Bachelor’s thesis

Before and After the Bomb A Study of Narration and Politics in Conrad’s

Author: Tilda Karlsson Supervisor: Anna Greek Examiner: Per Sivefors Date: 11 May 2016 Subject: English Literature Level: G3 Course Code: 2EN20E Karlsson


The aim of this essay is to investigate ways in which the narrative in ’s The Secret Agent reflects the political views within and around the novel. The narrative focus of the essay is plot-structure and focalisation, and the political focus circles around anarchy and . The essay discusses how the anarchist’s belief in individual freedom and Conrad’s scepticism towards politics is reflected in the novel’s narration. I also discuss how the narrator uses irony to reflect Conrad’s scepticism.

Key words: The Secret Agent, Conrad, narration, focalisation, plot-structure, anarchy, anarchism, irony


Table of Content

1. Introduction 1 2. Narratological Key Concepts 3 3. Political Background 6 4. Anarchistic Narrating 9 5. Conclusion 18 Works Cited 20

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1. Introduction

The era of literary modernism started around the beginning of the 20th century. The interior monologue with its development of the stream of consciousness became well used features of novels, as authors started exploring the human mind. Famous authors that belong to this era are Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Dorothy Richardson, and Joseph Conrad, among others. Joseph Conrad is famous for works such as (1899), (1904) and The Secret Agent (1907). The Secret Agent is one of his first political novels in which we follow the anarchist Mr. Verloc and his associates. The main focus of the novel is a bomb attempt at the observatory in London and the narrative revolves around this with a focalisation that often changes. The novel never represents the actual explosion, instead the chapters either circle around Mr. Verloc when he plans the event or different characters trying to figure out how the event actually happened. For example, in chapter two the story starts to build up when Mr. Verloc gets the order to bomb the observatory. A few chapters after this we follow Chief Inspector Heat and the Assistant Commissioner when they are trying to solve the mystery of the bomb incident and who the victim is. Some of the characters such as Comrade Ossipon and the Professor think that Mr. Verloc is dead since they know that he had bought a bomb. Chief Inspector Heat and the Assistant Commissioner believe that the victim is someone living in Verlocs’ house due to evidence found at the crime scene. However, then comes a chapter where Mr. Verloc is alive and then it becomes clear that it is actually Mr. Verloc’s brother-in-law Stevie that is dead. This creates confusion in itself, but the chapters does not follow the chronological order of events, which makes the confusion and the sense of disorder even greater. The aim of this essay is to investigate ways in which the novel’s political and anarchistic views are reflected in the narration of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, with special attention to plot-structure and focalisation. The plot-structure and focalisation of the novel will be discussed together with Conrad’s political views and the politics within the novel. Since several of the characters call themselves anarchists, the political focus will be on anarchy and anarchism.

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The story is told by a narrator that uses irony and keeps mocking the characters. In his article, “Violence, Irony, and Laughter: The Narrator in The Secret Agent”, Sung Ryol Kim writes about the narrator in The Secret Agent. He discusses how the narrator uses irony and how s/he1 ‘sees’ the situations and events. Kim writes that the irony the narrator uses is a way to protect the readers from the heavy themes of the novel such as madness and despair. Kim also states that since Conrad ‘warns’ the reader and makes him/her aware of the irony in the narrative he wants to make sure that no one misses the irony and ‘gets lost’ in the dark and rather violent story (n. pag.). Research has been done about The Secret Agent in connection with narration, for example, the article by John Hagan Jr. called “The Design of Conrad's The Secret Agent”. The article deals with the novel’s narration, and also discusses irony. Hagan brings up ideas regarding the novels focalisation, such as that the focalisation might be interpreted as being on several characters at once. Torsten Petterson also discusses Conrad’s narrative technique in his book Consciousness and Time: A Study in the Philosophy and Narrative Technique of Joseph Conrad. Petterson argues that the plot-structure in The Secret Agent does not have a first narrative, creating disorder. Both these sources also have arguments concerning politics. However, they do not discuss how the narrative reflects the political views within and around the novel. It can also be argued that the author, Conrad, uses the ironic narrator to mock the story itself, and the political views within it since the novel is considered to be a political one. Conrad himself had a scepticism towards politics, and this scepticism might be the reason why the narrative could be considered disordered and maybe even anarchistic. This essay’s theoretical framework is divided into two parts, “Narratological Key Concepts”, and “Political Background”. The first part is built upon the theories of Gérard Genette, from his work Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method, where he discusses concepts such as analepses and focalisation. The second part of the theoretical framework deals with politics. John A Palmer and David Weir’s theories and arguments are brought up in this section together with Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy to bring a historical background to the concept of anarchy. The section brings the general ideas of anarchists, together with Conrad’s political views, but also the lexical meanings behind the terms anarchy and anarchism.

