Victory: A Island Talen

by Joseph Conrad

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A central theme of the novel is the tragic nature of Axel Heyst's philosophical detachment from human life, and Conrad's own vision of the need for some kind of involvement in the human community. Although Conrad was in many ways a skeptic about human ideals, like Axel Heyst's father, the philosopher who published a number of books expressing a philosophy similar to Schopenhauer's intellectual pessimism, Conrad the artist and thinker recognized the importance of involvement and commitment to the human community. Hence the novel may be viewed from one perspective as the tragic consequence of Heyst's inadequate involvement with humanity.

Ironically, however, it is not until Heyst becomes involved first with Morrison and then with Lena that the fatal momentum of the final events in his life begins. Thus another theme of the novel is the grim recognition that involvement with humanity, even relatively innocent people like Morrison and Lena, produces its own kind of tragedy.

Despite its tragic ending, the novel seems to affirm Conrad's essential belief in the need for love in its handling of the relationship between Lena and Heyst. The novel also affirms Conrad's belief in the importance of moral integrity, which is demonstrated in Heyst's behavior, however Hamlet-like and exasperatingly he behaves.

At the same time, Victory shows the tragic cost that people pay for their illusions. Nearly all Conrad's major characters, including his villains, are victims of their illusions, as the section on characters will show in more detail.

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