Robert Penn Warren Long Fiction Analysis
Often, what Robert Penn Warren said about other writers provides important insight into his own works. This is especially true of Warren’s perceptive essay “The Great Mirage: Conrad and Nostromo” (in Selected Essays), in which he discusses the enigmatic speech of Stein in Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim (1900): A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. If he tries to climb out into the air as inexperienced people endeavor to do, he drowns—nicht wahr?No! I tell you! The way is to the destructive element submit yourself, and with the exertions of your hands and feet in the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up.
Warren interprets the dream here as “man’s necessity to justify himself and his actions into moral significance of some order, to find sanctions.” The destructiveness of the dream arises from humans’ nature as egotistical animals with savage impulses, not completely adapted to the dream sea of ideas. The one who learns to swim instead of drowning in the unnatural sea of ideas is he who realizes that the values he creates are illusion, but that “the illusion is necessary, is infinitely precious, is the mark of his human achievement, and is, in the end, his only truth.” Warren calls Nostromo “a study in the definition and necessity of illusion.” This phrase could also describe most of Warren’s works of fiction.
Warren’s classification of...
(The entire section is 3915 words.)
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