light That Failed and W. Somerset Maugham used it in Of Human Bondage. Many other writers have used the same plot since Conrad wrote Victory. The girl's names are significant. When Heyst finally chooses a name for her, he adapts Magdalen to Lena, thus following a common practice of the Indonesian people, who often use the last syllable of one's name as a nickname. Heyst knows what Lena is. To him she will always be Magdalen (a repentant prostitute). He rejects the name Alma, which means cherishing or nourishing. Yet Heyst's pity outweighs his fastidiousness. He carries the girl off to his lonely island of Samburan. In all that follows, the reader must remember the vast difference between Heyst and Lena as measured by their background, education, and habits of life. CHAPTER THREE Summary The narrator, in this chapter, traces Heyst's history through his impressionable years with his father, his young manhood, and his years of wandering over the Far East. Imbued by his father with a "profound distrust of life," Heyst learns to reflect, to reckon the cost. Out of this reflection comes his decision to drift like a detached leaf without ever catching onto anything. He has become an outcast, not as others do through drink, vice, or weakness of character, but from a conviction that there can be no other worthy alternative. Fifteen years of such detachment lie back of him on this disturbing night. The next day, when Heyst returns from town where he is trying to arrange their escape, he meets the girl and she flashes him a glance of frank tenderness which leaves a "secret touch" upon his heart. Yet he dreads to have anyone else observe her look--more of his fastidiousness. Schomberg, who has no doubt of his own charms, continues to harass the girl, offering her himself, a man "in the prime of life" (he is forty-five), his business, adventures of thrilling excitement. With reckless abandon, he promises her everything. When Heyst and the girl cannot be found, Schomberg at first refuses to believe what is obvious to everyone else. At first he thinks Zangiacomo has double-crossed him and fights with the orchestra leader. Later, when the truth forces itself into his mind, his hatred of Heyst blackens and deepens to a frenzy bordering on madness. In this state of confusion, Schomberg allows himself to be corrupted. Commentary Heyst's character is further developed in this chapter. Motivation for his detachment appears in his acceptance of his father's philosophy. He is an honest man. He believes his detached habit of living is right--the only good way to live. Heyst's shame and fear under the girl's tender look show that he pities her, but he is too fastidious to accept her as an equal. Lovers are ordinarily proud of tender glances. Yet there is a "secret touch" upon his heart. Lena is making an impression on him. There are signs of his awakening. CHAPTER FOUR Summary The business of corrupting Schomberg is accomplished by a guest who arrives one morning from the Celebes. He has, however, been journeying from far places and appears to be a wanderer, even as Heyst. Schomberg, sitting in the stern sheets of his steam launch, sees this visitor first as "a dark sunken stare plunging down at him" from the ship's rail. The cadaverous man favors Schomberg's hotel and boards the
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www.cliffs.com launch, together with his "secretary," a burly, pockmarked fellow, and a servant whom his master identifies as "an alligator hunter" from Columbia. The thin gentleman asks Schomberg how many people he has at his place of an evening. Schomberg admits that he averages twenty or so, and the new guest says he likes a hotel where local people gather. The "secretary" emits a grunt of astonishing ferocity "as if proposing to himself to eat the local people." The gentleman also asks Schomberg if he has women at his hotel. He says women give him the horrors. Schomberg says that his wife is the only woman at the hotel. On registering his guests, the hotelkeeper discovers their names. The thin gentleman "of depraved distinction" is "plain Mr. Jones," and his pockmarked "secretary" is Martin Ricardo. They give their occupation as tourists, but Mr. Jones admits that they are sometimes called harder names. The servant is Pedro. "Shall I tell you how I killed his brother in the wilds of Columbia?" This question, together with Mr. Jones' offhand hardness of manner and his contemptuous tone of voice, troubles Schomberg. He shakes his head in silence and withdraws, not exactly frightened, but puzzled and impressed. Commentary This is an important chapter because it introduces the villains of the story. True, Schomberg is a villain of no small talent, but his petty rages fade into feebleness in comparison with these apparitions from the nether pit. Watch these villains. No more scintillating scoundrels ever invaded the pages of any literary work. They fascinate the reader like unspeakably loathsome insects or foul reptiles never before exposed to the light of human scrutiny. All hotels in tropical ports such as Sourabaya, Singapore, and Bombay have steam launches which meet all incoming passenger ships in order to persuade guests to come to their hotels. Most hotel managers send trusted servants out with the launch. Since Schomberg went, himself, the reader supposes that his hotel was a small one. This supposition is also supported by the small numbers of guests he reports as regular customers. Already the characters of the three ruffians begin to emerge. Jones' offhand reference to his murder of Pedro's brother stamps him as a hardened killer. CHAPTER FIVE Summary After three weeks of entertaining "plain Mr. Jones" and his secretary, Schomberg decides that he must get rid of these two. He knows they are armed. A week ago, at his insistence, Mrs. Schomberg had searched their luggage and found a supply of knives and revolvers. He curses and blusters trying to make up his mind to confront the unwelcome guests and bid them be gone. Schomberg still suffers torments when he thinks of the girl who has run off with Heyst. Life, at times, seems scarcely worth living. Would it matter much if the villains did shoot him, he wonders. In this demoralized condition, he lets matters take their own course. He notices that Jones and Ricardo are engaging guests of the hotel as well as local people in gambling for money. One evening, after the hotel is empty, he questions the men and discovers that they intend to stay at least another month. The men act so menacing that Schomberg is terrified and blurts out that he wants no scandal at his hotel.
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www.cliffs.com "You can't help yourself," Jones says, and threatens him with grave trouble should he try to get rid of them. "You don't think by any chance that you have to do with ordinary people, do you?" Schomberg tries to put up a courageous appearance, but Jones tells him that Ricardo would think nothing of burning down "this house of entertainment." He remarks that he and Ricardo once held a whole town at bay, in Venezuela, and got away with their plunder, too. The spectral looks of plain Mr. Jones and the catlike ferocity of "the man ambiguously called Ricardo" frighten the last vestige of courage from the hotelkeeper. He babbles that he cares little what they do and even suggests that they carry his wife "off with you somewhere to the devil." At this mention of Mrs. Schomberg, Mr. Jones has a horrified recoil, "chair and all," as if Schomberg had thrust a "wriggling viper in his face." The result of Schomberg's brave effort to protect himself is that he hands over the key to his entertainment house to the two desperadoes and allows them to use their own servant, Pedro, to serve drinks to the gamblers who gather there. Schomberg tries to tell Jones and Ricardo of his trouble with Heyst, but they refuse to listen. Commentary This chapter characterizes the three villains and further develops Schomberg. The effect the three desperadoes have on the hotelkeeper reveals not only their elemental evil but also Schomberg's cowardice. He is "a tame man and none of the three can bear anything tame." Conrad brings forward all his powers of vivid description and subtle suggestion to exhibit them in the fullness of their satanic splendor. Mr. Jones:
". . . turned his hollow eyes on one, like an incurious spectre." "He looked remarkably like a corpse for a moment." ". . . two dark caverns under Mr. Jones' devilish eyebrows." ". . . an insolent spectre on leave from Hades, endowed with skin and bones and a subtle power of terror."
". . . suddenly retracted his lips and exhibited his teeth." ". . . only too anxious to leap upon him with teeth and claws." "His moustaches stirred by themselves in an odd feline manner." ". . . a stealthy, deliberate wildcat turned into a man."
". . . just a simple, straight-forward brute, if a murderous one. Pedro with his fangs, his tangled beard and queer stare of his little bear's eyes was, by comparison, delightfully natural."
The reader learns in this chapter that Ricardo is traveling under an assumed name. Jones is, of course, an alias. Both these rascals have been forced for reasons of self-preservation to change their names. CHAPTER SIX Summary Gambling is now a nightly feature at Schomberg's hotel. The wretched man pretends ignorance of what goes on behind the darkened windows of his concert hall. Yet he spies on the desperadoes and shudders when he remembers the weapons in their luggage. He drags out a miserable existence compounded of fear, apprehension, and submission. Each morning, he wakens to the horrors of another poisoned day.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
One afternoon, he comes upon Ricardo alone in the billiard room practicing card tricks. The "secretary" is almost amiable, which surprises Schomberg "as if an enormous savage of a cat had begun to wind itself about his legs in inexplicable friendliness." Ricardo tells Schomberg how he came to partner with Mr. Jones (whose name is not Jones at all). He relates their adventures onboard a treasure-hunting schooner and explains his attraction to Jones and their escape from the ship with the captain's cash box. Through all his talk runs a thread of murderous ferocity. Schomberg tries to cover his abject fear by assuming his Lieutenant-of-the-Reserve manner and speaking in a severe voice. CHAPTER SEVEN Summary Ricardo continues his account of his and Jones' villainous escape from the schooner. He credits the gentlemanly habits of Mr. Jones for their stopping short of murder. Mr. Jones, it seems, has a finesse about murder. He will not allow ferocity unless it is necessary. Ricardo says he has learned to control himself, too. He wouldn't show anything in his face even though he intended to rip a man up in the next minute. He lifts his trouser leg and shows Schomberg a knife strapped to his leg. Ricardo recounts their meeting with Pedro, the alligator hunter, and his brother. He describes how they murdered the brother and brought Pedro into their service. Schomberg can scarcely believe what he is hearing. "Do you mean to say that all this happened?" Scornfully Ricardo continues. He brags of Pedro's strength and abject devotion to Jones--more devoted than a dog. Ricardo admits that the knife strapped to his leg belonged to the murdered man. Ricardo admits that Jones has fits of boredom, and the only way to relieve them is to "lever him out." Schomberg insists that he needs their rooms, that he must have been insane when he allowed them to set up illicit gambling in his concert hall. Ricardo warns him that if he goes to the police, Pedro will handle him. He has done such things before. It just takes one snap of the neck and "the man drops like a limp rag." Ricardo hasn't moved his head, but his greenish irises glide into the corners of his eyes nearest Schomberg with "a coyly voluptuous expression." Commentary The purpose of these chapters is to reveal the four evil characters in the cast. Schomberg is a cowardly but dangerous gossip; Jones, a deadly spectre; Ricardo, his green-eyed, cat-like follower, dedicated to murder; and Pedro, a sub-human beast controlled by Jones. These four compose the villain force of the book. CHAPTER EIGHT Summary The suggested horror in Ricardo's affable talk collapses Schomberg "as if his moral neck had been broken." He says he never thought of sending for the police, but he can't figure why Jones and Ricardo want to stay on here in Sourabaya when they are accustomed to larger operation. He suggests other fields for their consideration, even offers an "inducement."
