The novel Almayer’s folly is a story of an eastern river that many readers find as an intriguing text. It was Joseph Conrad’s first novel that opened the door for many more novels to come. Within the novel Almayer, his wife and his daughter all seek out different paths. Almayer wishes to return to Europe, which he perceives as his origin, his wife Mrs. Almayer wishes to return to a pre-colonial Sambir and then his daughter Nina wishes to return to her Malay roots. In the novel we learn about the two dominant cultures of Sambir which are White and Malay but what we don’t understand is that by separating the two dominant cultures and returning Sambir to its original state would “right” an imperialist “wrong”.
There are many controversies against joseph Conrad and his works of writing. It starts off with the question of “Is joseph Conrad against or for imperialism?” After reading Almayer’s folly and the other works on reserve I believe it is safe to say that Joseph Conrad was against imperialism. A good author writes what they know, and joseph Conrad used his books and other pieces of work to subliminally talk about his views of imperialism without becoming an outcast is his society. In the introduction of the Historical Guide to Joseph Conrad I read about how authors are shaped by their environment and their historical and cultural surroundings. This point supports how Conrad act as if he is an insider and an imperialist but secretly he feel like an outsider in his society and does not share the same views as everybody else .
Almayer`s Folly takes on a special meaning in its character’s lives. It is a story about quest and how each character must take on different challenges that make it exciting and interesting. In the novel, Almayer`s Folly, is the quest of the main character Kaspar Almayer but after researching Conrad we see pieces of himself in his main character. The story first takes place on an island called Borneo in the nineteenth century. He is a Dutch colonial who opened up a trading post on the island of Borneo. However, Almayer finds himself wanting to go back to his European routes, he it’s tired of his unfulfilling island life and rather be back in Amsterdam. Conrad also immigrated from Ukraine to England and was a sailor just how Almayer immigrated from Amsterdam to Borneo and was a sailor. Almayer had two major dilemmas which happened to be from his failed business and his mental suffering due to his failed marriage. In 1878 Conrad attempted suicide; in the story, Almayer was starting to be driven crazy by the long days and the surroundings of the island. He started to feel isolated and depressed and if it was not for his beautiful daughter Nina, Almayer would have taken his life as well. Conrad does not write about suicide because it is not accepted in his social class and since the men who will read his novels are most likely rich and imperialists he must abide by their rules. Almayer wished to have his freedom back just how Conrad wished to have freedom of speech. “He absorbs himself in his dream of wealth and power away from this coast where he had dwelt for so many years, forgetting the bitterness of toil and strife in the vision of a great and splendid reward.” This quote gives us a look at how Almayer was taken into a dream state wanted to go to a better place.
At the beginning of the story, Conrad said “Almayer had left his home with a light heart and a lighter pocket, speaking English well and strong in arithmetic; ready to conquer the world, never doubting that he would.” This shows how Almayer connects to Conrad in the real world because Conrad did a similar thing but he traveled to England instead of Borneo. Almayer suffered through overwhelming odds in his twenty-five year long struggle. Almayer’s wife was jealous of how much Nina loved her father. “His wife had soon commenced to treat him with a savage contempt expressed by sulky silence, only occasionally varied by a flood of savage invective.” Conrad uses the word savage, but he is not referring to a Native American in this text, he is referring the Almayer’s actions. In the nineteenth century it was not uncommon to call natives savages, because we as humans are scared of what we don’t know and don’t understand. Conrad, being the anti-imperialist decided to use the word savage without offending natives and their culture but while doing so he gives off the impression of still being a part of the social norm. Further in the story we see a character awakening on a very personal level. Nina realizes she is not of pure European blood, she realizes that she will never be accepted as an equal within the Europeans or the whites since she is a half-breed. It is for this reason that Nina chooses to live with the natives. Almayer is an example of someone who is stuck for he stays where he is and he realizes that he is going nowhere which turns out to be his real Folly. Conrad pushes the limits of the social norm when he writes about Nina joining the natives. Being a half-breed in the nineteenth century, you would not be accepted for who you are. Conrad uses this to subtly hint that the way of living is wrong and everyone should be accepted for who they are no matter their breeding background or the colour of their skin.
In the summary of Almayer`s Folly we have seen that Conrad has not written in an imperialistic way. “It is important to note that Forster, along with Conrad and Lawrence, is one of the few writers of this time period who treats the members of a “backward” country with the seriousness and sympathy considered necessary for an anthropological understanding by modern standards. “ This quote from savage and literature explains why we do not see the imperialistic views in Conrad`s novel Almayer`s Folly.
Conrad, Joseph. Almayer’s Folly. Great Britain: Wordsworth Editions, 1996. Print.
Peters, John G. A Historical Guide to Joseph Conrad. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.
Street, Brian V. The Savage in Literature: Representations of “primitive” Society in English Fiction, 1858-1920. London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1975. Print.