The word ‘Lagoon’ taken from the Spanish word Laguna means, a lake of salty-water parted from the sea by the low sandbanks. The lagoon implies the enclosed sea-water within an area of rock or sand. This is quite common in Asiatic countries and particularly in the Malayan region.

The Lagoon is one of Conrad’s earliest short stories had a strange Malayan setting. Conrad adds the typical Malayan background of the jungle and the lagoon with purpose. The earlier portion is particularly impressive. Such with all its light and shade is well exploited to tell a tale of passion and tragic-love. The environmental impact of the theme is perceived in a number of ways.

Photograph 2012 © Vikram Roy

The tropical sun is shown with its dazzling light. The sky is unclouded and seems to hang low over the stream which sparkles brightly. The bright dazzling light of the sun in the region is emphasized in the concluding portion of the story.

Diamelen passed away as the dawn approached the gloomy lagoon. Arsat stood in stark sorrow but ‘the sun showed its edge above the tree tops rising steadily’ its bright sparkling light reflected on the rippling water of the lagoon. Arsat stood lonely in the sunlight and he looked beyond the great light of a cloudless day into the darkness of a world of illusion. Conrad sharply contrasted the brilliance of sunlight with the dumb darkness of human frustration.

The Malayan stream is presented with no less vividness. There is the intense glitter of the river under sunlight with the water ‘shining smoothly, like a band of metal’. The stream with nothing but eight paddles rising and flashing regularly is well described. The lagoon itself with its gloom and ghost aspect creates a supernatural atmosphere. The still black water of the creek and the gloomy lagoon are created an unlimited horror.

Conrad gives a picturesque description of Malayan forest somber, dull, stood motionless and silent on each side of the wide stream. At the foot of the tall towering trees, trunk-less nipa palms rose from the mud of the bank and bunches of leaves are enormous and heavy that hung unstably over the brown swirl of the eddies. The bewitching effect of the whole environment is caused by the strange stillness and silence of the air and the forest all around. In a brief description Conrad gives details about every tree, every leaf, every bough, every tendril of creeper and every petal of blossoms to indicate a land of slumber and indolence. Far from the madding crowd of the modern cities. This point description of the botanic world is simply amazing. The tracery of small ferns and the tangled maze of the creepers give a sudden eye view through Conrad’s description.

Conrad’s mastery is marked not merely in his power to tell a simple tale impressively but also it is an art to give an appropriate natural background for a deeply moving human tragedy.


Hi, I am Vikram, a friend of you! I would like to take this opportunity of personally welcoming you to my blog! You can read my book “The Alchemist A Mystery In Three Acts” Available now on : Always love, Vikram Roy

38 responses »

  1. I read it quite some time ago.
    Nice treatment.

  2. hodgepodge4thesoul says:

    You have peaked my curiosity, I’ll have to get a copy and check it out. 🙂

  3. colltales says:

    This guy’s incredible, a Ukraine-born, Polish-descendant, who became one of the greatest American writers. Similar to Nabokov. Since Francis Ford Coppolla adapted his Heart of Darkness for the Apocalypse Now movie, his work has regained the importance it’s used to have in the post-war. Thanks for sharing this little known story. All the best. Wesley

  4. vam says:

    Great writing ! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    • DeLicia Douglas-Smith says:

      @Vam: I agree! The writing was eloquent and thoughtful. It created imagery that allowed the reader to transcend the moment.

  5. Thank you for this bit of history, Vikram, very interesting and educational~

  6. granbee says:

    Vikram, I believe this post is my favorite of the ones I have read of yours, so far! Bless you!. Yes,Conrad did have a very special gift for using the phenomenae of the natural world, the lights and the shadows and the stagnant waters and the entangled plant forms to tell us about the qualities hiding in the human heart! I had not really understood that one of his works was set in Malaya! Thank you for such excellent research and thoughtful reporting.

  7. We have a laguna in S. TX. A great spot. Enjoyed the book discussion. And the illustration is so appropriate

  8. laohutiger says:

    Very nicely done, brings out the ‘Conradian’ in what I think of as Conrad’s ‘archipelago narratives’ …

  9. Just out of curiousity, (and because I’m nosy) where is the picture from?

    Oh, and of course I loved your post, luv!

  10. theporkchop says:

    Thanks for that, Vikram. Conrad is an author I’ve heard so much about but have never read. I’ve been meaning to do something about it for several years but have never got round to it. This is just what I need to spur me into action and buy his books.

  11. cou says:

    I liked this story because it really showed the reader that death is inescapable, no matter how deep your love is for your significant other death is just one aspect of life that you can’t protect them from.

    • DeLicia Douglas-Smith says:

      And isn’t the manner in which he used nature to convey the depth of emotions interesting? The dark and light, the sun and mist-all cues for emoted fears realized. Fabulous writing!

  12. courtney berry says:

    I liked this story because it really showed the reader that death is inescapable, no matter how deep your love is for your significant other death is just one aspect of life that you can’t protect them from.

    • Robert Reese says:

      Death is as certain as paying taxes. I so agree with your assessment that it is inescapable. While you can “cheat” death, I believe that means it just was not your time to go. It was some sort of divine intervention that prevented you from meeting your maker.

      • Richard Samuel says:

        I agree that death is as certain as paying taxes that is a good statement. I think that to many times in stories authors try to steer away from actually talking about death and try to make everything heroic. By having the brother die it brought an actual human element to his story and sort of made it more relatable.