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www.cliffs.com Ricardo says that he won't be able to get Jones away unless he has something to "lever him out with." He says the east coast "can't run away and no one is likely to run off with it." The words "run off" strike a spark in Schomberg's brain. He thinks of Heyst. An idea enters his mind. He conceives a plan for ridding himself of his two unwelcome guests and at the same time paying off Heyst. With eloquence and ease, he pictures Heyst "fattened by years of private and public rapine," a murderer and a swindler. For the first time in weeks, Schomberg smiles. He sees that he has impressed the "secretary." He assures Ricardo that Heyst has tremendous plunder concealed on Samburan, and since Heyst is not a fighting man, it will be easy to take it away from him. Now Schomberg admits that Heyst stole the girl from the orchestra and carried her off. Ricardo is distressed at this news. Jones can't stand women at all. He abhors them. For a moment, Schomberg is distressed. It looks as though the girl is going to spoil everything. He cries out, "It would have been like going to pick up a nugget of a thousand pounds, or two or three times that much." Ricardo is intrigued and decides that he can keep the girl a secret. Schomberg offers his own boat and suggests a plan whereby the three voyagers can get away without exciting suspicion. It will take only three days to run over to Samburan. Schomberg gives complete directions and offers to provision the boat. Finally he gives Ricardo a sea-mark to steer by--a live volcano, "a pillar of smoke by day and a loom of fire by night." He roars out these last words exultingly just as Mrs. Schomberg glides into the room. She sits down and stares straight ahead. Commentary The character of Schomberg is now fully developed. He does not appear in the story again except by reference. Yet it is his action here which sets in motion the final events. He knows the villainous character of the men he is sending to Samburan. He feels guilty about it as revealed by one of Conrad's subtle devices where he plays on the word "hung." Schomberg says, "he hung about. That's it. Hung--." Then Schomberg's voice dies out. The reader knows that Schomberg feels guilty enough for hanging. Yet his hatred drives him on to complete the arrangements. Reference to the "pillar of cloud by day and the loom of fire by night" is a direct reference to the Scriptures. It is difficult to see why Conrad used it here. Perhaps he meant to suggest the truth that a single path may serve for both the hunter and the hunted. Mrs. Schomberg's entrance at the end of this scene is significant. She has overheard Schomberg's directions. The narrator appears a few times in the first chapter of this section and noticeably in the narration of Chapter Three. Much of Part Two is in Schomberg's subjective viewpoint. One of the major functions of Part Two is to develop Schomberg's character as well as the three villains who are now leaving for Samburan. The final drama is about to open. The reader, who understands that hellish forces are about to be set loose against them, already knows enough about Heyst and Lena to wish them well. By such enticements as these, Conrad allures his readers into the final scenes of his story.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
PART THREE CHAPTER ONE Summary Heyst has been sitting for two years among the ruins of the Tropical Belt Coal Company. He has much time for meditation. He uses it to consider his father and his father's philosophy. One bit of advice has impressed itself deeply into his consciousness: "I advise you to cultivate that form of contempt called pity. It is perhaps the least difficult. . . . Look on--make no sound." Heyst's father died the night after this final admonition. Now Heyst relives the days after his father's death. He reaffirms his decision never to enter the stream of life or take part in its action. He decides to have his father's books sent out to him. When they arrive, he unpacks them with tenderness and they form for him a focus of attachment in his lonely island. His father's portrait, done in oil, has come with the books. It surprises Heyst "by its air of youth." Heyst is not lonely. He has renounced "all outside nourishment" and sustains his spirit on contempt for what other people crave. Heyst's island is well provisioned; a Chinese man, Wang, serves him as cook. When all the other employees of T.B.C. Company leave, Wang stays behind because he has taken a wife from the Alfuro people who live on the other side of the island. Heyst enjoys his solitary existence and Wang is a man of few words. They get on well. Heyst never looks after anything in his house. He spends his time in reading, meditating, and walking in the clearing. Commentary The information in this chapter is necessary to set the stage for the remainder of the story. Heyst's lingering on Samburan instead of resuming his habitual wanderings is explained by his attachment for his father's books. Conrad shows that the man is capable of attachment of a sort. How well Heyst practices his father's precepts will appear throughout the final scenes. He has indeed cultivated "that form of contempt called pity" to the exclusion of genuine affection. Here lies the seed of his destruction. Other important facts are planted in this chapter: Heyst's father left him a little money; Wang, the servant, is introduced and motivated; and Heyst never locks up any of his belongings because he trusts Wang. The general loneliness and desolation of Heyst's situation appear, also Heyst's well-regulated habits of behavior. Into this setting, the girl, Lena, is about to be introduced. Note the portrait of Heyst's father. It will have symbolic meaning later in the story. CHAPTER TWO Summary During Heyst's absence in Sourabaya, Wang has busied himself by burning off the land in front of the main bungalow. A broad space, "black and level," shows where flames have swept from the front of the house to the edge of the forest--a dismal sight. This charred and blackened stretch of soil greets Heyst and Lena as they come up from the landing jetty. Wang gives no indication that he sees the girl clinging to his master's arm. She abandons Heyst's arm
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com before they reach the six steps leading up into the bungalow. She seems hesitant to enter. Heyst tries to overcome "a sort of fear, a sort of impatient faintness." Urged by Heyst, the girl suddenly rushes in ahead of him and hurries into the big central room of the house and then into the bedroom beyond, which is darkened. There, at last, she feels relief as though she had reached a refuge. Wang helps bring in the luggage including the girls bundle wrapped in Mrs. Schomberg's shawl. When Heyst enters the house. Wang has vanished. He is out of sight, but not out of hearing. For the first time he listens to the girl's voice. He stands for a while as though waiting for something more, then lights a fire under a sooty pot and prepares to make tea. Commentary The final stage setting is arranged in this short chapter. The blackened area in front of the bungalow is symbolic of the destruction of Heyst's established pattern of detachment, also of the tragic consequences which are to follow. The remainder of the book (over one-half its length) covers a period of only seventy-two hours, and there is a gap of over three months between this chapter and the following one. Conrad uses a curious shift of viewpoint to show Lena's reaction to the desolate and gloomy aspect of the house where she is to live. He shows her objectively as she abandons Heyst's arm and hesitates to enter. He suggests, objectively, that she is horrified at the dismal surroundings, then plucks up her courage and rushes inside. What else can she do? Then, after she is in the darkened bedroom, Conrad lets us into her mind, and we see her relief subjectively. Such viewpoint manipulation appears frequently throughout the remaining chapters of the book. CHAPTER THREE Summary On a morning more than three months later, Heyst comes out as usual to lean his arms on the verandah and think. He contemplates his latest participation in life, yet by habit and determined purpose he is a spectator still. His mood of "grim doubt" has no time to develop, for Lena joins him. Their conversation shows that neither understands the other. Heyst feels vaguely that Lena is finding fault with him. Lena longs to charm from him some declaration of love, but he always evades the answer she seeks: "Every time she spoke to him she seemed to abandon to him something of herself--something excessively subtle and inexpressible, to which he was infinitely sensible, which he would have missed horribly if she were to go away." Later, after breakfast, Heyst and Lena start on a morning walk up toward the forest that crosses the island. Wang watches them go. He materializes inside the house and examines the empty room as though hunting for something. He cocks his head at the portrait of Heyst's father, pen in hand "above a white sheet of paper on a crimson tablecloth." When he comes out of the house again, Heyst and Lena are far away--two white figures just visible against "the sombre line of forest." Heyst and Lena climb to a good viewing point above the forest and look out over the sea. Heyst sees a sail far away toward the south. He thinks it is some native craft making for the Moluccas. Lena does not like to look at the sea. To her it is an "abomination of desolation." Much conversation follows. Heyst feels depths in Lena, but whether of strength of weakness, or just abysmal emptiness, he does not know. They talk about Lena's past and Heyst's rescue of her. They
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www.cliffs.com mention Heyst's father, and Heyst reveals how his father's philosophy of detachment and distrust has shaped him. Lena does not understand. Heyst speaks of Morrison and relates how he rescued him. He regards it as highly amusing that he should have been regarded as an agent of Providence. He says Morrison's gratitude was "frightful . . . boredom came later" when they lived together on Morrison's ship. Heyst does not yet know how to adapt to Lena, but he does know that she gives him a greater sense of his own reality than he has ever had before. Commentary Wang's behavior in both this chapter and the previous one shows the uneasiness the Chinese feels since the girl has arrived on the island. He is puzzled and apprehensive. Heyst's early morning mood and his conversation on the walk in the forest show how fully his philosophy of detachment still holds him. Although Heyst does not see or realize, Lena takes his words painfully to heart. Conrad chooses, by some more manipulation of viewpoint, to let the reader see her reaction objectively. It appears to run thus: Heyst has rescued her out of pity just as he rescued Morrison. He is living with her even more intimately than he did with Morrison. His feeling about the Morrison episode must be his present feeling about their own life together. Will he come to regard her rescue as just a highly amusing incident? Will he become bored with her, too? Conrad shows throughout this chapter the romantic, physical, closeness of Heyst and Lena with the vast difference between them in thought processes and attitudes toward life. Note how Conrad is building tragic mood with selection of words pointing toward calamity: "a devouring glare, like the eye of an enemy"; "Far away in the devouring sunshine"; and "blinding infinity." These two have only about seventy-two hours to live. CHAPTER FOUR Summary Heyst continues his conversation with Lena in the forest glade. He remarks on her serious air and her deep gloom. On her part, she dares not to look at him for fear of betraying herself. She feels an overwhelming desire to give herself to him more completely "by some act of absolute sacrifice." Heyst appears to have no comprehension of her thoughts. He explains how he kept on with Morrison although he didn't really want to. He couldn't bear to hurt Morrison's feelings. His speech is full of suggestive remarks showing that he regrets his experience with Morrison. At last he mentions Morrison by name and is astonished to see the shocking effect on Lena. Now she reveals the malicious gossip she heard in Schomberg's hotel about a man named Morrison and his partner who ruined and murdered him. She realizes only this moment that the partner is Heyst. Lena suffers, can hardly breathe. She senses for the first time how dependent she is on Heyst: ". . . because until then, she had never felt herself swinging between the abysses of earth and heaven in the hollow of his arm. What if he should grow weary of that burden?" Heyst declares that he has never "killed a man or loved a woman," not even in his thoughts, not even in dreams. He is profoundly disturbed and rages against Schomberg's calumny and against the girl's attitude, which he cannot understand. For a moment, he detests her. Then his fury falls away leaving only empty desolation and regret. He sees how life has tricked him into "the plot of plots." He tries to take Lena in his arms, but she repulses him.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
Commentary Conrad brings to this important chapter all his skill in subtle portrayal of character. Heyst's anger at the news of Schomberg's gossip reveals his own guilt complex. Heyst knows that he did not kill Morrison, yet he knows that on the contrary he did not love Morrison--not even as a friend. His is a negative guilt--the guilt of not having loved. Thus Conrad bares the kernel of his plot and theme. This novel, Victory, is a story about the guilt complex, the most cruel and painful of all guilt complexes--guilt of failure to love. In an instinctive way, Lena realizes the significance of Heyst's unaccustomed rage and applies what she understands to her own situation. Heyst, at this moment, is incapable of love. It is Heyst's conversation on this walk that convinces Lena. She must do something to win from him that true love she must have to live. Thus Conrad fixes the cause for Lena's final sacrifice in Heyst's cultivated mistrust of life--his long habit of detached contempt. This day is the last time of peace the pair are to know. The small boat Heyst has seen from the look-out point is bringing the solution to all their problems. CHAPTER FIVE Summary Heyst and Lena start home. They pass the spot where they must view the sea, "the floating abyss of emptiness," in the "tragic brutality of the light." Lena longs for the friendly night. She knows now the fullness of her love for Heyst. There can never be another like him in all the world. She feels this emotion with elation and uneasiness, with pride and "a peculiar sinking of the heart." They come in sight of the blackened clearing and fancy they see Wang. The table is laid and they sit down to eat in the silence of a great heat, "pregnant with fatal issues." Lena goes to rest. Heyst takes down one of his father's books and sits under his father's portrait. He is still revolted by the thought of Schomberg's slander. He is tempted to spit but controls himself and opens the book. His eye falls on these words: ". . . of the stratagems of life, the most cruel is the consolation of love--the most subtle, too; for the desire is a bed of dreams." Heyst imagines his father's voice speaking to him. Then Lena comes out and Heyst is surprised to see how tired she looks. He blames himself for taking her on so long a walk. She says suddenly, "You should try to love me." Heyst realizes that he has never told her that he loves her. He does not tell her now. He bides behind his habitual, playful courtesy. Yet Heyst is softening. His "cherished negations" are falling away. Lena is terrified by his talk and the realization that she loves him more now than ever before. He urges her to dismiss all thought of Schomberg's talk about Morrison. He takes her in his arms and she responds eagerly, then suddenly disengages herself and bolts from the room. She has seen Wang. Commentary The portrait of Heyst's father is mentioned many times in this last section of the book, but in no place does it have a sharper symbolic significance than in this chapter. Heyst sits under the portrait to read his father's diatribe against love. The next moment, Lena appears and Heyst feels again the pull of her allurements. Thus the struggle is joined in the mind and heart of Axel Heyst. Lena knows the only cure for Heyst's difficulty: "You should try to love me."
