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The Figure of the Adventurer in Literature

The purpose of this research is to examine the figure of the adventurer, exile, or wanderer as the displaced representative or victim of institutions of power in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Shakespeare's The Tempest. The plan of the research will be to set forth in general terms the pattern of events and ideas in each work in regard to this figure and then to discuss the means by which the figure's narrative and symbolic significance is resolved.

The manifest action of The Tempest turns on the issue of rebellion and authority. The opening storm begins the revenge of the magician Prospero on Antonio, the Duke of Milan. As Prospero explains to Miranda in I.ii, he is the rightful duke. Some years earlier he had delegated most of his authority to his brother Antonio, who, by a combination of conspiracy with Alonso, King of Naples and of Prospero's own neglect of "worldly ends" in favor of "liberal arts" (I.ii), marched on Milan, captured Prospero and Miranda, and set them adrift at sea. The boat's drifted to the island allowed Prospero to study and refine his magic talents. He conjures the tempest and a shipwreck of Naples and Milan with a view toward engineering a countercoup against Antonio and returning to his rightful place in the world.

The action of Heart of Darkness turns on the implementation and enactment of institutional authority and the discovery of the opportunity for and consequences of individual appropriation and manipulation of such authority. Marlow, who tells the story of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, is one aspect of this. As the introductory paragraphs of the first-person narrative explain, Marlow is somewhat apart from his seagoing colleagues in background and experience, not only because he is slightly older than the others but also because his experience of sailing differs from and is darker than theirs. As he contemplates the progress of the Nellie along the tidal Thames toward the sea, he sets the da...

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The Figure of the Adventurer in Literature. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:58, June 15, 2019, from