Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2018

Publication Title

College Literature








It is time to correct Joseph Conrad's reputation as a writer who falls short when the subject is women or sex. Praised for his ethical, political, and psychological insight, he is pitied for his love scenes. Writing about The Rescue in 1945, Walter F. Wright generalized, "Conrad usually had trouble with his women characters when they came into the foreground of a story. The themes which he best understood could be illustrated very well through the lives of men" (1945, 216). In 1956 Thomas Moser reinforced Wright's judgment, arguing that the quality of Conrad's later work declined because he tried to write about women and sex (1956, 345). Discussing The Rescue, he claimed that the dialogue "between the lovers is wooden, and there is the same insistence upon emotions that Conrad seems unable to dramatize" (344).1 Thirty years later, Lloyd Fernando observed that "no major novel of his has received in recent years more adverse criticism than this one. Conrad has been accused of treating immaturely the portrayal of Lingard and Mrs. Travers, the two principal characters in the novel, and of evading the sexual consequences of their encounter" (1976, 86); Fernando agreed that "such strictures may be warranted" (86).2 In addition to disparaging The Rescue, this consensus diminishes Conrad's oeuvre because his stories about political intrigues and ethical dilemmas often hinge on erotic desire. In The Rescue, the political implications of Lingard's decisions depend on [End Page 424] Conrad's ability to make the erotic attraction between Lingard and Edith Travers convincing. Looking for descriptions of sexual acts, critics have ignored Conrad's representation of erotic feelings.




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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.