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www.cliffs.com Heyst's assurance that "nothing can break in on us here" is one of the most ironical statements in the book. All hell is about to break in on them. CHAPTER SIX Summary Outraged by Wang's untimely intrusion, Heyst looks about the room. Then Wang announces, "Boat out there." The boat has three white men in it. Heyst is startled. He calls out to Lena, who says she is bathing her eyes, and tells her to stay inside the house. Overwhelmed by the impossible news, Heyst goes with Wang to the wharf, where they discover a boat under the jetty. The three men in it are indeed white and dying from thirst. Heyst sends Wang for a crowbar to open the water tap on the jetty. A stream of fresh water gushes into the boat. The reader recognizes the three villains from Sourabaya. Ricardo drinks first. Pedro rushes forward and knocks him away, fastens his own mouth to the water tap. Ricardo bludgeons the man so savagely that Heyst fears for his life. Now Ricardo assists plain Mr. Jones to the water and explains to Heyst that they have been tugging at the oars for more than forty hours without water. He makes no further explanation for their presence in this remote spot. Commentary Conrad conveys the sense of violent impact the three strangers make on Heyst with great skill. He shows their instinctive savagery best of all by Ricardo's brutal attack on Pedro for the very same discourtesy he has himself perpetrated not one minute before. Ricardo's fear of the crowbar suggests that his guilty conscience knows Heyst should use the crowbar to brain them all--instead Heyst uses it to open the water tap. CHAPTER SEVEN Summary Ricardo, trying to mask his nervousness, rattles on about their terrible ordeal in the open boat. All the while, he studies Heyst. This man is no drunkard; he shows neither weakness nor alarm. Ricardo already credits Heyst with extraordinary powers of penetration. The water revives Ricardo, and Jones speaks up excusing Ricardo's bad manners. Jones' voice is that of an educated man, but strangely lifeless. The intruders have no ready story for Heyst. Their miseries have prevented such preparation. Yet Ricardo makes up his mind that Heyst, regardless of his capabilities, is going to pay for all they have suffered. Heyst helps his guests to land. As Ricardo scrambles onto the wharf, he remembers the knife strapped to his leg and thinks how easy it would be to rip Heyst up and tumble him into the sea. But he reflects that they don't yet know where the treasure is hidden. He restrains himself. Heyst has Wang bring a trolley for the strangers' baggage and leads them to the old company counting house explaining that he is sorry not to be able to offer them the hospitality of his own bungalow. Some camp cots and other furniture have been left in the abandoned building. Now he orders Wang to bring candles, blankets, food, coffee, sugar. Wang even fills a kettle with water and hands it to Pedro "impassively, at arm's length as if across a chasm." Heyst withdraws. Commentary Twice in this chapter Conrad shows that the sea appears more solid than the substance of the island. This comparison is symbolic. Death is now more real than life.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com CHAPTER EIGHT Summary Back at his own bungalow, Heyst sees the lantern where Wang has left it on the steps, and behind him he sees the flame of the strangers' open fire with Pedro's uncouth shape hovering over it (Heyst is literally and symbolically between two fires). Heyst is troubled by vague apprehension of separation from Lena. His skeptical reserve is falling away. He no longer belongs to himself. There is "a call far more imperious and august." Heyst asks Lena if Wang seemed startled when he set down the lantern. He admits that he is shaken and can hardly believe now that he doesn't see them, that such people exist. Lena, who has been sitting just beyond the circle of lantern light, is thinking only of Heyst and her devotion to him. She has forgotten about the strangers. Now she seizes upon his words and turns them to herself. Will he forget her as soon as she is out of his sight? Heyst realizes that the girl comprehends nothing of what has happened or the evil significance the invasion of these strangers brings. He cannot explain. Then, while standing within a foot of her chair, Heyst suddenly realizes that for a whole minute he has lost the sense of Lena's presence. He picks up the lantern and suggests that they had better go in. As they pass through the big central room, he leaves the lantern on the center table. Commentary In the presence of such danger as Heyst anticipates from the intruders on Samburan, the struggle in his soul seems to resolve itself on the side of love and trust. He recognizes at last the greater call--the call to shield and protect a loved person at any cost to himself. But the habit of many years must be reckoned with. CHAPTER NINE Summary Lena wakens early in the night and finds herself alone. Startled, she gets out of bed and looks for Heyst. The lantern still burns and Heyst is standing by the table. She asks him what he is looking for. He asks her if Wang went through this room this evening. Lena doesn't think he did, but Heyst knows that Wang's elusive habits make any stealthy move possible. He evades her question and asks so many of his own that Lena gets the idea that he is accusing her of taking something. Heyst is pained because she has taken the attitude of a servant--a servant under suspicion. He finally admits that what he has missed is of little value--not money. Then he explains where he keeps their money. She is so relieved to know that no money has been stolen that she does not question further. It is his revolver that Heyst misses. Heyst recalls how he wakened just now with a feeling of being terribly exposed, but to what danger he cannot say. He is sure Wang has taken the revolver. He knows himself completely unarmed and at Wang's mercy. Then he decides that Wang must have taken the revolver this very evening. "The danger is all ahead." Heyst is too nervous to go back to bed. He sits on the verandah and lights a cheroot. He can't understand why the world has broken in on him like this, and he broods over Schomberg's slander. He is sure that Lena half believes that calumny. He feels stabbed in the back and drained of moral strength. He flings his cigar into the night, and it is observed as a symptom of importance by a watcher "in a state of alertness tense enough to hear the grass grow."
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www.cliffs.com CHAPTER TEN Summary The observer is Martin Ricardo. He can't sleep either although his companion, Mr. Jones, appears to be sleeping. Ricardo feels himself personally responsible for the success of this venture. He goes out on the verandah of the counting house and can hardly resist an urge to creep toward the other building. Then he sees the red trail of light from Heyst's cigar. Full of fear, Ricardo dodges back into the counting house and wakens Mr. Jones. The two talk for a long time. Ricardo tells Jones that Heyst is "doing a think," and he regards such an exercise as dangerous. The two discuss Heyst. "I don't like him," Ricardo says. "He isn't hearty." Jones suggests that perhaps Schomberg is lying about all the plunder they have supposed is concealed here in Samburan. Heyst may be a "very poor devil indeed." But Ricardo is sure there is treasure. There must be. Jones asks if Heyst is here all alone. Ricardo thinks of the girl but evades his master's question. He reminds Jones that of course the "Chink" is here. Again he decides to conceal the girl's presence on Samburan. It will be easier to tell Jones later on. The two villains generate a lot of righteous indignation over Heyst's supposed crimes and resolve to avenge all the innocent victims the Swede has swindled. They speculate in where the gold may be hidden. Jones reminds Ricardo that "this is a calculating man." And Ricardo says, "He strikes me as the sort of man to start prancing when one didn't expect it." Commentary The only consideration that holds back these two beasts of prey is their ignorance of the hiding place for Heyst's imagined treasure. This bit of impossible knowledge stands for the moment between Heyst and death. Ricardo's expression "Prance" means an act of willful aggression on the part of an intended victim. Should Heyst start shooting or attack his tormentors in any way, Ricardo would regard such action as "prancing." The long conversation between the two ruffians in the middle of the night characterizes them fully. Jones, ghoulish and smooth, and Ricardo, feline and hell-bent for violence, plan their campaign. These two have less than forty-eight hours to live. The function of Part III is to set the stage on Samburan and introduce the villains to the island. The reader knows that, in spite of their dissimilar backgrounds and attitudes, Heyst and Lena are drawing closer. Give them time and they will make a loving and satisfactory adjustment. But time is running out.
PART FOUR CHAPTER ONE Summary A day elapses between the events of the last chapter in Part III and the morning with which this chapter opens. From behind a tree, opposite the Heyst bungalow, Ricardo watches, biding his time like a hunting cat. He is watching for a glimpse of the girl. He has decided that this girl can't be much. He knows her sort. Perhaps she may be intimidated or cajoled into revealing the whereabouts of Heyst's plunder. He wants to get in touch with her behind that Swede's back. He knows that, at this moment, Heyst is over at the counting house talking with Mr. Jones.