1 The gender of the narrator is never mentioned in the novel. Therefore is his/her and s/he used to express gender neutrality.

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2. Narratological Key Concepts

Narratology is the study of a how story is told. The plot in The Secret Agent does not follow the chronological order of the story, and therefore it is important to sort out a number of terms and concepts, starting with the difference between story and plot. In brief, a story is the events in chronological order, and the plot is in the order in which the narrator tells the story. As in the case of The Secret Agent, a narrative does not have to be told in the actual order of the story. For example the last event may be told first and then the plot moves backward towards the first event. In other words, events in a narrative can be structured in a variety of orders, for a variety of purposes. Thus, the order of the plot is how the story is reorganised to create certain effects. When the plot does not follow the chronology of the story, this is called anachrony, according to Gérard Genette (35). An anachrony can stretch both backward and forward in time from the original time or the present time. The present time is ‘the moment in the story when the narrative was interrupted’, this is also called the first narrative (Genette 48). Genette calls this distance in time the anachrony’s reach (48). There are two kinds of anachronies, analepses, and prolepses. Analepses are anachronies that reach backward from the present time, and they can be either external, internal or a combination of both. External analepses reach to a point beyond the beginning of the first narrative (Genette 49). For example, if the first narrative about a boy’s life when he is between seven and ten years old contains a passage where his mother tells another narrative, a second narrative about when he was two years old, this becomes an external analepsis. The analepsis is not a part of the original narrative. Therefore, it becomes external. Internal analepses, on the other hand, reach within the original narrative (Genette 49). This could be, for example, that the plot goes back to a point where the boy was eight years old even though in the present time he is ten. As mentioned, an analepsis can also be mixed. This happens when the external analepsis ‘catches up’ with the original narrative, and it becomes an internal analeps since it reaches into the first narrative (Genette 49). There are also completing analepses. They return to an earlier point in the narrative and fill in the gaps that may have occurred when the narrative was first told (Genette 51). Lastly, regarding analepses, there is repeating analepsis. The repeating analepsis also reaches back to an earlier point but instead

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of filling in the missing gaps, it just recalls the event, often from another perspective than the first time. Prolepses are another form of anachronies. Prolepses function the same way as analepses. However, they move forward in time instead of backward (Genette 67). Like analepses, prolepses can be both internal and external, completing and repeating, and they function in the same way as analepses. Genette writes that an external prolepsis often functions as a kind of epilogue or afterword while internal prolepses often hints what is to come, a foreshadowing (67-68). The Secret Agent is told from several different points of view, or focalisations, and this is a crucial factor in the elusiveness of the narrative. Therefore, focalisation is another important term in this essay since it has to do with how the narrative is told in the sense that it is focused through one or more perspectives. In other words, focalisation functions almost as a lens or a pair of glasses that limit the information about an event. For example, in the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, the narrator tells the story from Harry’s point of view, limiting the information to Harry’s knowledge of events and characters. Genette mentions different kinds of focalisations; the first is non-focalisation or zero focalisation. This happens mostly when there is an omniscient narrator (all-knowing) that does not have a point of view but simply ‘reports’ what is happening (189). The second type is the external focalisation. Genette describes it by saying that ‘the hero performs in front of us without our ever being allowed to know his thoughts or feelings’ (190). In other words, the story is told as a movie, we see what the characters are doing, and we hear what they say, but their thoughts are a ‘mystery’ for us. The third is internal focalisation in which we learn the thoughts and feelings of the characters. Furthermore, there are three sub-categories to this, fixed, variable and, multiple focalisation. Fixed internal focalisation is when the focus never changes; there is only one character’s thoughts we have access to, and it is always that character. In variable focalisation, the focalisation shifts and we learn about events through several characters’ feelings. Multiple focalisation is when several characters tell about the same event from their different points of view (Genette 189-190). As we shall discover, the narrator in The Secret Agent uses both variable and multiple focalisation mixed with each other. The narrator of The Secret Agent also uses free indirect discourse. In the article “Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative”, Mieke Bal writes that a text is written in free indirect discourse when the narrator's text interferes with the actors’ text (55). Bal claims that the narrator and the characters have different ways of telling a story. In free indirect discourse, the narrator simply ‘reports’ what the characters say and do, while in free

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indirect discourse, as in this case, the narrator tells the story in his way according to his/her purposes. In other words if the narrator adds more details than the characters would have done and interferes with the character’s story with comments, then the narrator is using free indirect discourse (Bal 54). The concepts outlined above will be used in my discussion of the novel in order to investigate how The Secret Agent’s plot structure and focalisation reflect the political views represented in the novel.

