Places: Victory

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1915

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Early twentieth century

Places DiscussedSamburan

Samburan Victory (sahm-BEWR-ahn). Also known as Round Island, one of the thousands of small islands in the Malaysian archipelago, on which Baron Axel Heyst establishes the center of his Tropical Belt Coal Company. At its height, his company has offices in London and Amsterdam. After the death of Heyst’s partner, the only person remaining in Heyst’s house is his Chinese servant, Wang. On the side of the island opposite the house is a native village.

Although Heyst finds island life fascinating, he is generally disenchanted with it, even though he rarely feels lonely. He often sits in the main room of his house, under a picture of his father–a misanthrope and famous writer–and reflects.

Into this deserted wilderness Heyst brings Alma (whom he renames Lena), a women he has rescued from an obsessive-compulsive hotel owner at the nearest civilized island, three days journey by boat. In his sitting room, Heyst assures Lena that nothing can break in on them there.

Schomberg’s Hotel

Schomberg’s Hotel. Hotel in Sourabaya owned by Wilhelm Schomberg, who is obsessed with controlling Lena, one of the eighteen women in his hotel concert hall. Desperate to escape the hotel, Lena persuades Heyst to take her with him after a concert.

Other residents of the hotel include two very suspicious characters, Mr. Jones and Martin Ricardo, who gamble in the hotel’s shabby gaming room. These desperadoes brag to Schomberg about their adventures in Bangkok, Manila, Colombia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. When these men tell Schomberg they intend to stay at the hotel for a month, he shows displeasure and is threatened by Jones. Nevertheless, Schomberg persuades the men to attempt to retrieve Lena and get revenge on Heyst by telling them a false story about a fortune that Heyst has hidden on the island.

Wang’s hut

Wang’s hut. Walled quarters of Heyst’s servant Wang, who retires to his hut at night and contentedly tends his vegetable garden by day. Heyst never enters the hut or its grounds. After Wang takes a village woman for a wife, she never emerges from this island of sanity, except to flee with Wang to her home village on the opposite side of the island when the desperadoes land on the island. The path to the woman’s village is strewn with logs on the trail as a warning to the outside world to keep away.

Heyst’s house

Heyst’s house. After Lena is shot by the invading desperadoes, Heyst takes her to his bed to die as his house catches fire. There Heyst apparently chooses to die with Lena, who is happy finally to be loved and free from Schomberg. Heyst, too, is finally free from a life of scorn. The lovers are both reduced to ashes, but ashes are as pure as their love. The island, too, is now purified from the influx of civilization. In this there may be victory.

BibliographyGillon, Adam. The Eternal Solitary: A Study of Joseph Conrad. New York: Bookman Associates, 1960. Explores the key role that isolation played in Conrad’s life and work. Presents Victory as a melodrama that effectively discusses, in symbolic terms, the nature of solitude and its consequences.Johnson, Bruce. Conrad’s Models of Mind. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1971. Explores Conrad’s continual readjustment of his fictions to fit changing philosophical models of human behavior and motivation. Discusses the way Victory reassesses the individual’s need for human solidarity and community.Meyers, Jeffrey. Joseph Conrad: A Biography. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1991. A highly readable critical biography. Discusses Victory as Conrad’s most misunderstood, underrated, and controversial novel, its theme being the failure of love in an idyllic setting.Moser, Thomas. “Conrad’s ‘Later Affirmation.’” In Conrad: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Marvin Mudrick. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966. Explores the role chance plays in later novels, particularly Victory, and how it makes the novels’ apparent affirmations more evasive.Sherry, Norman, ed. Conrad: The Critical Heritage. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973. An impressive collection of the responses of the time to Conrad’s work, the section devoted to Victory gives insight into Conrad’s critical reputation and the novel’s reception in the midst of World War I.
Categories: Places