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MonkeyNotes-The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad
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Section 7

Summary

A little before supper, the Captain rejoins his second self for a while. He whispers to him that he will smuggle him into the sail locker, which communicates to the lobby. From there he could use the rope's end to avoid a splash while escaping through the water. The double keeps silent for a while and then whispers "I understand." The supper bell rings. After supper the Captain does not come down till eight o'clock. The faint, steady breeze is loaded with dew. The night is clear and starry. The Captain is interrupted by the night watch and warns him about their proximity to land. The Captain says he will be right there.

Because it is their last time together, the Captain gives Leggatt three gold sovereigns. He has only six and he must keep some money for buying fruits and vegetables for the crew. Leggatt nods his head, but the Captain desperately whispers that he should take it. He takes them at last and feels very touched.

The Captain then asks the steward to get him some warm water from the galley. The steward is sent up to check whether the galley has been closed. The Captain snatches off his floppy hat and gives it to his other self. Their hands meet grippingly and linger united for a while before they part. Meanwhile, the steward returns and informs the Captain that the kettle is barely warm. He wants to know whether he should light the spirit lamp. The Captain is not keen on that and he slowly returns to the deck. It is a matter of conscience to shave the land as closely as possible so that Leggatt will not have a difficult journey. He does not wish to delay. The second mate follows him anxiously. The Captain does not reply until he has the confidence to say that the ship is fine. The land looms up so close that the Captain shuts his eyes in fear, and yet he must not give the order to change course.


Notes

This part of the story is the most gripping as it is here that the Captain must make a decision that may cost him his life as well as his crew's but at the same time he must make sure that Leggatt is able to reach shore safely. This is the climax of the story as the Captain decides to sail his ship dangerously close to the shore of Koh-ring for the sake of his secret sharer. He is finally making decisions and giving orders even though to his men they appear irrational and subject to criticism. To him, they make perfect sense.

He reveals his loyalties to Leggatt as he swings dangerously close to shore. He is doing something impulsive and seemingly rash as Leggatt has done, yet it is for the greater good of the ship. With Leggatt gone from the ship, the Captain will be able to resume his duties and take care of the ship's needs.

The Captain sails close to Koh-ring because of some psychological necessity in his own being. He needs to prove his worth as a captain by this act of self-assertion. He wants to behave in a daring and apparently irrational manner because of deep subjective needs, which he himself does not understand properly. It may be that the Captain identifies himself with Leggatt as an exceptional and courageous man who has demonstrated that greatness involves the breaking of the social conventions the law of the land. Therefore the Captain proves to himself that he is not a rigid automaton, blindly obeying the seaman's code. In exceptional circumstances he too will take exceptional measures wherever they may lead and at whatever cost.

Without the last minute gift of the hat, the Captain's daring attempt to meet a personal challenge would have been in vain. In giving the hat to Leggatt, the Captain was really following a logical turn of mind derived from his original decision to hide Leggatt. The fortuitous giving of the hat is not an act of chance but indeed an integral part of the Captain's complete identification and giving of himself to Leggatt. In turn, the hat will come to symbolize his success and survival, as it becomes the decisive marker of whether or not the ship is turning.

How the Captain almost desperately thrusts the hat upon Leggatt is signficant. The narrator says that "A sudden thought struck me (the Captain)... I snatched off my floppy hat and tried hurriedly in the dark to ram it on my other self (Leggatt)." Like Leggatt, the Captain is beginning to think intuitively and instinctually, a key sign that he is accepting and gaining knowledge of his darker and more primal side.

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