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3. Political Background

Between the years 1867 and 1868, Matthew Arnold published a series of essays, called Culture and Anarchy which may have affected ideas of culture and politics in the era of early modernism. Arnold claims that culture is ‘a study of perfection. It moves by the force, not merely or primarily of the scientific passion for pure knowledge, but also for the moral and social passion for doing good’ (31). That culture is perfect is something Arnold brings up several times in his essays, and according to him: this perfection is achieved when all powers are working and developing together (33). Authority is something good Arnold claims, since it helps ‘the machinery’ of society to work as one unit and if this is not working, then we are moving towards anarchy (55). Anarchy, then, is something the society risks if the individual freedom gets too big and the government loses its authority, because the authority is what ‘represents the right reason of the nation’ (56). To conclude Arnold’s claims, culture is perfection in society and the government ‘leads’ us on the right path to this perfection, and if this is not working, then we fall down into anarchy. This makes culture and anarchy opposites, the culture stands for perfection, and the good, and anarchy stands for disorder and the bad. These essays might have been an inspiration for political novels, and maybe even The Secret Agent since the novel is dealing with anarchists and political scepticism. The Oxford Dictionary defines anarchy as ‘absence of government; a state of lawlessness due to the absence or inefficiency of the supreme power; political disorder’ (“anarchy”). It is important to note the difference between anarchy and anarchism, the definition of anarchism is ‘the principles or practise of anarchy, or anarchist’ (“anarchism”). Anarchy is, therefore, the absence of government and political disorder while anarchism is the ideas behind this. Anarchism is, therefore, political ideas and anarchy is a political state of being. David Weir discusses anarchy and anarchism in the book Anarchy and Culture: The Aesthetic Politics of Modernism. Weir discusses a general overview of what an anarchist during the modernist era might have thought. He says that the main idea for the anarchist is individual freedom (13). The anarchist claims that the government and its rules and laws are limiting the personal freedom and that ‘laws serve the interests of some individuals at the expense of others’ (13:18). The laws are created by the government and the attitudes towards the government are often quite negative among anarchists. However, Weir points out that the anarchist does not have a problem with the state, and a government might be acceptable as

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long as it remains passive (17). Weir describes the state – government function in the following way: ‘the moment the state becomes active, it ceases to be a state and becomes a government, and the government is always intrusive. But so long as the state is passive, the anarchist can live with it’ (17). A government that does not ‘intrude’ upon individual freedom and is only taking care of administrative business, like managing schools, hospitals, and roads, is, therefore, a state and is thus approved by anarchists. Joseph Conrad reached a kind of a turning point in the writing of The Secret Agent. His earlier works were following the modernist inwards turn and explored the human psycho-moral, writes John A. Palmer in his book Joseph Conrad’s Fiction: A Study in Literary Growth (92). Psycho-moral is about moral development and ethics, and Palmer says that there was ‘" nothing more in the world" for Conrad to write about after he had finished and the volume if he were to stick to the familiar psycho-moral dilemmas’ (91-92). Conrad’s new inspiration was social criticism and people’s relation to society and politics (Palmer 92). Palmer also discusses Conrad’s own political views and says: Conrad's political position, then, can best be described as a radical commitment to the individualism of a democratic system and a gentle scepticism toward the correlated idea of majority rule, a scepticism increasing in intensity as the tyranny of the majority moves toward autocracy, and increasing in satirical tone as the rights and responsibilities of individual are violated by revolutionary folly and false idealism. (Palmer 100) Palmer claims that all Conrad’s political novels are sceptical toward politics in general and of all different kinds, liberal, conservative or radical (93-94). He also says that this scepticism has to do with Conrad’s belief in individual freedom and that you are responsible for your own actions. Conrad believed in ‘the individual's responsibility to save himself and in psychological and metaphysical beliefs about the extraordinary difficulty - perhaps ultimately the impossibility - of doing so’ (Palmer 97). Conrad did not believe in group idealisms and, therefore, the scepticism towards politics, which lead to the satirical elements in his novels, among them, The Secret Agent (Palmer 92). Weir claims that The Secret Agent is satirical and that it critiques anarchism (82). Weir writes that ‘when Conrad conceived the idea for the novel in 1905, propaganda by the deed was … already old, having been rejected by most anarchists as an ineffective weapon against government authority’ (74). With this statement, Weir suggests that already the idea of the novel can be considered satirical towards the anarchists within the novel since the chosen

