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The main theme of The Secret Sharer concerns the subjectivity of human perspectives and the ability to adapt one's moral and emotional needs to specific situations. Although the Captain is an upstanding man who abides by the seaman's code, his interaction with the murderer, Leggatt, reveals him as someone who is willing to adapt his concept of right and wrong to the situation at hand. Because the Captain is emotionally vulnerable and incapable of making decisions, he is in a sense almost as egregious a violator of the seaman's code as Leggett is. However, he endangers his crew through indecision rather than impulsiveness. Therefore, he is sympathetic to Leggatt's story and sees him as another part of himself, that holds the potential for evil. This identification with Leggatt leads the Captain to eventually become a more decisive and competent Captain as he begins to think instinctually rather than examining his every move. In doing this, the Captain realizes that he too could have committed a similar crime, if he had been in the same situation as Leggatt.
Among the minor Themes, the nocturnal journey has to be considered one of them. The "nocturnal" is a journey within, and represents a moving from one phase of life to another. In The Secret Sharer, the Captain comes to terms with his darker side and thereby acquires self-knowledge as well as adulthood.
The central mood of The Secret Sharer is one of mystery and suspense. The story's atmosphere is built up through description and a sense of foreboding in the first few paragraphs of the story. Here is a man isolated from himself and his crewmen. He is alone and lonely and the tropical setting underscores this. The arrival of Leggatt brings an almost otherworldly feel to the story. There is suspense throughout as the captain attempts to conceal Leggatt from the others on board. There is also a mood of intense emotional understanding between the two that offsets the fear of discovery. Finally the suspense comes to a climax when the captain must save his ship from imminent disaster. With this comes an inner as well as external reconciliation with himself as well as his crew. The ending is positive and reveals the success of the Captain's venture with his darker self.