Conrad's late short novel The Shadow Line, which has struck some critics as a poorly constructed romance, acquires coherence and depth when regarded as an initiation rite of passage. Indeed the ritual character of this story is so dominant in orienting the protagonist and his initiatory society significantly as to constitute the chief narrative mode in the story. Society in this fiction is divided in ways that highlight ritual features but also ironize the initiand, the initiators, and, by implication, the community, the basic triad in traditional initiation ceremony. Its ritualistic character, furthermore, is accentuated by a pattern of motifs of magic which aid in elaborating the work on realist, symbolist, and comic planes. The object of this paper is to consider The Shadow Line as a ritualistic and primitivistic world, the better to indicate the temper of its art.



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