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method is considered outdated. An example of satire within the novel that Weir gives regards the Professor, the man that walks around with explosives strapped to him ready to set them off if he is close to getting caught by police or other authority. The novel calls him, derisively, ‘The Perfect Anarchist.' Weir says that by placing the Professor outside the law he also is put outside society and, this makes him more of a terrorist instead of an anarchist (79). An anarchist is still a part of society, he instead wishes for more individual freedom in society. Several researchers have discussed the satire and scepticism that exist within the novel, and even Conrad himself wrote in the Author’s note to The Secret Agent that the novel is meant to be satirical (7). Sung Ryol Kim wrote the article Violence, Irony, and Laughter: The Narrator in The Secret Agent where he, among other things, discusses the narrator’s use of irony and some of his arguments will be discussed in the next part in the discussion about the narrator in The Secret Agent.

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4. Anarchistic Narrating

The focalisation of The Secret Agent is constantly shifting, and does not behave in the same way throughout the novel. The first chapter does not have that much focalisation at all, it is more of an overview of Verlocs’ shop and the people in it. In order to demonstrate this atmosphere I have selected the first sentences of paragraphs from the the first chapter. In the second paragraph the shop and the house are presented with the sentence ‘[t]he shop was small, and so was the house. It was one of those grimy brick houses which existed in large quantities before the era of reconstruction dawned upon London’ (13). The narrator is simply telling the reader what the house looks like. In the fourth paragraph the customers of the shop are described; ‘[t]hese customers were either very young men, who hung about the window for a time before slipping in suddenly; or men of a more mature age, but looking generally as if they were not in funds’ (13). After this paragraph the narrator continues with the the inhaitants of the house starting with: ‘Sometimes it was Mrs Verloc who would appear at the call of the cracked bell’ (14). The first half of chapter one is objective, just reporting what happens in the shop while towards the end of the chapter the narrator is starting to report what the characters think and feel, leading into the rest of the novel. In the second chapter the story begins and the focus is first on Mr. Verloc. The focalisation follows the story and Mr. Verloc. He walks to an embassy where he meets Mr. Vladimir. They have an intense dialogue and during the dialogue the focalisation shifts to Mr. Vladimir instead: [Mr. Verloc] was, in truth, startled and alarmed. The rusty London sunshine struggling clear of the London mist shed a lukewarm brightness into the First Secretary’s private room: and in the silence Mr Verloc heard against a window- pane the faint buzzing of a fly – his first fly of the year – heralding better than any number of swallows the approach of spring. The useless fussing of that tiny, energetic organism affected unpleasantly this big man threatened in his indolence. (29) The focalisation starts here at Mr. Verloc where he notices the fly in the window. Then the fly acts as a bridge to the next paragraph, where the narrator initially describes Mr. Vladimirs thought-process, and, in the second sentence, the focalisation has shifted to Mr. Vladimir. In the pause Mr Vladimir formulated in his mind a series of disparaging remarks concerning Mr Verloc’s face and figure. The fellow was unexpectedly vulgar,

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heavy, and impudently unintelligent. He looked uncommonly like a master plumber come to present his bill. The First Secretary of the Embassy, from his occasional excursions into the field of American humour, had formed a special notion of that class of mechanic as the embodiment of fraudulent laziness and incompetency. (29) The focalisation is here on Mr. Vladimir as he thinks about the man in front of him. The bridge the fly created is more evident also since the narrator uses the same kind of words to describe Mr. Verloc. Then, Mr Vladimir stays in focus for a couple of pages. When the dialogue is over and Mr Verloc is sent home he takes the focalisation with him on his way. When he comes home the focalisation transfers to Winnie2. Instead of switching between paragraphs here the narrator switches in the middle of a paragraph; [Mr. Verloc] walked straight behind the counter, and sat down on a wooden chair that stood there. No one appeared to disturb his solitude. … Mrs Verloc, warned in the kitchen by the clatter of the cracked bell, had merely come to the glazed door of the parlour, and putting the curtain aside a little, had peered into the dim shop. Seeing her husband sitting there shadowy and bulky, with his hat tilted far back on his head, she had at once returned to the stove. An hour or more later she took the green baize apron off her brother Stevie, and instructed him to wash his hands and face in the peremptory tone she had used in that connection for fifteen years or so ever since she had, in fact, ceased to attend to the boy’s hands and face herself. (36) The focalisation is on Mr. Verloc as he walks into the shop and sits down and then his wife looks into the shop and takes over the focalisation from him. However, she does not keep it for that long since the narrator then moves out and shifts to an omniscient narrator with non- focalisation. As the quotes above show, the focalisation can change in different ways even in the same chapter. However, even though the focalisations change, they follow a pattern. The focalisation throughout the novel is internal since the characters thoughts and feelings are mentioned in different ways. In the examples above, the focalisation is variable, it changes between different characters. However, there are some instances of multiple focalisation, where the same event is narrated by different characters. In chapter eleven one of these