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Ricardo is in such a state of excited blood-lust that he can hardly refrain from attacking Heyst out of sheer compulsion to murder, but he knows that immediate action would be immature. First he must find out the location of the treasure. His head is swimming with his "repressed desire for violence." The girl does not show, but Wang materializes in a flower bed near the bungalow and gathers flowers--for the breakfast table, Ricardo supposes with vicious scorn. The girl's presence draws Ricardo like a magnet. Almost irresistibly his feet are compelled toward the bungalow. He lets himself into the front room prowling like a cat in a strange place. The enormous quantity of books astonishes him. He tries the bedroom door, and it opens without a sound. A curtain confronts him, and he pauses for an instant to peek in. He sees the girl at the far end of the narrow room; she is winding her long hair around her head. With all the savagery of a wild beast, he makes his "feral spring." "Ravish or kill, it made no difference to him so long as he was able to relieve the pent up urge within him." The curtain falls silently into place behind him. Commentary The author has given this chapter to show Ricardo's innate beastliness, blood-thirsty urges, and daring ferocity. This revelation of Ricardo makes Lena's victory more splendid by contrast. CHAPTER TWO Summary Not five seconds after Ricardo's savage leap through Lena's bedroom curtain, Wang materializes within the living room. He is concerned about the late breakfast, but now he hears strange, deadened, scuffling sounds behind the curtain. Watchful, yet tense and frightened, he stands almost within arm's reach of the curtain. He hears a chair fall over. Something twangs the tin bathtub. Then the noises end with the "heavy, dull thump of a soft body flung against the inner partition of planks." Wang makes up his mind at this moment to cut all connection with his master, Heyst. The white man is disarmed--a doomed man. It is unlucky to help him. Wang doesn't know what the white woman is scuffling with, but he knows that he has discovered an evil and dangerous situation. He watches the back of the house, but nothing comes out. Meanwhile, behind the curtain, Ricardo is examining his throat and marveling at the strength of the woman before him. He sits on a cedar wood chest and Lena sits on the edge of the bed. Their heads are not a foot apart. Ricardo cannot understand how she can possibly have the strength to strangle him and fling him aside as she has done. He is filled with admiration. Lena is no longer the weak, cowering thing she was before Schomberg in Sourabaya. She is changed into a fierce, protective woman with something to cherish, something to fight for. Now Ricardo shows her his concealed knife, explains that he is not going to hurt her, and asks if she intends to make a fuss about his attack. She suddenly realizes the importance of what Heyst has told her this morning. His revolver is missing. She makes a slight negative motion with her head. Ricardo takes this gesture as proof that the girl half likes him and can be won to his side. He knows that she is not a "tame one" and confesses that he and Jones are after the "swag" and that the "fat tame slug of a ginslinger, Schomberg," has put them up to it in order to pay Heyst back. Now Lena begins to understand the whole diabolical plot. Heyst is at the mercy of these desperadoes. She has brought it all upon him. Duplicity, refuge of the weak, is all that stands between her enchanted dream
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www.cliffs.com and cruel catastrophe. She leads Ricardo to believe that she does know something about Heyst's concealed "treasure." CHAPTER THREE Summary Ricardo is charmed by the girl. She is not at all what he expected. She is a "blooming miracle." He asks if her gentleman is a good shot and she admits that he is. Ricardo says that Mr. Jones is "better than good." He urges Lena to join them and get her share of the plunder. She appears to agree. Ricardo instructs her to find out at once where Heyst keeps his "loot." Then they both hear Heyst's voice outside, talking to Wang: "It was for her like a flash of lightning framed in darkness which had beset her on all sides, showing a deadly precipice right under her feet." Ricardo springs to his feet like a cat. They both know that Wang is behind the house and Heyst in front. There seems no way of escape and Ricardo sees an end to his business. He is on the point of rushing out to attack Heyst when Lena shows him a high window through which he can escape into the side yard, unseen. She helps him by holding a chair. Ricardo leaps through the small window just as Heyst calls to the girl. She puts him off with a promise to be out in a minute. Glancing about, she sees that Ricardo has left one of his straw slippers. She plants her own foot on it an instant before Heyst swings back the curtain and looks at her. He remarks that she hasn't done her hair yet. She says she will come to breakfast as she is and he leaves. She hunts for some place to hide the vile slipper and finally tosses it through the window from which Ricardo has just escaped. She hears a low whistle. Ricardo must have waited outside. Lena is overcome with dizzy weakness and hangs for a long time to the bedpost in order to recover her strength. Commentary In this chapter and the previous one, Lena's change of character is shown. From a weak and helpless girl, she has changed into a fiercely protective woman. It is love for Heyst that brings this change about. Something stirs within her, "something profound," like the beginning of a new sort of life. From this moment, the ascendancy in the Heyst-Lena partnership passes to Lena. Lena has met the enemy and worsted him in physical combat. She knows at last the strength of her own spirit. She will protect Heyst at any cost. CHAPTER FOUR Summary Heyst, waiting at the breakfast table, is startled by Lena's pale face and lifeless eyes. He is also puzzled by Wang's tardiness. He calls and Wang comes in and serves breakfast. All the time Wang is serving, he watches Lena. She looks to him as though she might have been wrestling with an evil spirit which has "torn half her blood out of her." Wang has long regarded Heyst as a man bewitched. Now he knows that his master is doomed. He will leave at once. Lena finds it hard to eat. She understands Ricardo perfectly because of their common origin in the dregs of society. She is sure that she has fooled him into keeping quiet for a while. Overcome by weakness, she allows Heyst to carry her to bed, where she falls into profound sleep. Heyst, deeply troubled by this new development, sits down to read, but Wang interrupts him with an announcement of his intention to leave at once. Heyst asks his reason and Wang says he does not like the visitors. He points at the bedroom curtain and says, "Me no likee." Heyst doesn't understand. Then Wang holds up two fingers and says "two." Heyst still can't understand and Wang adds, "Suppose you savee, you no like that fashion."
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Heyst accuses Wang of stealing his revolver. Although Wang has taken the gun, he stoutly denies it. Still puzzled, Heyst decides that while Lena is asleep, he will go over and warn Mr. Jones of this new development. He surprises the two villains in earnest conversation. CHAPTER FIVE Summary Lena wakens and finds herself alone. She rises quickly and meets Heyst returning from the strangers' quarters. She can smile at him and her glance is clear. He tells her that Wang has left and relates how Wang seemed trying to warn him of some danger--danger to her. He shows how Wang raised two fingers and pointed to the curtain. Lena is almost paralyzed with horror but conceals it. While Heyst goes on to relate his conversation with Jones and Ricardo, she is thinking that if it were possible, she would like to lock him up--put him out of circulation until she has settled this business and delivered him. Heyst reports Jones as saying, "I am he who is . . ." He can't comprehend what the man means. Jones also says that he has been "coming and going up and down the earth." Heyst says he has heard that story before, and Jones confesses that he is no blacker nor less determined than the "gentleman" referred to (Satan; see Job 2:1-2). Heyst tells Lena he thinks Jones had a revolver under the cotton sheet that covered him just now. He asks Lena if she is sure no one has seen her. She says she has not shown herself at all but reminds him that someday people will have to see her. He continues his story of how he went, while she slept, to tell the strangers that Wang is on his own with a six-shooter, and that he, Heyst, will no longer be responsible for anything that may happen. Ricardo asks if he has missed anything, and Heyst admits that he has. Ricardo, thinking of the "swag," suggests that they all go out and kill the "Chink." When Heyst refuses, the men counter with a proposal that they send their servant, Pedro, over to cook for Heyst. Ricardo will eat with him, and they will send Mr. Jones' meal over to him at the counting house. While Hayst hates the idea, he has no way to refuse. He tells Lena that Pedro has the key to the storeroom and is even now making a fire to prepare dinner. Heyst shows Lena, for what he thinks is the first time, Jones and Ricardo walking side by side in the open--"evil intelligence and instinctive savagery, hand in hand." Heyst decides to go after Wang and beg sanctuary of him. When they walk past the astonished Pedro, he runs to tell his masters that there is a woman in that house. Commentary The noose tightens around Axel Heyst's neck (remember these villains got Schomberg's keys, too). Lena is deep in the duplicity she feels is necessary to defend her lover. She senses his innate helplessness before this combination of organized evil. Even though forced to hand his store room key over to Ricardo, he feels only disgust. The reactions of a normal man are missing. He is neither angry nor aroused. His life-long habit of detachment has robbed him of natural emotions. He has refined them away. Mr. Jones' allusion to the devil suggests that he may well have been a demon incarnate, a device of Conrad's to make his villain more deadly than life.
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www.cliffs.com CHAPTER SIX Summary Ricardo, lounging in front of the old counting house, sees Pedro coming and scents some new development. He spurns Pedro's news, tells him they already know about the woman, and sends him back to his cooking. Ricardo spots the two white sun helmets moving off into the jungle. Now the story flashes back to this same morning when Ricardo returns from his bedroom encounter with Lena. Jones accuses Ricardo of loafing, but Ricardo assures his master that he has made progress in locating the treasure and is sure of success if Jones will only trust him. They discuss Jones' conversation with Heyst, and Ricardo is chiefly concerned over whether Heyst gives evidence of wanting to "prance." Jones says he has a peculiar feeling about this venture. It is not like any of the others they have pulled off: "It's sort of a test." Jones explains to Ricardo that he would like best to have a card game with Heyst and let him lose the money instead of being forced to hand it over. Jones says he has been hounded out of his rightful place in society by men just like Heyst, and it will please him to put an end to Heyst in a "gentlemanly way." This plan is not acceptable to Ricardo's savage and violent nature, but he finally agrees when Jones tells him that he will be allowed to watch the game. Ricardo doesn't mind using Jones' more refined method just so long as he is free to "plug" Heyst or "rip him up" whenever he thinks the time has come. CHAPTER SEVEN Summary The flashback scene in the counting house continues. At the very moment when Ricardo is proposing to "plug" Heyst or "rip him up," Heyst intrudes on the conversation to warn them about Wang. Ricardo thinks this is a trick of the Swede's to conceal his money by pretending that Wang has stolen it. Even Jones is much disturbed and goes outside. Ricardo has a hard time persuading him back to his cot. Although Ricardo rejects Heyst's story, he does believe in Lena. His own fatuous confidence leads him to trust that Lena is on his side and will make sure that neither Heyst nor Wang gets away with the treasure. Intoxicated with his dreams of joyous possibilities in the near future, Ricardo goes back into the counting house, fishes a mirror out of his suitcase, and shaves. He sees Jones watching him. Ricardo says he will get Heyst over for the game of cards this very evening. He parries Jones' questions and slips out. He no longer feels comfortable in his master's presence. Commentary Ricardo's lively ferocity takes a new direction in this chapter. It swings to a new angle. He can see himself in conflict with Jones. Lena is the cause. Her Victory is in sight. CHAPTER EIGHT Summary Heyst and Lena go to Wang's hut and find it newly deserted. They push on through the forest to the other side of the island where the path ends in a barricade of felled trees. The face of the obstruction is piled with fresh-cut branches, and through them several spear blades protrude. Lena is terrified, but Heyst goes forward alone. Lena watches the spear blades disappear. Yellow hands part the leaves and Wang's face appears. In one hand he holds Heyst's revolver. The two men talk for a moment. Then Wang's head disappears and the spear blades come gliding through again. Heyst returns to Lena and tells her that he is unsuccessful.
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www.cliffs.com Wang will not receive her. Lena is appalled to learn that Heyst intended to place her in the Alfuro village. She declares that she will never consent to such an arrangement. Heyst is undone. Disarmed by his own peaceful and withdrawn nature as well as by loss of his revolver, he is powerless to put up any kind of defense. Even were the desperadoes fully in his power, he cannot murder them. He has neither strength nor persuasion. He thinks of the old mine shaft, riddled with ants and dangerous. He thinks of the strangers' boat, but escaping in it would only be a slower form of death without oars or provisions. He recalls that Davidson cannot be expected to pass the island for another three weeks. Lena looks around her into the shadow of the forest and feels a "dumb menacing hostility" in the stillness. She feels the very nearness of death breathing on both of them. She shakes off this weakness and resolves to rise above her own sordid origins and to find some way of revealing her love for Heyst and winning his love for herself. Now their bungalow appears "bathed in sinister light." "Oh look there!" Lena exclaims. Beyond the headland of Diamond Bay lying black in a purple sea, great masses of cloud stood piled up and bathed in a mist of blood. A crimson crack like an open wound zigzagged between them, with a piece of dark red sun showing at the bottom. Heyst says a thunderstorm is in the making. Lena remarks that it is not a good omen or a sign of mercy. Commentary As the tragic climax draws near, Conrad sets the mood with symbolic colors and the threat of the storm. Heyst appears to be completely discouraged. He has led the way up the ridge. Lena leads him home. The strength of defense passes into Lena's capable hands. CHAPTER NINE Summary At the bungalow Lena falls into the nearest chair. Heyst examines everything from the interior of the house to the wall of forest out in front, where he imagines he sees a figure moving. Perhaps Ricardo followed them up the hill. Pedro has laid the table. Now Heyst lights all the candles in two silver candelabra to let the villains know they are back. Heyst tells Lena the "jaguar" is to be their dinner guest. Numbness strikes Lena, but she discovers that the numbness is in her head and not in her body. For this, she thanks God mentally. Again Heyst considers what sort of weapon he might use to defend them--perhaps a carver, or a crowbar; but the girl keeps reminding him that it is a knife he needs. Ricardo enters and Heyst introduces him to Lena. Ricardo presents a perfect picture of innocence. The conversation is strained. Ricardo says Jones is anxious to see Heyst tonight because they must think of getting away from Samburan. Heyst looks at Lena and sees her make a slight affirmative gesture. He decides to go. It can't be a trap. No point in trapping a captured animal. Ricardo can't wait until Heyst is out of the door before he reaches for Lena under the table and hisses, "See! he's no good. He's not the man for you!"
