Joseph Conrad is perhaps one of those few eminent writers who boldly chooses unusual themes as the core subject matter to pen some of his famous works. The lagoon is one such short story of the author that opens up an unconventional storyline.
Like many other short stories of several authors, The Lagoon also describes human tragedy but with a distinctive identity. From the beginning, it draws an atmosphere of eeriness and mystery as the entire plot is beset with a typical Malayan setting. Outwardly the tale appears simple, although it carries an extraordinary feature of symbolism. As a matchless literary piece, it symbolizes a sharp reaction to unavoidable realism from the human perspective.
As part of an unconventional storyline, the author selected a lagoon to make it the place of action. According to the white man, the narrator of the storyline in the tale, local inhabitants always avoided the site as they considered it haunted or ghostly. The entire setting unfolds an exotic feeling. It defines both human passion and frustration explicitly.
Moreover, the short story doesn’t unlock a theme, crowded with the infinite human operation. It instead exceptionally specifies human interest with an unavoidable, universal appeal. The keynote implies all the features of human life in a short span which is rare, especially in a less-elaborated plot. It signifies human aspiration, hope, frustration, and despair in character named Arsat.
Yes, Arsat, the hero of the tale and the ethos of all activities. He is a Malayan native. And, with an exception, he lived in a secluded place, attached to a lagoon. And other residents of its surrounding areas, although deemed it as the habitat of evil spirits. In a word, Conrad placed Arsat in an uncanny environment to help him embrace the bitter realization regarding human life’s irony. The irony is that love and life could not avoid the shackles of the severe and inevitable blow of death. In short, The Lagoon draws human tragedy, placing them on vital moral components.
The three moral components of human life that connect the entire plot of the short story are betrayal, remorse, and retribution. The tale portrays how retribution accompanies the act of treason after the doer or Arsat’s profound and inescapable remorse takes place. Yes, here, Arsat is responsible for betraying his brother for the sake of his love. But, he failed to safeguard his love against death.
The tragic plot, no doubt, conceives a rare or unusual theme. Under the urge of passion and an unavoidable instinct of love for his beloved woman, Diamelen, the Malayan man proved ungrateful to his helpless brother. He betrayed him at the most crucial moment when the lonely and incapable person desperately needed help. Arsat left his brother at the brutal hands of the chasers.
It is indeed true that such betrayal always gives birth to remorse. And Arsat could not keep himself away from the thorn of conscience his entire life, even when having a fulfilling love. Moreover, his pain gets the final shape with retribution. Conrad’s words show that Arsat had no choice but to face the consequence of performing an unpardonable sin. Death came as a nemesis and took away his love, Diamelen, for whom he didn’t hesitate to become ungrateful and betray his brother. Now the whole progression has a rare and uncommon interpretation, which represents an unconventional storyline.
The said unusual interpretation first takes place with the word “lagoon.” A popular term emerges from the Spanish word “Laguna,” which means a small tract of water (mainly saltwater), separated from the sea by the low, narrow land, like sandbank, reefs, or something others. Here the said term possesses profound meaning. It signifies a detachment or isolation from the main water body like the isolated life of Arsat. Yes, a detached secluded life in a hut situated by the side of the lagoon.
Also, like a lagoon, Arsat became a lonely soul after the demise of his love. Even his world of illusion evaporated in the darkness of seclusion. So, concisely, one thing is evident: the term lagoon in the title acutely relates to two subjects – the thematic aspect of the short story and the tragic situation of Arsat’s life.
In reality, the outwardly looking simple tale has a more profound significance. It specifies human passion for love life but with an unconventional connotation. Joseph Conrad here depicts human life with rare and uncommon signature style and makes the storyline exquisite.