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A structural analysis of The Secret Sharer shows that it follows a pattern in which the story falls into five parts: Exposition, the rise of action, crisis leading to the climax and the fall in action leading to the final outcome or denouement.
In the expository part, the reader learns that the ship is anchored in the Gulf of Siam where both ship and the Captain seem to be evaluating their "fitness for a long and arduous enterprise, the appointed task of both existences to be carried out for from all human eyes, with only sky and sea as spectators and for judges." These long descriptive passages provide a sense of foreboding as well as a stillness before a storm.
The rise in action takes place when the Captain encounters Leggatt, who appears in the night as a headless corpse. The crisis is reached when Leggatt reveals to the Captain that he killed a disobedient man on board the ship and the Captain decides to hide him on board. This leads to the dilemma of taking care of the ship versus taking care of Leggatt.
The fall in action takes place when Leggatt has been made "a free man." He enters the water as "a free man, a proud swimmer striking out for a new destiny."
The denouement is reached when the Captain has secured the safe escape of Leggatt, his double. The Captain himself becomes a free man and a master of himself and his ship. He suddenly develops the confidence and freedom to handle his duties efficiently.