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www.cliffs.com Heyst steps back into the room; but Lena, who has puzzled so long over the bitter riddle of her existence, has found the answer in a "blinding glow of passionate purpose." Commentary Conrad suggests, in the last sentence of this chapter, that Lena is determined to lay down her life for Heyst if necessary. The girl's two names are mentioned here in a symbolic way: Alma, which means nourishing, cherishing, bountiful, and Magdalen, which means "a repentant harlot.'' It appears that the girl was all that the two names signify. Of the two names, Heyst chose the latter as his basis for calling her Lena; but as the story unfolds, the characteristics of Alma predominate. At last Lena's instinct tells her that this affair with Ricardo will end in death. CHAPTER TEN Summary Lena rises and passes Heyst as though blinded by "some secret, lurid, and consuming glare into which she is about to enter." She hurries into the bedroom. Heyst has seen Pedro hanging about the bungalow door, and now he tells Ricardo that he doesn't want Pedro around. Ricardo orders Pedro to the boat and insists that he leave by the front door. Heyst goes into the bedroom and insists that Lena put on a black dress and dark veil. He tells her that, as soon as he leaves with Ricardo, she must slip out the back door and hide in the forest in sight of the bungalow and wait for a signal he will make with the candles. If no signal appear, she must conclude that he is dead and must hurry off to beg sanctuary with Wang until Davidson comes back. Then she can signal him. Lena promises nothing. She lifts his hand, holds it close, and kisses it. Heyst cannot trust himself to speak, and as he opens the door he sees her kneeling by the bed "all in black in the desolation of a mourning sinner." Heyst goes out to find Ricardo contemplating his writing desk. The bandit turns on Heyst a contorted look as though shaken by an inner convulsion. Heyst orders him to precede him out of the house. There is something "cruel in the absolute dumbness of the night." The thunderstorm rises like a menacing curtain hiding preparations of violence. Ricardo welcomes the storm. "Let it come!" he says viciously. "I am in the mood for it!" Ricardo runs up the steps of the counting house, thrusts his head through the doorway, and says, "Here he is, Governor! Keep him with you as long as you can--till you hear me whistle. I am on the track." Ricardo steps aside to let Heyst pass, and when Heyst enters the room, it is with his peculiar Heystian smile "lurking under his martial moustache." Commentary Ricardo grows bolder and bolder. He insults Heyst by sending Pedro out the front door. In the Orient, no servant is ever allowed to use the front door. His speech to Jones, when he takes Heyst over to the counting house, is such as one might make about a dog. Ricardo feels so sure in his conquest of Lena that he defies Heyst with consummate scorn.
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www.cliffs.com CHAPTER ELEVEN Summary Mr. Jones, in an old but gorgeous blue silk dressing gown, waits for his guest. He leans like a painted pole against the desk. Between flashes of lightning, Ricardo melts away and Mr. Jones immediately places himself between Heyst and the door. He remarks that it is "awfully close." Heyst is not to be put off. "We haven't met to talk about the weather," he says. Mr. Jones assumes a menacing attitude and tells Hevst he has him covered with a gun in his pocket. Heyst deliberately sits down on one of the beds and leans his chin in his hand. Jones provokes Heyst by referring to Schomberg's gossip. The conversation is punctuated by peals of thunder. Jones says: "I am the world itself, come to pay you a visit . . . a sort of fate--the retribution that waits its time." Now he tells Heyst plainly that they are after his money. Heyst assures him that there is little money here, but they are welcome to what he has. Sprinkled through the conversation, Jones makes repeated threats: • • • • •
"Don't provoke me . . . to smash your knee." "I don't know if it wouldn't be better to do it at once." "If you were to make a clean spring at me, you would receive in midair . . . something that would make you harmless." "We are--er--adequate bandits." "I have a good mind to shoot you."
Throughout this menacing conversation, Heyst maintains his slightly disdainful and playful manner. Finally he decides to reveal the real reason for Schomberg's "ugly lies." He tells Jones about Lena. The effect is electric. Jones appears horror-stricken. All his defenses crumble. He seems to have lost his reason. Heyst sees that he could, at this moment, overpower Jones, but his life-long habit of passivity prevents, and he feels nearer death this moment than at any time since he entered the room. Jones curses himself for a fool: "He knew. He knew before!" The maddened ghoul mourns, "He knew from the first!" He insists that Heyst go with him over to Heyst's bungalow to see what Ricardo is doing. The bungalow is ablaze with light. Jones asks Heyst if he minds Ricardo ransacking his house, and Heyst says he doesn't. "And that fascinating creature?" Jones asks. "I have placed her in safety," Heyst answers. "Is that what you mean?" Jones points. Then, in the brilliant square of the lighted door, Heyst sees Lena sitting in a chair "seemingly without strength, yet without fear, tenderly stooping." Now Heyst feels the pressure of a revolver barrel between his shoulders. Jones marches him up the steps of his own house while a horrible doubt spreads through him, and he stops suddenly with the thought that he who experiences such a feeling has no business to go on living. Heyst makes out the crouched form of Ricardo on the floor, his face turned up in rapture. A great "shame of guilt, absurd and maddening," descends on him. "If you had not happened to mention the creature, we would both have been dead before morning," Jones tells Heyst. Both men draw nearer and see Ricardo caressing Lena's extended foot.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
CHAPTER TWELVE Summary This chapter flashes back to the moment when Ricardo returns to the Heyst bungalow to find Lena waiting for him. She has no intention of trying to save herself. Her whole focus is on Ricardo's knife. She must, at any cost, disarm Ricardo and save Heyst. She holds Ricardo at a distance by her flinging hands. He confesses his love for her in savage torrents of "terrible eulogy" and "ferocious phrases." He looks on her with the imbecile worship of a man who can at any moment seize and overpower her. Ricardo questions her about the "plunder," and she tells him she thinks there is some treasure but doesn't know for sure, yet. The catlike "secretary" is now more interested in the girl than in any treasure of gold. While he babbles on in an ecstacy of rapture, she concentrates on how to get that knife. As he draws closer, she nods to him, and "Her soul has no movement of recoil." Anything has to be which will bring that knife within her grasp. Ricardo tells her he will do for both the "gentleman" before midnight. Lena advises him to go slow with Heyst, hinting that she needs to find out more about the treasure, but Ricardo rejects her idea. In a burst of jealousy he declares that Heyst shall never go into her bedroom again. As Lena droops over him, closer and closer, he asks her if she would be up to sticking a man with a knife. "How can I tell?" she whispers. "Will you let me have a look at it?" He pulls the knife out and gives it to her, calling it "a good friend." Now the sting of death is in her hands. She allows the dagger to slip through the folds of her dress out of sight. She assures Ricardo that she will do anything he likes. He asks for her foot and she gives it. Ricardo falls to kissing her ankle. Then, suddenly, Ricardo feels himself spurned by the foot. He looks up to see Heyst standing in the door. The brief report of a shot stuns him for an instant. He searches frantically for his weapon. "Stick him, you!" he calls to the girl as he crashes open the door and rushes out into the night. He thinks Heyst has shot him. What is the governor about, to let him break loose like this? Or perhaps the governor is dead. He starts out to find what has become of Jones and to provide himself with a new weapon. His wound is superficial and he disregards it. Commentary Lena presses on toward Victory. Secure in her purpose, activated by a great love, she is invincible. Contrast her with Heyst, who, because he cannot love, is incapable of aggressive action. Now she conquers Ricardo. Conrad represents him as a devenomed viper prone at her feet. In her bedroom, this morning, Ricardo referred to his knife as a "deadly thing." Now he speaks of it as "a good friend." Both Heyst and Ricardo are disarmed men. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Summary Mr. Jones has fired his pistol over Heyst's shoulder. Now he dodges away and vanishes without a sound. Heyst stumbles into the room. All the objects about him seem unreal. He gazes at Lena with dread. She hides her face in her hands. All at once Wang's queer motions and suggestive hints make sense. How clear it all is, "how amusing!" Now Lena takes her hands from her face and clasps them to her breast "as though moved to the heart by seeing him there looking at her with black, horror-struck curiosity." Her face is radiant with triumph and
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com she speaks with an accent of wild joy: "You are safe now, I have done it. . . . Oh my beloved!" Her voice fades, but her eyes still shine like sun breaking through mist. Heyst bows his head gravely and says with his polite playfulness: "No doubt you acted from instinct. Women have been provided with their own weapon. I have been a disarmed man all my life. You may glory in your resourcefulness and your profound knowledge of yourself; but I may say that the other attitude, suggestive of shame, had its charm. For you are full of charm." Lena does not understand his speech. She thinks he is making fun of her. She tells him she is thanking God for giving him to her at last. Heyst stares as though mad. He hears her explain why she disobeyed him about going into the forest to hide. The sweetness of her voice cuts into his emotions. He can hardly bear it. He turns away. Then her voice falters and he turns to see her head fall on her breast. He seems to read "some awful intelligence in her eyes." He snatches her up, disregarding a metallic clatter at his feet, and carries her into the bedroom, then stands there, not knowing what to do. At this moment, Captain Davidson enters with Ricardo's dagger in his hand. "Has she been stabbed with this thing?" he asks. Heyst tears Lena's clothes open and they discover the tiny black wound of the revolver shot over her heart. She sees Ricardo's dagger in Davidson's hands and asks for it. Davidson puts it in her hands--her symbol of Victory. "What's the matter with me?" she asks. Heyst tells her she has been shot. Over Samburan, the thunder had ceased to growl at last, and "the world of material forms shuddered no more under the emerging stars. The spirit of the girl which was passing away from under them clung to her victory over death." "Oh, my beloved," she cries in a weak voice. "I've saved you! Why don't you take me into your arms and carry me out of this lonely place?" Cursing his fastidious soul, Heyst bends over her. Not even in this moment can he give the true cry of love, so strong is his "infernal mistrust of all life." Lena tries to lift her head, and with a terrified, but gentle movement, Heyst slips his arm under her neck. With a flush of rapture flooding her whole being and with a "divine radiance" on her lips, she breathes her last, triumphant. Commentary Progressively, through the last section of this book, Conrad has drawn the likeness between Lena and Christ, who loved so much that He gave His life. The reference to crushing the viper beneath her heel is significant. Now, in this chapter, he speaks of her breast as being of "a sacred whiteness," also her "transfigured beauty," and the "divine radiance" on her lips as she expires. Lena has now become the symbol of perfect love. She dies in triumph, mistaking Heyst's last gesture of tenderness for the fulfillment of her hopes. Heyst's reaction at seeing what he interprets as Lena's falseness is typical of his character. At first he feels a "great shame . . . the shame of guilt, absurd and maddening." Later, left alone with Lena (Chapter Thirteen), when Wang's suggestions become clear, he regards the matter as "extremely amusing! Very." A normal person's emotions would have been far different; but Heyst is not a normal person. He has withdrawn himself from life and love until he is incapable of giving himself. His guilt is similar to that which he manifested over Morrison--the guilt of not having loved. His fastidious soul has held him back. It still holds him in this moment of Lena's death--the final negation of all his man-soul needs and cries out for. He cannot summon the "true cry of love" to his lips, not even to comfort the girl who has given her life for him. It is the ultimate irony that he makes the physical gesture that convinces Lena of her Victory.