Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Nostromo is Conrad’s most expansive and ambitious political novel, a story that examines how both societies and individuals are adversely affected by the process of government in its most brutal form. The book combines several of Conrad’s recurring themes, most notably the harmful effects of imperialism, the baleful influence of wealth, and the evil results of individuals acting without the restraints of inner moral codes.
The story is set in the Occidental Province of Costaguana, a nation in Central America. Isolated behind an almost impassable mountain range and situated on a broad but windless bay, the Golfo Placido, Sulaco, the capital city of the province, has for centuries remained outside of events. Sulaco’s only importance comes from the riches of its nearby silver mine, known as the Gould Concession because it is operated by an English family of that name. The Goulds, who have lived in Costaguana for three generations, are permitted to work the mine so long as they pay sufficient bribes to whatever government happens to control Costaguana. Charles Gould, who has brought the mine to its greatest productivity, has grown tired of this endless extortion and resolves to throw his great wealth behind a revolution that will finally bring a responsible government to power in Costaguana.
The novel also follows the career of its title character, an Italian immigrant who is the leader of the stevedores and other dockworkers in...
(The entire section is 819 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The Republic of Costaguana is in a state of revolt. Under the leadership of Pedrito Montero, rebel troops have taken control of the eastern part of the country. When news of the revolt reaches Sulaco, the principal town of the western section, which is separated from the rest of the country by a mountain range, the leaders begin to lay defense plans. The chief interest of the town is the San Tomé silver mine in the nearby mountains, a mine managed by Charles Gould, an Englishman who, although educated in England, was born in Sulaco, his father having been manager before him. Gould has made a great success of the mine. The semiannual shipment of silver has just come down from the mine to the customhouse when the telegraph operator in Esmeralda, on the eastern side of the mountains, sends word that troops have embarked on a transport under the command of General Sotillo and that the rebels plan to capture the silver ingots as well as Sulaco.
Gould decides to load the ingots onto a lighter, a barge used for loading and unloading ships’ cargo, and set it afloat in the gulf pending the arrival of a ship that will take the cargo to the United States. The man to guide the lighter will be Gian’ Battista, known in Sulaco as Nostromo—our man—for he is considered incorruptible. His companion will be Martin Decoud, editor of the local newspaper, who has been drawn from Paris and kept in Sulaco by the European-educated Antonia Avellanos, to whom he has just...
(The entire section is 1245 words.)