2 In the novel Adolph Verloc is often referred to as Mr. Verloc while Winnie Verloc is referred to as Winnie.

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instances occur. I shall give the two versions of the same event, starting with Mr. Verloc’s perspective. Mr Verloc watched [Winnie]. She disappeared up the stairs. He was disappointed. There was that within him which would have been more satisfid if she had been moved to throw herself upon his breast. … Laying down the carving knife, Mr Verloc listened with careworn attention. He was comforted by hearing her move at last. She walked suddenly across the room, and threw the window up. After a period of stillness up there, during which he figured her to himself with her head out, he heard the sash being lowered slowly. Then she made a few step, and sat down. … When next he heard his wife’s footsteps overheard he knew, as well as if he had seen her doing it, that she had been putting on her walking shoes. … She walked her and there violently, with abrupt stoppages, now before the chest of drawers, then in front of the wardrobe. An immense load of weariness, the harvest of a day of shocks and surprises, weighed Mr Verloc’s energies to the ground. He did not raise his eyes till he heard his wife descending the stairs. (181-182) In this quote the focus is on Mr. Verloc shortly after he had told Winnie that he was responsible for Stevie’s death. He listens to the footsteps of his wife on the upper floor. The following quote is the same event from Winnie’s perspective. Mrs Verloc was a free woman. She had thrown open the window of the bedroom either with the intention of screaming Murder! Help! or of throwing herself out. For she did not exactly know what use to make of her freedom. … Mrs Verloc closed the window, and dressed herself to go out into the street by another way. She was a free woman. Se had dressed herself thoroughly, down to tying of a black veil over her face. As she appeared before him in the light of the parlour, Mr Verloc observed that she had even her little handbag hanging from her wrist… (181-182) In this quote it is Winnie’s version of what she does upstairs. However, towards the end of the paragraph the focalisation jumps back to Mr. Verloc again. John Hagan Jr. claims that Conrad chose to have this irregular focalisation because ‘he was not trying to present only a single, straightforward situation, but was aiming at something requiring a wider, multiple focus’ (148). Rather than rendering the Verlocs’ lives and decisions, he was describing ‘not one or two individuals but an entire community of which the Verlocs, though symptomatic of the

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whole, form but a part’ (148). By having the focalisation on the community, rather than on one or two characters, the readers get to know what every character thinks, wants and fears, making the various individual characters important. The individual gets important even though the focalisation is on the community by the measure of mentioning of every character is mentioned and giving each of them some focalisation; no one is left behind. As mentioned in “Political Background”, the individual is important for anarchists and this could be one of Conrad’s ways to strenghten the anarchist atmosphere of the novel.This is also connected to the anarchist theory that the law serve the interests of a few at the expense of others. Thus, the focalisation should not serve the interest of a few at the expense of others. If the focalisation had been on one character only, it would have been his interests that were supported, his view that the readers get, at the expense of other characters. Their views would be ignored for the benefit of the protagonist. However, even though it could be argued that the focalisation is on the community, Palmer claims that Mr. Verloc dominates the first half of the book and Winnie Verloc the second (112), in terms of focalisation. He says that the main focus is on Mr. and Mrs. Verloc and even though we get the focalisation from other characters, the main focus tends to switch back to Mr. Verloc or Winnie (112). This can be seen throughout the novel, even in the chapters that do not follow either of these characters. For example, in chapter four the focalisation is on Comrade Ossipon and the Professor as they chat at a club. Even though Mr. Verloc is not present at the club, those who talk about him make Mr. Verloc present in the first half of the novel even though he is not there physically. In the second half of the novel, Winnie is mostly present. It is only in the last chapters where the focalisation is on Comrade Ossipon that she is not. However, in these chapters Ossipon spends mostof the time thinking of Winnie. If the claims of Hagan and Palmer are combined, it can be argued that the focalisation of The Secret Agent is on the community surrounding the Verlocs as well as on the Verlocs. The main focus then is first on Mr. Verloc and then on Mrs. Verloc, and the focalisation and the story circles around them in their respective half of the novel. It could be said that this combination of community focalisation with the Verlocs’ perspective shows Conrad’s ideas about group idealisms and that people are responsible for themselves. Even though the focalisation tries to be on a community, there is still a main focus on one individual. This could be Conrad’s way of saying that it is important with individuals since it is not completely possible to focus on a group all of the time. As mentioned, Conrad believed that people are responsible for taking care of themselves. By showing that a consistent group