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com CHAPTER FOURTEEN Summary This final chapter contains Captain Davidson's report of the Samburan affair to an "Excellency" who has called him in for an explanation. Davidson said that although he could not claim to know Heyst well (no one did), he did keep an eye on him, and when Schomberg's wife told him, in Sourabaya, how her husband had sent the three ruffians off to Samburan on an errand of revenge, he hurried back to the island but arrived too late. The thunderstorm delayed him, and when he did enter Black Diamond Bay, everything seemed quiet. Then he discovered a white boat adrift with a dead man in it--a big hairy fellow. He lost no time going ashore and arrived in Heyst's bungalow just in time to see the girl die. "I won't tell you what a time I had with him afterwards." Davidson repeated Heyst's last significant comment: "Ah, Davidson, woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young, to hope, to love--and to put its trust in life." Davidson said that before he parted from Heyst, the baron asked to be left alone with his dead for a while. They both heard Jones shoot Ricardo. About five in the morning, word reached the ship that there was a fire on shore. The principal bungalow was blazing and the heat drove Davidson and his men back. The other two houses caught and burned like kindling wood. "I suppose you are certain that Baron Heyst is dead?" the Excellency inquired. "He is ashes, your Excellency . . . he and the girl together." Davidson told how the following day, Wang had helped him to investigate, and they found enough evidence to be sure. Wang told how he had shot Pedro. Davidson told the Excellency that Ricardo had been shot neatly through the heart, and he had left the body where it fell. Later he found Jones' body down in the deep water near the wharf, "huddled" up on the bottom between two piles, like a heap of bones in a blue silk bag. "Then," Davidson told the Excellency, "I went away. There was nothing to be done there. NOTHING." Commentary The reader recalls Davidson's attitude toward Heyst. He likes Heyst and regards him as a gentleman, but Heyst's polite manner and habitual detachment make Davidson reluctant to rush in on him as he would do with a close friend. So for this cause, Davidson delays coming ashore until it is too late. Throughout Conrad's work, he makes frequent reference to passages from the Scriptures. There is no reason to believe that Conrad was essentially a religious man, but he makes use of scriptural symbolism and much suggestive reference to the Bible. No one can doubt that Conrad was thinking of the Thirteenth Chapter of First Corinthians when he wrote Victory: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love, I am become as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. . . . And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com Conrad, in most of his later works, chose his last word with great care. The word nothing at the end of Victory signifies exactly what it does in the Scripture verses above. The final end of all life without love is NOTHING.
CHARACTER ANALYSES AXEL HEYST How does he appear to others? At the time the story begins, Heyst is about thirty-five years old. The last vestiges of youth are gone from his face. In the fullness of his physical development, with his bald head and "long red-gold moustaches," he presents a "broad and martial appearance." He reminds one of portraits of Charles XII. His forehead is noble and his blue eyes, tired. He dresses habitually in the white drill suit of the tropics and wears a white cork sun helmet. Male characters in the book generally like Heyst. He is a perfect gentleman. His most obvious characteristic is a finished courtesy of manner, movement, and voice--a delicate playfulness which serves as a perfect concealment for his private impressions of life about him. To Morrison, he appears as a messenger of divine Providence, and Morrison spends the rest of his life trying to show his gratitude for Heyst's kindness. To Lena, he appears as a deliverer, one to whom she is profoundly grateful. Later, she loves him. Although she never understands him on an intellectual level, her intuition probes the secret of his basic need--to love and be loved. To Davidson, he proves himself a gentleman of the finest sort, yet Davidson never feels close to him. He always stands in awe of the Swedish baron. Schomberg regards Heyst with malignant suspicion. He deludes himself into the belief that Heyst is a swindler and bloodsucker who preys on Morrison as well as the investors of the Tropical Belt Coal Company. Schomberg regards Heyst's polite manner as a cover-up for the darkest of deeds. Jones and Ricardo never fathom Heyst's polite and casual attitude. They mistake his forthright manner and courteous behavior as a mask for depths of cunning that frighten them. How does Heyst regard himself? While a person's own estimate of himself may not coincide with others' judgment, still such self-knowledge as a person possesses is important to the study of that character. Heyst thinks himself to be exactly like his father but "without the genius." He tells Lena that he is "the most detached of all creature, . . . the veriest tramp on this earth, an indifferent stroller through the world's bustle . . . a man of universal scorn and unbelief." What makes him the sort of man he is? Conrad has fully motivated Heyst by telling us that his philosopher father has imbued him, in his youth, with a deep mistrust of life. At his most impressionable age and under the most poignant of circumstances, the elder Heyst has guided his son, Axel, into an isolationist philosophy that years of experience only confirm, strengthen, and solidify into a pattern of life. Heyst's father has advised him to "cultivate that form of contempt which is called pity." Otherwise he is never to participate in human action. What does Heyst do that reveals him? In all relationship to people he holds himself aloof, masking his indifference under consummate politeness. Following his father's advice, he allows himself only the
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com emotion of pity toward his fellows. Through pity he becomes involved first with Morrison, then with Lena. After both these involvements, he regrets his action, feeling that he has opened the door to all manner of evil. Because no one can get close to him, Lena feels that she must defend him, and Davidson hesitates to go ashore on Samburan until it is too late. What does he say that reveals him? Throughout the book, the reader will find many statements which show that Heyst never deviates from his father's precepts. "I have never killed a man nor loved a woman!" he exclaims to Lena. All his conversation show that he is capable of neither love nor hate. He has refined them away. How does he think? Since Conrad allows the reader access to Heyst's mind in the later part of the book, his private thoughts furnish the clearest revelation of his character. He thinks of Morrison with playful and half-annoyed scorn. He thinks of Lena as "that poor little girl." Even in the last hours of his life, he looks on Lena "with the dregs of tender pity." Davidson he regards with indifferent approval. Schomberg's vicious gossip enrages him because it probes his guilt complex. Yet even his rage is shortlived and futile. He regards the three villains as a deadly menace, yet every idea he advances for dealing with them is childish and impotent, nullified by his own emotional inertia. What changes occur in his character? Conrad shows with stunning clarity how difficult it is for a man to change his habits of thought after the age of thirty-five. Only the most powerful incentive can affect him. The powerful incentive is Lena's great love. The reader can see that Heyst is affected. His heart is "broken into." He hears a new call, "imperious and august." Lena's tender glance leaves "a secret touch upon his heart." Conrad manages to convey the impression that, given more time, Heyst might have yielded to the warmth of Lena's devotion and become a more normal person. Perhaps the only significant change in Heyst's character comes when the "new doubt" enters his mind and he realizes the futile deadliness of his philosophy. This change comes too late to produce any constructive action and results only in Heyst's suicide. The Swedish baron Heyst stands as a monumental figure of tragedy--a man who cannot love. Essentially a good and kind person with capacity for tenderness and warmth, his isolationist policy robs him of every precious gift life has to offer. In the end, he finds the goal toward which every step of his detached existence has led him--NOTHING.
LENA Of all the characters in Victory, Conrad admits that he "looked longest" at Lena. Almost a child of the streets, her life has known little but unmitigated sadness until Heyst enters to intervene between her and the vicious Mrs. Zangiacomo. Lena is beautiful with heavy dark hair, deep-cut lips, white skin, and dreamy eyes. Her face is audacious and miserable, but Heyst finds it more fine-featured than any he has looked upon before. Her most enchanting allurement, for Heyst, is her melodious voice, which seems to render whatever she says into something lovely and memorable. Lena begs Heyst to rescue her from the cruel Zangiacomo couple in whose orchestra she is a violinist, and also from the romantic attentions of Schomberg. Out of pity, Heyst abducts Lena and carries her off to his lonely island of Samburan. In the desolate peace of their situation, Lena changes from a rather coarse and bedraggled girl into a mature woman, genuinely in love with Heyst. As the story rushes to its dramatic and tragic climax, Lena grows in stature. Actuated by every instinct of a loving woman, her weakness
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com changes to strength, her dependence to protective competence. She meets Ricardo's "feral spring" with a courage that matches his own and wins his admiration. Lena discovers how completely disarmed Heyst is. She resolves to prove her love for him in such a way that he will accept her fully. She deceives both Heyst and Ricardo. Out of this duplicity, she wins her tragic victory which costs her life. Conrad raises Lena to the dignity of a universal symbol of pure love--self sacrificing love--and even ascribes to her person a touch of divinity. Lena seems to have been Conrad's favorite woman character.
SCHOMBERG Did not his malicious gossip provide the pivotal force of the novel, Schomberg would scarcely be worthy of a detailed characterization. His deadly mixture of cowardice and malignant hatred reminds the reader of Cornelius, a character in one of Conrad's earlier novels, Lord Jim. Too abject to fight or even to defend himself and his table-d'hote from Jones and Ricardo, he nevertheless manages to precipitate the bloody climax of the story. Conrad makes much of Schomberg's German ancestry. He regards him as a prime example of "the Teutonic temperament." Physically, Schomberg is a big pompous fellow who considers himself, at forty-five, a "man in the prime of life." He despises his wooden and long-suffering wife, while he presses his amorous attentions on Lena. He has a positive genius for spreading gossip, and from the beginning, he hates Axel Heyst. Later, when Heyst steals Lena from his hotel, his rage mounts to murderous proportions. He sends three villains to Samburan to punish Heyst.
GENTLEMAN JONES He may be a materialization of the devil, himself. He gives enough evidence of Satanic origin. His real name is not Jones; yet he gives the impression of being a gentleman. He claims that he once moved in the highest society. By the objective viewpoint--never entering his mind--Conrad makes Jones a most diabolical villain, larger than life. He appears as a hideous specter, an animated corpse, calculating, cruel, and ruthless as the devil he symbolizes. Conrad does not motivate Jones. He tells nothing of his childhood nor of the sinister forces that shaped him into the embodiment of cold horror. With casual insolence, Jones staggers through the plot spreading terror and death. He has one weakness--he loathes women-which proves his undoing in the end. He shoots his accomplice, Ricardo, as well as Lena. Then, by accident, or by intention, he takes his own life.
