Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad as an Artist and Author of Realism

Joseph Conrad is one of the shimmering artists and writers who significantly shaped realism genre in the British literary world. Conrad shifted the direction of a novel and literary writing in Britain. Although a novel is usually a long narrative in prose created essentially for entertainment, it is also supposed to depict a real picture of the daily life (Becker 25). Conrad defied the style employed by other writers during his era who ignored the realistic picture of life. When writing a novel, many writers tend to fantasize with reality rather than portraying realistic views of life. This paper demonstrates that Conrad not only shifted the genre of novel writing but also fulfilled all the requirements of realistic writing.

Early Life

Joseph Conrad was a polish Ukrainian national when his country was under the control of Russian government. His father was very instrumental in translating many literary works by Shakespeare and Victor Hugo to polish. Conrad’s mother also supported her husband in his work but she died at an early age due to poor health (Bradbrook 31). At a tender age of 17, Conrad relocated to Marseille and started to work as a sailor though he had very limited information about France and the sea. Conrad mostly relied on the information he had read about France and the sea.

Conrad’s early experiences set the pace of his writing career and provided him with rich themes that were reflected in his later literary works. Conrad also took many risks in his life like dissociating himself from his home country, Poland in pursuit of happiness and freedom (Becker 47). In most of his works, Conrad focused more on people who lived separate lives from their followers. Conrad also lived as a man who had been set apart from other people. Throughout his life, Conrad never fully identified himself with English or French.

Conrad Shifts from a Sailor to Authorship

Conrad first arrived in England in 1878 when he secured a job as a sailor in the Mavis, a British-owned ship. He was very scared at first to speak a single English word. However, his career as a British sailor motivated him to learn the new language. The “Heart of Darkness” was inspired by one of his memorable journey to Congo (Bradbrook 40). Conrad’s experience in that African country stirred his creativity. His health was also deteriorating because of his sailing career but he was determined to commence writing and aspired to become an expert author.

John Galsworthy was his main source of encouragement and Conrad depended mostly on his encouragement. His very first novel, “Almayer’s Folly” was ready for publication in 1895 and his second novel entitled “An Outcast of the Islands” was also published in the following year (Becker 52). The two novels were widely accepted and only experienced minimal criticism. Even his main critics appreciated the genius and the authenticity exhibited in the works of the new writer.

Conrad’s Great Works, Themes, and Styles

Most of Conrad’s novels share the same elements and focuses more on real actions and events that advance the plot. The works have male and female characters who carry on the actions. The novels also include a time and scene of actions and different characters and different things occur in various places (Bradbrook 45). The treatment of life and its setbacks seems more realistic. Unlike the ancient prose romantic works, Conrad’s novels have great sense of realism. Conrad’s “Almayer’s Folly” was written in 1889 in London while Conrad was waiting for a command while working as a sailor.

Conrad has aspired to visit Congo as a child and his dream came true when he was asked by his employers to command a steamboat to Congo (Holstun 197). All the experiences of Congo were later recovered in the “Heart of Darkness.” At the time of Conrad’s visit, the free state of Congo was just four years old and imperialistic exploitation still took a center stage (Becker 63). The “Heart of Darkness” is one of the most enigmatic, finest, and famous narratives by Conrad. The title of the novel reflects Africa as the heart of evil and a dark continent.

Just like the heart of an ordinary man, Conrad reflected Africa a center malignment, nihilism, and corruption. The narrative reflects the main vision of Conrad’s work and affirms that the experience of the author in Congo was quite traumatic. The “Heart of Darkness” shows that Conrad suffered metaphysical, spiritual, and mental shock in the African country (Bradbrook 50). Conrad later suffered recurrent gout and fever after completing his assignment in the Congo. Conrad returned to England in 1891 and three years later he submitted “Almayer’s Folly” to Fisher Unwin, one of the leading London publishers at the time.

While writing the novel, the Polish-English author dropped his original name Korzeniowski for Joseph Conrad after learning that many British natives could not pronounce it correctly. The talented writer completed his third novel “An Outcast of the Islands” in 1896 that was also centered on the theme of a blindly superficial and foolish character who met his tragic end due to her flaws in one of the tropical regions which was very far from his European companions (Becker 73). The two literary works provoked a serious misunderstanding about Conrad’s purpose and talent and significantly affected his writing career in the later years. The novels were set in the Malayan Archipelago making Conrad to be labeled as an author of exotic narratives and the same argument was confirmed by his subsequent short stories and novels including “The Nigger of the Narcissus” (1897), “Lord Jim” (1900), “Youth” (1902), and “Typhoon” (1902) (Holstun 200).However, Conrad later affirmed that he was mainly writing about his complete isolation from the whole land entanglements.

Conrad’s Influence

Conrad has continued to shape many contemporary novelists mainly because of the humanity expressions included in most of his technical innovations. Conrad mainly exhibited the extreme situations faced by humanity. Conrad believes that fidelity is the main hindrance that a man puts against evil, corruption, and nothingness and the realities later engulf him even without knowing (Walpole 93). Conrad believes that that the evil within acknowledge the evil without, and that only happens when the human fidelity is submerged to break the barrier.


Conrad remains a profound and prolific author of realism in the history of British literary works.Pro-colonialist and feminist authors have also paid attention to Conrad’s themes and styles and confirmed his profound alignment to the typical understanding of modernism. Conrad is a great inspiration to contemporary authors and ordinary people facing different forms of hardships in life.

Conrad overcame all odds he faced in life including language barriers, and deteriorating health and continued with his writing career. Conrad is one of the strongest pillars of English literature and upcoming novelists from different parts of the world can learn a lot from the resilience and commitment exhibited by the Polish-born British author.