decoratd initial T his conviction that human life is a seeking without a finding, that its purpose is impenetrable, that joy and sorrow are alike meaningless, you will see written largely in the work of all great artists. . . . Conrad . . . grounds his whole work upon a sense of this “immense indifference of things.” The exact point of the story of Kurtz, in Heart of Darkness, is that it is pointless, that Kurtz’s death is as meaningless as his life, that the moral of such a sordid tragedy is a wholesale negation of all morals. And this, no less, is the point of the story of “Falk,” and of that of Almayer, and of that of Jim. . . . Conrad . . . swings, indeed, as far from moralizing as is possible, for he does not even criticise God. His undoubted comradeship, his plain kindliness toward the souls he vivisects, is not the child of hope but of pity. Like Mark Twain he might well say: “The more I see of men, the more I laugh at them—and the more I pity them.” He is simpatico precisely because of his infinite commiseration. [238]

Related material


Mencken, H. L. H. L. Mencken’s “Smart Set” Criticism. Ed. William H. Nolte. Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1968.

Last modified 30 September 2017