How does Conrad suggest the character of Arsat by his answers to the white man Tuan's questions early in the story of "The Lagoon"?"The Lagoon" by Joseph Conrad.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Tuan, the white man in "The Lagoon," asks Arsat three questions early on after arriving at Arsat's clearing. These questions are "Why? Is there sickness in the house?" and ""Has she been long ill?" Arsat's replies are short and to the point, but they do reveal information suggesting what Arsat's character is like. In addition, Arsat's actions, which accompany his replies, confirm the suggestions about his character that are implied by his answers.

Arsat's first reply to a question asked by Tuan is, "Enter and see." This is short, to the point, yet dramatic and visually rich. Arsat doesn't answer directly nor does he use the typical language of an invitation to enter. Instead, he bids his guest act by entering and bids him see what Arsat himself sees; he invites Tuan to action, two actions precisely. From this readers may understand that not only is Arsat open and genuine but also a man of action who respects the actions of others, indeed invites the actions of others. This is in keeping with Arsat's description and role as a warrior.

Arsat's next response is very different from the first in length. While Arsat again doesn't answer the English question, "Has she been ill long?" in a direct manner such as English speakers would use, which would reflect the question's Subject "she" in the answer (She has been ill for five days), he does answer openly and candidly, saying, "I have not slept for five days." This is unique because Arsat answers by using his personal experience as a marker of Diamelen's suffering. This suggests that Arsat is deeply feeling and measures his life by hers, which suggests the profound tie of deep love reciprocated between them.

This suggestion of profound and deep feeling is confirmed by the rest of Arsat's answer in which he continues to describes her experience of illness with a reflection from his own experience: "against me who held her ... she hears not me ... she sees not me ... ." This portion of Arsat's answer is constructed so that a statement about Diamelen is mirrored by a statement about Arsat, thereby binding them equally and inseparably. This suggests an unbreakable union between them and is a critical foreshadowing of the ending of the tale. On a final note, his repetition of "me!" makes an emphatic statement of the meaning they have for each other.

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