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A Captains Metamorphosis in The Secret Sharer

In the short story The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad, the captain of the ship, the Colorado, changes from an insecure and inexperienced ship captain to a more confident and secure individual, due to his experiences with the Secret Sharer. At first, the captain is not sure of his place on the ship and does not feel right about being in charge. Through his relationship with the Secret Sharer, the captain finds identity and becomes a confident person. In the beginning of the story, the captain is very uneasy when he is thrown into the position of captain of a ship travelling on a long and arduous journey.

The captain begins to feel insecure about running his ship and questions his ability to lead his ship. During one of the first nights on board the ship, the captain demonstrates his thoughts of insecurity and self-consciousness when he does something that a captain would not normally do: he plans to take part in the night watch. I felt painfully that I – a stranger – was doing something unusual when I directed him to let all hands turn in without setting an anchor watch (941). The captain is so self-conscious and insecure about his actions that he reacts almost painfully to the crews judgement of his orders.

He also states that he perceives himself to be a stranger amongst the others. Among his insecurities, the captain also sees himself as a stranger to himself and not fit to run his ship. The captain thinks, But what I felt most was my being a stranger to the ship; and if all the truth must be told, I was somewhat of a stranger to myself. The youngest man on board (barring the second mate), and untried as yet by a position of the fullest responsibility, I was willing to take the adequacy of the others for granted (940).

The captain is young and does not feel he really knows himself. This insecurity leads him to believe he is not fit to lead others if he does not even have confidence in himself. The captain begins to change when he develops a close relationship with the secret sharer, a criminal that he harbors and to whom he can relate. Through a close and secret relationship with the Secret Sharer, the captain begins to find his identity and transforms into a very confident and able captain. The Secret Sharer is even referred to as the captains double.

The captain starts to identify with the Secret Sharer, which helps him feel comforted and understood on a ship of strangers: I had become so connected in thoughts and impressions with the secret sharer of my cabin (951). The captain and the Secret Sharer connect and develop a close, empathetic relationship that helps the captain to find identity and understanding. Near the end of the story, the captain gets in tune with himself and feels confident and secure about his abilities and role as captain.

After choosing to risk the life of himself and his crew in order to save the Secret Sharer, the captain skillfully averts destruction and remarks on his newfound trust in his crew and his ability as the ships commander: Nothing! no one on the world should stand between us, throwing a shadow on the way of silent knowledge and mute affection, the perfect communion of a seaman with his first command (960). The captain realizes he is in complete control and is confident as leader of his vessel.

His newly discovered trust in his abilities will help him in the rest of his journey and the rest of his life. As a direct result from his relationship with the secret sharer, the captain transforms from an inexperienced and insecure individual to a self-assured and stable leader. In the beginning of the story, the captain does not know his place and has feelings of inadequacy. This changes when the captain meets the secret sharer and becomes secure and confident in his duty and his abilities.

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