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The author Joseph Conrad uses a character named Marlowe as the narrator of the short story "Youth," as he uses the same character in many of his works, including Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim. Marlowe, a middle-aged man, is telling a group of cronies about an early experience aboard a ship. At the time he was only twenty years old. He is excited about this voyage because it will be the first time he has served as an officer. He is to be the second mate. This position is two degrees below captain. There is the captain, the first mate, the second mate, and the third mate. This will also be young Marlowe's first trip to the Far East. The point of the whole story is based on Marlowe's youth. Everything goes wrong that could possibly go wrong aboard a ship. Finally the cargo of coal catches fire from spontaneous combustion and the old ship sinks. Marlowe reaches Java in a lifeboat. And yet he finds it all interesting and exciting because he is so young and it is all new experience for him. The older Marlowe even remembers it as a great adventure and an important learning experience. The men who have been listening to Marlowe's yarn all understand what he was trying to convey.
And we all nodded at him: the man of finance, the man of accounts, the man of law, we all nodded at him over the polished table that like a still sheet of brown water reflected our faces, lined, wrinkled; our faces marked by toil, by deceptions, by success, by love; our weary eyes looking still, looking always, looking anxiously for something out of life, that while it is expected is already gone — has passed unseen, in a sigh, in a flash — together with the youth, with the strength, with the romance of illusions.
Life itself is a lot like Joseph Conrad's story "Youth." We start off with great expectations when we are young. Everything is new and exciting. Eventually we end up wiser but full of regrets.
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