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Thread: Humor and Despair

  1. #1
    Sacred Cow

    Humor and Despair

    A strong impression of the novel didn't really hit me until near the end - from Chapt. XII, just after Winnie killed Verloc. I thought the depiction of Winnie's encounter with Ossipon (P*ss on? P*ss Upon?) was fabulously drawn - this cheap, weak, sorry excuse of a man who Winnie suddenly turns to for a chance of salvation - all the time his mind is on sex with her. But when they arrive at the shop and the truth of what Winnie did to Verloc slowly starts dawning in his idiotic mind, the description of Ossipon's growing horror and fright is one of the funniest things I've ever read in literature. I wonder if anyone else noticed or agrees with how amazingly this is portrayed by Conrad. I'm especially impressed by the contrast between the macabre humor (all the growing cowardice so hysterically portrayed) and the very sorry and sad end for Winnie. <br> Someone mentioned the growing suffragette movement in England at the time The Secret Agent was written, and it is interesting to think of how we come to think of Winnie as such a shallow nonentity, but then she really starts to come alive as a person once someone has taken away her maternal object and her sole reason for living (in her mind), her brother Stevie. And then Comrade Ossipon's final indignity can't help but make me think that this is an early feminist critique of the mistreatment of women. <br> Conrad had a lot of heart and empathy. <br> Also at the end of the novel there seems to be a kind of word play at work in Conrad's constant reiteration of the newspaper account of Winnie's end: "An impenetrable mystery seems destined to hang forever." This echoes off of Winnie's fixation in the same chapter of another newspaper account "The drop given was fourteen feet." Maybe someone else can clarify this better.

  2. #2
    Veg and Knowledge 4 All!
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    I totally agree with you. the novel only seemed to take off in the last few chapters. I really enjoyed the last paragraph.

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