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focalisation is not possible, it becomes clearer that it is important to focus on oneself as an individual because the systems see you as a part of a group. This irregular focalisation is told by a third person narrator. S/he is using anarchistic ideas to narrate, calling attention to the individual freedom to narrate exactly as s/he likes with the help of free indirect discourse. As Bal writes, a text is written in free indirect discourse when the narrator's text interferes with the actors’ text (55). The following is an example where the narrator describes Comrade Ossipon and the Professor that shows that the narrator of the novel is using free indirect discourse: With his big florid face held between his hands he continued to stare hard, while the dingy little man in spectacles coolly took a drink of beer and stood the glass mug back on the table. His flat, large ears departed widely from the sides of his skull, which looked frail enough for Ossipon to crush between thumb and forefinger; the dome of the forehead seemed to rest on the rim of the spectacles; the flat cheeks, of a greasy unhealthy complexion, were merely smudged by the miserable poverty of a thin dark whisker. (53) In this description, the narrator adds several adjectives to describe the characters in a way the narrator feels. If Ossipon would have told this, he would probably not say that his face was ‘big and florid’, this is something the narrator adds. The narrator also adds quite a detailed description of the head of the Professor. This description is not important for the plot, and if it were, the description could have been much shorter. In other words, the narrator is using free indirect discourse and irony to make characters appear more ugly than is necessary for the story’s development. The purpose seems to be to mock. The narrator is using his individual freedom in another way too. In the second chapter the narrator is switching from third person to first person. … the air of moral nihilism common to keepers of gambling halls and disordely houses; to private detectives and inquiry agents; to drink sellers and, I should say, to the sellers of invigorating electric belts and to the inventors of patent medicines. But of that last I am not sure, not having carried my investigations so far into the depths. (20) This section is the only one in the novel where the narrator talks about her/himself in the first person. This could be the narrator’s way of taking responsibility for her/himself. The narrator ‘protects’ him/herself by claiming that s/he does not know the fine details about this indicent matters. The irony here is that the only time the omniscient narrator is more personal and speaks in the first person, s/he claims that s/he does not know things.

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The narrator also jumps in time without giving the reader a hint about it, which is another element that creates the overall feeling of disorder in the novel. While starting a new chapter there is no such thing as a subtitle saying ’three days earlier’, the reader has to guess which point in time of the story the narrator has skipped to. By constantly jumping in time both backwards and forwards in the story, the narrator builds up the plot with anachronies. The incident at Greenwich is the main event that the plot and story circle around, and the chapters are divided in this pattern: Chapters one, two and three take place before the incident and chapters four to seven take place after the bomb. Chapter eight moves back to a time before the incident. In chapter nine the bomb goes off; however since the focalisation is not on Mr. Verloc the reader never ’experiences’ the accident. In chapter nine the focalisation is mostly on Winnie and how she is taking care of the home and cooks dinner while her husband goes away for a while and then comes back. During his walk the whole bomb incident has happend, Mr. Verloc has both picked up Stevie from the outskirts of town, traveled to Greenwich, let the bomb go off and then travelled back home. While reading the chapter from Winnie’s perspective it feels more like a few minutes has passed, not hours. The chapters following chapter nine all take place after the bomb. The first chapter marks the first events of the story and the last chapter contains the story’s last events. By having these irregular and sometimes confusing time jumps between the chapters Conrad built the plot with anachronies. Chapters one to three are linear in time in relation to each other and this can be seen as the first narrative. Chapter four to seven can then be seen as a large prolepsis and it jumps back to the first narrative in chapter eight. This prolepsis is internal since everything that happens in these chapters are within the time span between the first and the last chapter. However, as Torsten Petterson writes about The Secret Agent, ‘timeshifts do not return to their point of departure. Instead there are shifts within shifts as well as gradual movements to yet another section of the chronology so that no portion of time remains immovably fixed in the reader's mind as a point of reference for other portions’ (56). In other words, the concept of first narrative is hard to use while talking about The Secret Agent since the anachronies do not consistently return to a first narrative. However, there are anachronies that do return to the first narrative. An example of this is chapters four to seven that in themselves make up a large prolepsis, leaving the first narrative that is chapter one to three. This prolepsis does go back to the first narrative since chapter eight is the continuation of the first narrative.

