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Chance Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The principal theme, chance, is amply illustrated both explicitly and implicitly in the novel. The many chances each of the characters have are folded into Marlow's newfound or newly formulated philosophy which he expresses to Powell near the novel's end: Reminding Powell that they got to know each other by chance, Marlow states, "And the science of life consists in seizing every possible chance that presents itself." Marlow also has altered, very slightly, his position on humanity through his pondering of chance and concludes his lengthy tale by anticipating that Powell and Flora will be married: he says to his listener, "What on earth are you grinning at in this sarcastic manner? I am not afraid of going to church with a friend. Hang it all, for all my belief in Chance I am not exactly a pagan." Chance brings Flora and Marlow together in the country, chance brings Powell to serve under Captain Anthony who has eloped with Flora, chance leads Fyne to inform Captain Anthony that Flora is an adventuress who does not love him, chance secures a place for the fallen de Barral, and chance lets Powell observe the attempt on Anthony's life and the suicide of de Barral. Finally, chance allows Marlow to encourage Powell and Flora to seek their happiness with each other. But overall, the novelist plots a strange and tangled tale that hinges upon coincidence, happenstance, and opportunity and the age-old maxim to seize opportunity by the forelock. The theme had an unexpected place in the novelist's own life: the popularity of the theme and of the work proved so great that this best seller became Conrad's Chance.