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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.66, No.2, 189 ~ 217, 2020
“Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss”: The Politics of Replication and Conrad’s Politics of Humanity
John G. Peters
In contrast to the conventional political novel, which clearly promotes one political system over another, Joseph Conrad routinely rejects all political systems because they privilege ideas over people. In these works, Conrad consistently chronicles a political plot and a personal plot. These plots interact, and invariably Conrad focuses on the effect of the political plot on the personal plot, or more particularly on the damage the events of the political plot have on the individuals of the personal plot. Whether it be the deaths of Winnie and Stevie in The Secret Agent or the destruction of Razumov’s life in Under Western Eyes or Paul’s exile in “An Anarchist” or the death of Ruiz in “Gaspar Ruiz,” Conrad represents human beings not benefitting from political systems but being victims of them. Furthermore, Conrad regularly represents the competing political factions in his works as mirroring rather than opposing one another, which results in the end in their appearing to be little different from one another. The numerous revolutions in Nostromo are equally corrupt; the revolutionary movements and the established governments in The Secret Agent both believe that the ends justify the means; and the revolutionaries and authorities in Under Western Eyes are in the end indistinguishable from one another in their disregard for law and order. And yet Conrad does have hope, but that hope lies in human relationships, in such characters as Tekla in Under Western Eyes and Peyrol in The Rover, who choose people over politics, as we see Conrad time and again affirming those who affirm humanity and rejecting those who reject humanity.
Key Words
politics, Joseph Conrad, mirroring, political fiction, revolution
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