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Within the chapters there are also time jumps. Some agree with Petterson’s theory, however, there are also examples of anachronies returning to the first narrative within the chapters. An example of this is chapter eleven, where the same event that was used for demonstrating the use of multiple focalisation is retold. The chapter begins with Chief Inspector Heat leaving Verloc’s shop, and Winnie has just realised that her husband killed Stevie. The chapter continues with Mr. Verloc trying to calm down his wife and tell her that he ‘never meant any harm to come to that boy’ (167). Winnie, on the other hand, is devastated and do not listen to her husband. She goes upstairs and tries to collect her thoughts and figure out what to do. Here we first follow Mr. Verloc as he listens to his wife’s steps and thinks what she might do. Then the narrative jumps to Winnie as she is walking around upstairs. This could be seen as a completing analepsis since the anachrony recalls the same event that just occurred and tells it from another perspective. This analepsis is jumping back to the first narrative. In this situation the first narrative is Mr. Verloc’s perspective as he listnes to his wife’s footsteps and the analepsis is Winnie’s perspective. Then, when she walks down the stairs again and the perspective is once again on Mr. Verloc the analepsis has ‘connected’ itself to the first narrative again. However, Petterson’s argument is right on some points since the overall feeling of the first narrative is lost in the anachronies because of the combination of time jumps in and between the chapters. Another way the sense of time is managed by Conrad is with the help of psychological time (Petterson 144). A pause of a few seconds can feel like an hour for a character, and if that is the case, then Conrad writes what the character thinks in those seconds, making us as the reader also experience the moment as longer since we are spending time reading the characters’ thoughts. An example of this can be found at the end of chapter five and the beginning of chapter six. It is a conversation between the Assistant Commissioner and Chief Inspector Heat. In the dialogue, there is a pause and the Assistant Commissioner thinks about Michaelis and what would happen if he got involved in the bomb affair. The Commissioner's thoughts last from the end of chapter five to a few pages in to chapter six, spanning over eight pages. This example also shows the confusion that can happen in time jumps. Chapter six starts with ‘[t]he lady patroness of Michaelis, the ticket-of-leave apostle of humanitarian hopes, was one of the most influential and distinguished connections of the Assistant Commissioner’s wife’ (82). This creates the impression that this chapter is about the lady patroness. However, after six pages about how she came to be the patroness of Michealis the narrative jumps back to the conversation between the Assistant Commissioner and Chief Inspector Heat that started in chapter five. In other words, it was a quite extensive analepsis

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inside the thought process of the Assistant Commissioner. This section is supposed to happen in just a few minutes in the first narrative but Conrad creates a kind of internal monologue with a large analepsis that ‘shakes’ the sense of time for the reader. The shifts in focalisation, plot-structure and sense of time occur throughout the narrative creating a sense of fragmentation. The focalisation is constantly shifting with irregularity in method. The plot-structure is not chronological and, since this is irregular in pattern the sense of time is confused in addition to the psychological time jumps. This may simulate the sense of an explosion or that a bomb has gone off and the fragmentary narrative is what remains; a scattered story. This could be a way for Conrad to strengthen the anarchistc and anarchic atmosphere of the novel and to connect the narrative technique with the story itself. It could also be a way to further increase the novel’s ironic elements. As stated in the ‘Political Background’, propaganda by the deed was something old fashioned already when the idea of the novel was developed. In other words, bombs were outdated tools for the anarchists and by having the novel’s narrative simulate a bomb the narrative can be seen as outdated and ironic. As previously stated the individual and individual freedom are important components of anarchism. That the narrator uses his/her individual freedom has already been established. However, that the individual is important can be seen in the focalisation and plot- structure as well. The switching focalisation benefits the individual. All the characters’ thoughts and views get a to be seen and heard. The disordered plot-structure is also beneficial for the individual. The plot jumps in such a way that the reader does not know much more than the characters in the novel about the bomb, especially the discussion about who the dead man is. This results in the reader not having an advantage over any of the characters. The reader becomes equal in knowledge to the most knowledgeable character. Furthermore, by having the focalisation on all the characters in a small community, a group focalisation is achieved. The minor thoughts of the characters are combined in one novel instead of giving them a novel or separate story each. However, group focalisation seems to go against anarchism due to its dislike of people being regarded as one unit with the same opinion. Therefore could it be said that the novel values the individual and his/her freedom, but that the result of this is that each individual receives less attention and paradoxically becomes part of a group. Each individual should be working towards the same goal to achieve culture and perfection, according to the view expressed by Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy. If the ‘forces’ are working in different directions, that will lead to anarchy and this could be another idea