RICARDO Gentleman Jones' "secretary," Martin Ricardo, also travels under an assumed name. He appears to be a renegade Englishman who has assumed a Spanish name. He is a stocky, pockmarked vandal whose appearance, actions, and instincts are all feline and "feral." Conrad says that every cat he looks at reminds him of Ricardo. Conrad does not motivate Ricardo. No one knows what makes him bloodthirsty and violent. Neither Jones nor Ricardo has a single redeeming feature. Their ugliness is deadly and their deadliness, perpetual. Ricardo has one weakness, too. He can be duped by an attractive woman. Lena dupes and destroys him.
CAPTAIN MORRISON Morrison is a busy kind-hearted trader who allows himself to be cheated by his customers. His financial troubles draw Heyst into his first interference in human affairs. Morrison's gratitude is both comical and pitiful. Heyst's description of him is one of the finest bits of characterization in all Conrad's writings: His mind was like a white-walled, pure chamber furnished with, say, six straw-bottomed chairs, and he was always placing and displacing them in various combinations. But they were always the same chairs. He was extremely easy to live with; but then he got hold of
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com this coal idea--or rather the idea got hold of him. It entered into that scantily furnished chamber of which I have just spoken, and sat on all the chairs. Morrison is tall and lantern-jawed, clean-shaven and "looked like a barrister who had thrown his wig to the dogs." He is master of the brig Capricorn. The impounding of his vessel creates the situation which calls forth Heyst's pity and his subsequent succor. At Morrison's insistence, Heyst becomes manager of the Tropical Belt Coal Company. On a trip to England to further the new company's interests, Morrison contracts a chill and dies, leaving Heyst with feelings of remorse and guilt.
CAPTAIN DAVIDSON Davidson, captain of the Sissie, is introduced in Chapter Three of Part One and continues to play a minor part through the whole book. At the end, he presides over the final acts of the sanguinary affair on Samburan. Davidson is a good-natured fat man with fine feeling. Although Axel Heyst's polite courtesy disconcerts him, he always swings in near Heyst's lonely island on the chance that the Swedish baron might want to hail him for something. It is Davidson who stands by Heyst's side while Lena is dying. Later he receives Heyst's last sad confession and sifts the ashes of Heyst's fire to find evidence of the Swedish baron's death. In the final chapter, Davidson reports to a Dutch "Excellency" in Sourabaya the details of the tragedy.
CRITICAL ESSAYS CONRAD AND HIS VICTORY Conrad said that he tried to grasp at more "life stuff" in Victory than in anything he had yet written. Is it not reasonable to suppose that his own "life stuff" furnished much of the content of this, his last great novel? The circumstances of Conrad's birth destined him to sadness. His parents, a pair of dedicated Polish patriots, were condemned to exile by the Russians when Joseph was five. The rigors of prison life killed his mother three years later. At the age of twelve, Conrad lost his father and the gifted boy was left to relatives who reared and educated him. Doubly orphaned by Russian cruelty, Conrad was marked in his youth by that grief and melancholy which permeates all his writings. Conrad was, himself, a withdrawn person who masked his aloofness under a courteous exterior. His novel, Victory, more than any of his other writings, revealed his own self knowledge and regret for those circumstances of his life which fostered detachment. His romantic nature and perception of beauty fitted him for warmth and close human relationship, but the paralyzing hand of mistrust had touched him early and withered a vital and delicate element within him. He did not marry until he was almost forty. He promised the parents of his bride, Jessie, that she would never have children. Nature, however, to Jessie's great satisfaction, took a hand in Conrad's affairs and two sons were born to them. Children have seldom appeared in Conrad's writings, and in spite of skill in craftsmanship and the esthetic beauty of his work, it has suffered by the omission.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com In the character of Axel Heyst, Conrad has shown his own regret over his lack of capacity for normal and deeply affectionate attachment. Perhaps the author's chief purpose was to warn all people that the ability to love is the essence of life. From such "life stuff' Conrad produced Victory. Conrad wrote Victory between October 1912 and May 1914. It was published just after the outbreak of World War I. For a time, Conrad hesitated to call the book Victory because, as he said, the title "appeared too great, too august, to stand at the head of a mere novel." Yet so intricately was the title interwoven into the fabric of the book that Conrad could not bring himself to change it. Thanks to the success of Chance, Conrad's agent was able to sell serial rights on Victory for a thousand pounds with an advance of eighthundred-fifty pounds on the book rights. Victory contained more concentrated symbolism than any of his previous work, and critics have regarded Axel Heyst as the most complex of all Conrad's characters. He was fond of the book, and on the only occasion when he read aloud from his own work in public, he chose to read the chapter describing Lena's death. In his Author's Note, Conrad explained that he drew his characters from real life. Heyst was, in truth, a mysterious Swede whose identity Conrad has concealed. Gentleman Jones he met in a hotel on the island of St. Thomas in the West Indies. Conrad discovered Ricardo among the passengers on a schooner in the Gulf of Mexico. Pedro Conrad encountered in a roadside shack where he went to ask for a bottle of lemonade. In haste to escape the creature's bestial ferocity, Conrad escaped through the nearest exit--the wall. Lena was a member of a band of musicians playing at a small cafe in the south of France, and the conductor of that orchestra became the Zangiacomo of Victory. Schomberg was a real hotelkeeper in Bangkok. From such wide geographical points and varied adventures, Conrad assembled the cast of characters for this book, his thirty-sixth work of fiction and his last great novel. Victory was written at the height of Conrad's powers as a novelist. His skill in suggesting more than is written was fully employed, and also that elusive element which has always caused Conrad's readers to suspect that Conrad was as puzzled by his characters as they.
STRUCTURE OF VICTORY Conrad divided Victory into four parts as follows: Part One (seven chapters) is written in objective viewpoint by an onlooker who is not described or introduced--maybe Conrad, himself. The purpose of Part One is: • • •
to give the reader an objective view of Axel Heyst as seen and known by his contemporaries in the island region where the story is laid. to introduce the "good characters" and also Schomberg, who sparks the plot action and may be regarded as a pivotal character. to introduce the setting for the drama on Samburan.
Part Two (eight chapters) begins in the narrator's objective viewpoint but enters the subjective viewpoint of both Heyst and Schomberg. The "I" is dropped after Chapter Two of Part Two. The purpose of Part Two is: • •
to introduce the villains. to set up the elopement with attendant excitement.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
to develop Schomberg's character. He does not appear, excepting by reference, after the end of Part Two.
Part Three (ten chapters) begins in author's objective viewpoint but in Chapter Three shifts into subjective of all the characters excepting Jones. The purpose of Part Three is: • • •
to introduce the reader to Samburan as it looks when Heyst brings Lena to live there, and also to introduce Wang. to introduce the three villains to Samburan and show their opinion of Heyst and his reaction to them. to set the stage for the final hours of tragedy.
Part Four (fourteen chapters) covers less than one day of time. It continues in both objective and subjective viewpoints of all characters but Mr. Jones, whose mind is not entered during the book. The purpose of Part Four is: •
the climax of the plot toward which all previous parts have built.
The book's general structure is more like modern novels than Conrad's earlier books. Comparatively few characters are used, and they are well developed. There are no deviations from the ascending story line. Flashbacks are well handled, and all of the flashbacks are pertinent to the plot.
TECHNIQUE OF TELLING The style of Victory is more modern than that of Almayer's Folly, Lord Jim, and others of Conrad's earlier novels. The writers of his own period in history influenced him. His manner of building suspense compares well with modern writings. Yet Conrad's matchless word rhythms, word choice, imagery, simile, and metaphor remain unchanged in this, his last truly great novel. Word Choice and Rhythm Conrad began to learn the English language at the age of twenty-one. His amazing gift for word selection is the more remarkable because of this handicap. While Conrad's unusual background provides exotic setting for his plot, he does not depend on background. He uses words to create effects, and his play on words is often remarkable in suggestive power. Such a passage occurs in Chapter Eight, Part Two, where by playing on the word "hung" he manages to convey objectively the deep guilt in Schomberg's mind and his successful effort to cast off that guilt and go ahead with his murderous plan. Other Use of Suggestion By suggestion Conrad succeeds in conveying much more than his actual words express. All great writers use some such device to enrich their work, but few have succeeded so well as Conrad. Often, by a sentence or a phrase, he lifts the curtain on possibilities otherwise undreamed of. Throughout Schomberg's long conversation with Ricardo in Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight of Part Two, suggestion is used again to reveal Schomberg's cowardice and Ricardo's scarcely controlled ferocity. In Chapters Three, Four, and Five of Part Three, in which Heyst and Lena talk to each other on the forest path, Conrad conveys a world of subtle meaning. The intricate interplay between Heyst's true confessions about his affair with Morrison and Lena's reaction is a masterpiece of suggestive skill. The thoughtful reader will find that much of the enjoyment of Conrad's work is induced by this subtle power of suggestion. His later works lack this quality, and many critics think that, whether he deliberately
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com discarded this technique or lost it without knowing, the lack of suggestion in his final works is what marks them as inferior. Dramatic Method For the most part, Conrad chooses to inform his readers through dramatic scenes. In using this method, he conforms with the best opinions of modern writers and critics, who believe that people would rather see a scene than hear about it. Some of the book's most vivid scenes are: • • • • • • • • • •
Heyst's meeting with Morrison on the streets of Delli in Timor. The scene in the concert hall where Heyst sees Lena being tormented by Mrs. Zangiacomo. The meeting of Heyst and Lena in the hotel garden at night. Schomberg's first meeting with the three villains in Sourabaya harbor. The scene where Jones and Ricardo force Schomberg to grant gambling privileges of his concert hall. Schomberg's long scene in the billiards room which ends in the hotelkeeper directing the three scoundrels to Samburan. The arrival of the three villains on Samburan. Ricardo's vicious attack on Lena. The scene before Wang's stockade. The climax scene.
Sentences, Paragraphs, and Punctuation Departing from the rather ponderous style of his early work, Conrad's paragraphing and sentence structure in Victory are more in line with modern novels. Whereas he formerly ran two or more persons' conversation together in one paragraph, he goes, in Victory, to the opposite extreme and sometimes divides one person's speech into two paragraphs when such division is unnecessary and tends to confuse the reader. He uses more exclamation points than many modern writers, and he uses contractions much more than he did in the first writings. Dialogue The dialogue in Victory is noteworthy for its exact portrayal of character. Only Lena's talk seems a little unbelievable. Would a Cockney girl of such sordid origins use the good English Lena uses? Of course profanities were not allowed in the literature of Conrad's time, so whatever vulgar language she may have used cannot be reported. Even so, she speaks with remarkably pure diction. Humor In spite of Victory's tragic character, humor often flashes through. Some examples are the description of Morrison's trade practices with the "God-forsaken villages" in the first paragraphs of Chapter Two, Part One, and the description of Schomberg's fight with Zangiacomo. Even the scene where Schomberg and Ricardo have their long talk in Chapters Six to Eight in Part Two, although loaded with threatening overtones, contains some flashes of delicious humor. Heyst's meditations over his plan to steal Lena furnish this bit: ". . . for the use of reason is to justify the obscure desires that move our conduct, impulses, passions, prejudices and follies and also our fears." Many snatches of description and characterization are funny. Foreshadowing Conrad makes much use of this device in Victory. By use of simile, metaphor, suggestion, and symbolism, he foreshadows future developments in the plot. Most conspicuous is his frequent reference
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com to fire to foreshadow the scene in which Heyst will perish with Lena's dead body beside him. A few of these references are noted here. The reader will find many others: • • • •
The volcano, in Chapter One, "levelled at him from amongst the clear stars, a dull red glow." The burned area in front of Heyst's bungalow is the first thing Heyst and Lena see when he brings her to the island. On the last day of peace Heyst and Lena are to know, the references to fire increase. "The sun looked down . . . with a devouring glare like the eye of an enemy." Conrad also mentions "the intense blaze of the uncovered sea." Note "the flaming abyss of emptiness" in Chapter Five.
