Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
SUMMARIES AND NOTES
The Secret Sharer can be divided into two major parts. In order to help the student and control the material being analyzed, each part has been divided into four sections.
The young Captain-narrator begins his story at the moment that a tugboat disappears on the horizon and he is "left alone" with his ship which is anchored in the Gulf of Siam at the mouth of the River Meinam. There is an "immense stillness" in which the ship floats. The narrator is about to enter a new phase of existence as a Captain. He appears to believe that the "long and arduous enterprise" of the coming voyage will measure his fitness not only to command, but also to live since to command is "the appointed task of his existence." He regards the voyage as a test of himself both as a man and as a Captain. He consequently feels that he is "a stranger to the ship" and "somewhat of the stranger" to himself.
He is enjoying this moment of solitude with his ship, watching as the sun sets and the darkness moves into the night, the stars shining above. Just before the sun washes the light from the sky, he notices something in the distance that disturbs him. Soon other noises disturb him on board. He soon goes to dinner with his first and second mate and asks them if they have seen the ship anchored near the largest islet to their left. The first mate answers with his usual response and the second mate smirks at him.
After his supper with the crew, the Captain decides to keep anchor watch and tells everybody to go and rest, as he knows the crew has been working hard and have not had much time to sleep. The men, rather than being grateful, look at him in alarm, never hearing of such a thing. The Captain is restless and stands on board, smoking a cigar, thinking of the journey ahead and the route back to England. He feels happy with the great security of the sea compared to the unrest of the land. He goes over to the other side of the ship and observes a rope side ladder that has not been pulled up. At first he is vexed because it should have been done earlier but then he realizes that by relieving the crew early, he has allowed a laxness in finishing chores to occur. He decides to pull it up himself but when he does, he feels some resistance. Putting his head over the rail, he looks down at the sea where the ladder is and sees a man floating on the water. He looks like a headless corpse. The Captain is so astonished that his cigar drops out of his mouth and makes a hiss in the water. The sound makes the man raise his head and the Captain asks him what is the matter. He says that he has cramps and that he has swum for quite a while and is too tired to climb the ladder. He informs the Captain that his name is Leggatt. A mysterious communication is established between the two and Leggatt asks if he can come up or he will have to continue swimming. The Captain realizes that he is serious and says for him to come up, then he hastens away to fetch clothes for him, while Leggatt begins to climb the ladder.