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used to create an anarchistic narrative. The characters in The Secret Agent are trying to save themselves by protecting their individual interests, thus pulling in different directions. The Assistant Commissioner is trying to convince Chief Inspector Heat that Michaelis is innocent in the affair so his wife will not be angry with him. Mr. Verloc persuades Stevie to carry the bomb to save himself and then blames the embassy when confronted by his wife. Mrs. Verloc avenges her brother and then runs away and forces Comrade Ossipon to help her out. Comrade Ossipon on the other hand realises what she has done and leaves her on a train and takes her money. The characters demonstrate that you are responsible for your own actions. This supports Conrad’s political views. Thus, when the various forces and motivations are not working together chaos and anarchy emerge, as in the rather confused and jumpy narrative of The Secret Agent. So if Arnold’s claims are right then the narrative of The Secret Agent is heading towards anarchy, demonstrating its effects.

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5. Conclusion

The aim of this essay is to investigate ways in which the novel’s political and anarchistic views are reflected in the narration of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, with special attention to plot-structure and focalisation. The Secret Agent is one of Conrad’s earliest political novels and it is about Mr. Verloc and his associates as a bomb goes off at the Greenwich Observatory. The narrative’s focalisation shifts between chapters and paragraphs, and occasionally in the middle of paragraphs. The focalisation is in part on the community surrounding the Verlocs, however, Mr. Verloc and Winnie still dominate one half of the novel each. This shows that a consistent group focalisation is not possible, indicating that therefore it is important to take care of your own interests as an individual since the systems sees you as part of a group. The narrator of The Secret Agent uses free indirect discourse and his/her individual freedom to narrate as s/he likes. S/he switches to first person narration on one occasion to save him/herself, and is also occasionally mocking the novel’s characters. The narrator also uses time jumps in his/her narrating which makes the sense of the first narrative lost occasionally. The scattered narrative could be seen to simulate an explosion and the fragmentation it causes. This increases the irony of the novel since bombs were considered outdated by anarchists as a political method when the novel was written. Furthermore, the narrative shows the importance of individuals both in focalisation and plot-structure. The shifting focalisation makes all the characters have focus on them and the plot-strucutre keeps the reader on the same level as the most knowledgeable character so that the reader does not have an advantage over the characters. Since it is this changing focalisation the reader learns that the characters are not working in the same direction. They are constantly trying to save themselves instead of supporting each other and thus the stiry as well as their plans are heading towards anarchy. Thus, the narrative could be considered to reflect anarchism, anarchy and some of Conrad’s own political views. The main idea of anarchism is individual freedom and, as shown, this is present during the whole narrative, both in the narrator’s method and in the thoughts and actions of the novel’s characters. The narrator is also taking into consideration the idea that laws serve the interest of a few at the expense of others. This could especially be

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seen in the plot-structure where the structure does not place the reader in any form of advantage over the characters. Conrad was sceptical towards politics in general. This is possibly is the reason for the irony going through the novel and the narrative itself with the bomb simulation. However, Conrad belived in individual freedom just like the anarchists and he also believed that you are responsible for your own actions. Conrad’s belief is clearly seen in the novel, both in the irony and in his treatment of the individual’s responsibility. Even though Arnold would claim that the characters are heading towards anarchy, according to this novel they do what they should do: take responsibility for themselves. In conclusion, there are several ways that the narrative reflect the political views within and around the novel.

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Works cited

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Arnold, Matthew, Samuel Lipman, and Maurice Cowling. Culture And Anarchy. New Haven: Yale UP, 1994. Print.

Bal, Mieke. Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. Toronto: Toronto UP, 2009. Web. 3 December 2015.

Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Agent. Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 2000. Print.

Genette, Gérard. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. New York: Cornell UP, 1980. Print.

Hagan, John, Jr. “The Design of Conrad's The Secret Agent”. ELH 22.2 (1955): 148- 164. JSTOR Journals. Web. 29 September 2015.

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Kim, Sung Ryol. “Violence, Irony, and Laughter: The Narrator in The Secret Agent”. Conradiana: A Journal of Joseph Conrad Studies 35 (2003): 75-97. Literature Resource Center. Web. 29 September 2015.

Palmer, John A. Joseph Conrad’s Fiction: A Study in Literary Growth. New York: Cornell UP, 1968. Print.

Petterson, Torsten. Consciousness and Time: A Study in the Philosophy and Narrative Technique of Joseph Conrad. Åbo: Åbo Akademi, 1982. Print.

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Weir, David. Anarchy & Culture: The Aesthetic Politics of Modernism. New Baskerville: U of Massachusetts P, 1997. Print.