      • Torrin Brown says:

        I agree with death being inescapable, but I don’t think divine intervention is always the reason why someone doesn’t “meet their maker.” Lets give a little credit to ourselves

  13. courtney berry says:

    The story was very bittersweet because at the end not only did Arsat lose his lover he also lost his brother. This story was full of symbols and contrasts which made it easy for the reader to really get into the story.

  14. Deborah Houston says:

    I enjoyed the story about the Lagoon. The author took his time to describe every detail of the characters surroundings, emotions and experience. Personally, I find death one of those things that I do not like to dialogue about, visit and experience. Death is one of those definite that all will experience within their lifetime. The author took a human and beautiful approach in his style of writing. The short story demonstrated the writer’s vivid appreciation he had for details and his since of importances that the reader walks away with a literary experience.

  15. Denita Bolds says:

    This short story was very detailed and made me, the reader, visualize each scene. I felt as though I was there with Arsat when he described how him and the lady ran for safety while his brother stayed back to fight with fire. This story is like a love story to me. Arsat was so in love with this woman that he left his own brother to die and didnt turn back. Despite the way he treated people, he really had feelings and was a loving person.

  16. Jalessa Franklin says:

    While reading this story, I felt like I was there. The story provided great detail of the activities that were taking place. This reminds me of a sad love story. Arsat was so in love, and humans often have the illusion that through ‘true love’ nothing can touch us, and that love makes one whole. Diamelen as well as Arsats brother was gone, and the fact that he loved didn’t make it all better. He also felt sad when coming to terms of being alone. Death is a reality that everyone has to come to terms with at some point in their lives.

  17. Ryshon Harris says:

    This story depicts one of a love story. I especially love the way the story helps the reader picture the scenes in detail as you read. it is bery interesting how animated and beautiful the story ends. This story reminds me of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet because Arsat was so in love with this woman that he left his own brother to die and did not care. It showed that Arsat was willing to watch his brother die for the love for this woman.

  18. Denita Bolds says:

    The author was very detailed with each scene in the story. He used so many metaphors. This takes me back to my childhood writing days, before I became interested in Math. I think I should try writing more.

  19. Robert Reese says:

    Initially I had a difficult following the story. (I think it had to do with my phone ringing and stuff.) However, I was able to get the basic framework of the tale. I found that the author was a tad bit TOO detailed in his descriptions. I like being able to have the words overtake me when I read a piece of literature. In this case, the visual images overpowered the written word. I was a little upset that he did not do more to help his brother when he called his name several times. That would have just ate me alive.

    • Erline Maingot says:

      I agree. I felt the detail were rather heavy through the piece. I prefer the to have to conjure up my own images, this make the work a little bit more personal.

  20. Richard Samuel says:

    I greatly enjoyed the short story. I really enjoy movies, I like to have that image in my mind, and since this was a story I greatly enjoyed the fact that the author was so willing to have a detailed description about everything he was discussing. Although his loved ones died in this book I have come to realize that this is just a part of life. That death is as certain as being born. Why he did not do more to help I am not sure but I do find it fascinating that the author was willing to have his brother die as part of the story instead of him simply being saved and it turning out to be another “happy ending”. Overall I thought the author did a great job and the detail to which he went really did move me and spark my imagination.

  21. Erline Maingot says:

    As previosly stated, death is certain. I find it rather heart breaking that his brother was able to listen to his brother call for help and die with out moving a foot to assist him. I know not every story will end with flowers and butter flies, but i was hoping for a better out come. Even though I am not a fan for the detail, the details really created wonderful images for me to place with each character.

  22. I liked the elaborate descriptions he used such as; “The Forest sombre and dull, stood motionless and silent on each side of the broad stream”. That was a well developed sentence that immediately opens ones imagination.

  23. @ErlineMaingot I agree i was slightly disappointed with the somber ending.

  24. Hurma Akmyradova says:

    There are certain similarities in Conrad’s works. First, he symbolizes his works overwhelmingly. In comparison with Heart of Darkness, “The Lagoon” is fool of symbolisms such as dark and light, motion and stillness, sunrise and sunset and many others. Another similarity of two works is death of the sex. He is very extreme about the death. When his character dies, he or she leaves the opposite sex extremely lonely, without anyone or anything. In The Lagoon, Arsat becomes totally lonely after Diamelen’s death, and after Kurtz’ death, her intended gets in the same situation mourning after him for long years in Hear of darkness.

  25. Michael Holmes says:

    I really enjoyed the story i love when i can pictrue whats going on in my mind by reading the description that is presented. Death eveventually comes to us all. “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
    ― Mark Twain

  26. GradyW says:

    At first it was hard to sit through all of the dense adjectives. It really made me sleepy. After about the first paragraph I was ready to hang it up. I began to change my mind mid-way through the story. I absolutely love the the statement about a brother. ‘…a brother is your worst enemy because he knows all of your weaknesses…’ I have never thought of it that way…how absolutely poetic!

  27. GradyW says:

    @ Erline
    I was a tad bit diseartened at the enormous decription. I did enjoy it towards the middle and then I realized that I had actually become upset because I like to imagine things on my own; but I agree te decriptions were absolutely fabulous.

  28. Fred Williams says:

    This story reminds me of one of the greatest literary works that I have every read, Moby Dick. The symbolism in this story is profound, it makes the story easy to imagine and picture in your head the details and events. This was a pretty nice story when you get do the dept of it.

  29. Fred Williams says:

    This story was rather sad, the lose of life is never a easy thing to deal with.

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