In a more subtle manner, Conrad foreshadows the final effect of Heyst's philosophy of isolation: • • • •
"He was incapable of outward cordiality of manner." "I don't care what people may say, and of course no one can hurt me." (Heyst to Davidson) "Heyst . . . suffered from plain, downright remorse. He deemed himself guilty of Morrison's death." "Not a single soul belonging to him lived anywhere on earth."
Pairing In Victory, Conrad uses the device of pairing which appears in others of his works, but nowhere with more symbolic meaning than in this novel. There are four pairs of characters. Heyst and Jones are both gentlemen from the same general background of polite society. One is genuine and the other a renegade of the vilest sort. Ricardo and Lena are both followers of gentlemen and themselves spawned in the dregs of society. They understand each other. Lena judges Ricardo correctly, but Ricardo misses his calculations on Lena because he does not realize that a great love has transformed the girl's life. Captain Morrison and Captain Davidson are both owners of trading vessels. One figures in Heyst's first entry into human action; the other presides over his final exit from all human activity. Pedro and Wang are both servants. They understand one another to the point of being afraid of one another. Wang kills Pedro. Since all the characters in the book are symbolic, the pairings of persons serve a useful purpose, not only in constructing the plot but in highlighting the symbolic meanings. Lure of the Unanswered Question Modern sophisticated journals use a type of fiction which ends in such a way that readers may decide for themselves what really happened. The outcome is always open to argument. While Conrad never uses the open-ended story as such, he does use a subtle form of technique which borders on the open-end situation and raises challenging questions in readers' minds. If the reader takes time to study hints and suggestions which Conrad conceals here and there, clues will be found. They may not clear up the question, but they certainly make the consideration of it intensely interesting. Two such questions follow: Did Jones shoot Lena by accident or by intention? At first reading, the reader may be inclined to think it was by accident because Jones told Heyst, "It won't be you that I'll have to shoot, but him!" Also Heyst, himself, believed that Jones intended to kill Ricardo,
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com missed, and shot Lena by accident. He said to Davidson, when they both heard the shot that finally killed Ricardo, "This time, he has not missed." A more thoughtful consideration raises strong suspicion that Jones was too good a shot to miss a sitting target in a brightly lighted room. Conrad has informed the reader about Jones' ability with a gun, but Heyst was ignorant of how Jones shot Pedro's brother, Antonio: "He snatches his revolver from under his jacket and plugs a bullet dead center into Mr. Antonio's chest." Heyst did not hear Ricardo tell Lena that his master is "better than good" with a gun. Heyst couldn't know that in a "perfectly dark night" Jones has shot Ricardo "neatly through the heart." The reader knows more than Heyst. Also the reader knows that Heyst was too good a person, himself, to imagine that anyone would shoot a helpless girl by intention. Then, the reader remembers Jones' intense hatred of women. He regarded them as "horrors," resented them as he would "wriggling vipers." Jones certainly hated women enough to kill one with pleasure. He had double reason to hate Lena. She had seduced Ricardo. The reader also recalls that Ricardo was sitting on the floor with his back to the door. Lena sat in a chair bending over him. Could Jones have aimed at Ricardo and hit Lena squarely in the heart? The catlike Ricardo was in the act of springing up when he got the grazing head wound. Another question arises. Would Jones have slipped away as he did if his shot had missed the mark he intended? Would not his pride of marksmanship have urged another shot? He did shoot Ricardo later exactly as he said he would. He knew that Ricardo war armed with a dagger only. The advantage was all on his side. Why Did Heyst Commit Suicide? Critics of Conrad's fiction have much to say on this question and do not agree. Some think Heyst at last found something worth dying for. Some think he was crazed with grief. Others think that his reasons were a secret, locked forever in his mind. This question is worthy of deep study because the whole thematic content of the book hinges on it. In Chapter Eleven, Part Three, Heyst tells Jones that he has divorced himself, "long ago," from "the love of life." Perhaps the clearest lead appears in the same chapter where Heyst is being prodded up the steps to his own bungalow with Jones' gun in his back. When he sees Lena and realizes that she has disregarded and disobeyed his orders which would have insured her safety (he does not yet see Ricardo at her feet), sudden realization bursts upon him that Lena knows she cannot trust him to protect her or himself. He sees himself as a "hollow" man. A new doubt enters into him, "formless, hideous. It seemed to spread itself all over him, enter his limbs, and lodge in his entrails." He stops suddenly with the thought that one who feels as he does has no business to live. Since this doubt is a new one, it cannot be doubt of Lena or any other person. He has always doubted and mistrusted everyone. No, this new doubt can be only of one kind--doubt of himself and his own philosophy of life. Thus Heyst's final statement to Davidson is motivated: ". . . woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love--and to put its trust in life." With his isolationist philosophy toppling about him, Axel Heyst cannot go on living because he can look forward to NOTHING.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
www.cliffs.com By such subtleties as these, Conrad entices his readers and challenges their powers of reason. Much of his charm as a writer lies in his ability to persuade his reader that he, Conrad, is as deeply puzzled about his characters as any casual observer. Themes The great, overall theme of Victory is the one Conrad draws from the scriptures, without love I am nothing. Other themes are: • • • • • • •
Withdrawal from others leads to soul shrinkage. Refusal to participate in life's activities reacts on a person with paralyzing effect. Isolationist policy is fatal. Through compassion for others, a man is often led out of any beyond himself. "Greater love hath no man than this. That a man lay down his life for his friends." Great love generates great strength and courage. Malicious gossip is a murderous weapon.
Significance The problem Conrad probes in all his fictional works is that of the non-conformist. Victory is unique in that it presents this problem from a different angle. Axel Heyst is no outcast from society. He, himself, has cast out society. He scorns the world and all its activities and isolates himself by choice. In a broad sense, this novel is a condemnation of the "isolationist policy" which was popular in our country just before World War I. Conrad may have been thinking of speeches and articles presented by American statesmen when he wrote portions of Victory. In a more modern and individual analysis of Victory's problems, they reach into every person's life and challenge our thinking. The ability to give of oneself is a priceless treasure. Only those who live close to others in mutual love and trust can know the fullness of life. All withdrawal and aloofness react upon the isolationist with destructive force until, confirmed in his habit of non-participation, he becomes incapable of real cordiality or affection. As a result, he must instinctively feel guilt for that greatest sin of omission-failure to love. So the significance of Victory may be condensed into a simple statement: To love is the greatest good. Conversely, to be incapable of love is the greatest misfortune. Setting Conrad says that Samburan is one of the Tiger Islands off the south coast of the Celebes and about three hundred miles from Sourabaya. Part of the story happens in Sourabaya and then the scene shifts to Samburan, where the plot unfolds to its dramatic climax. The last chapter shifts back to Sourabaya again, where Davidson gives his report to an "Excellency" of the Dutch Government. The time setting of the plot is without doubt late in the nineteenth century although there is no specific mention of a date. Conrad was active in that part of the world in the late 1880s, and he wrote Victory in 1912-1914.
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
SYMBOLISM OF THE BOOK Characters as Symbols The overall symbolism of the book is concerned with the struggle between love and the powers of darkness. Lena symbolizes pure love. Of humble origin, she typifies Christ. Heyst symbolizes the negation of love through mistrust of life. Schomberg symbolizes that cringing, sneaking form of evil which is often more deadly than open violence. Ricardo symbolizes the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." Jones symbolizes the devil. Wang symbolizes the false face of friendship which deserts when adversity arises. Pedro symbolizes bestiality. Other Symbols Throughout the book, the reader will find rich symbolism: The volcano symbolizes life, always threatening to break out in violence, breeding storms--life as Heyst regarded it. The volcano also foreshadows Heyst's death by fire. Clouds symbolize the sad fate of both Heyst and Lena. The books and portrait symbolize the hold Heyst's father's philosophy has on his son. The sea symbolizes death. The storm symbolizes the storm of violence in the hearts of the actors in Samburan's final tragic scene. Ricardo's dagger symbolizes the sting of death, rendered harmless by love. Thus it becomes the symbol of Lena's Victory. Lena's black dress is a symbol of death. The spears in the barrier of branches symbolize fear.
ESSAY TOPICS AND REVIEW QUESTIONS 1. What motivation does Conrad give for Heyst's withdrawal from society and his basic distrust of life? 2. How do the themes and plot of Victory show that Conrad was affected by happenings in the world about him? 3. How does Heyst's attitude toward Morrison reveal his detachment from life? His relationship with Lena? With Wang? With Davidson? With the villains? 4. What motivates Conrad's dislike for the German people? Which characters in Victory illustrate this prejudice?
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963
5. What does each of the four parts of Victory contribute to the whole? 6. What is Victory's principal theme? Other related themes? 7. Are there indications that Victory's themes stem from Conrad's own "life stuff"? 8. When Heyst helps Morrison, what emotion moves him? Is it the same emotion which causes his rescue of Lena? How does this emotion tie in with Heyst's father's philosophy? 9. Some critics refer to Heyst as a "hollow'' man. What do they mean? 10. Ricardo thinks that Schomberg is a "tame" man. Is Heyst a "tame" man too? 11. Why does Heyst choose the name Lena for the girl he rescues? Which of her two names fits the girl best? 12. How does Conrad show that Schomberg knows what he is doing when he sends the villains to Samburan and feels guilty about his action? 13. How does the reader know that Lena deeply feels the desolation and loneliness of Samburan? 14. What is meant by "suggestion"? Give examples of Conrad's use of this device. 15. What are some of the unanswered questions Conrad leaves as a challenge to his readers? 16. Why does Conrad enter the minds of all major characters in Victory excepting Mr. Jones? 17. Why does Heyst so deeply resent Schomberg's malicious gossip? 18. What contrasts does Conrad's technique of "pairing" accentuate? Which characters are "paired"? 19. What does the portrait of Heyst's father symbolize? 20. On his father's advice, Heyst cultivates that "form of contempt called pity." How does this emotion affect his actions? 21. What does the volcano symbolize? The clouds? The storm? The sea? The spears in the barrier of branches? Ricardo's dagger? 22. What significance does the problem of Victory have on a universal level? On an individual level? 23. What does the scene on the forest path in Chapters Three, Four and Five of Part Three reveal about Heyst's real feeling toward Lena and her understanding of his character? 24. Trace Lena's change of character. 25. Does Heyst's character change? 26. What are the key values of Victory? What does the book teach about guilt complexes, pity, love, and hate? What does it teach about isolationism and mistrust?
Cliffs Notes on Victory © 1963