Victory By Joseph Conrad Summary and Analysis Part 2: Chapter 1

Summary

Part 2 begins with Heyst's arrival at Schomberg's Hotel in Sourabaya while Zangiacomo's Ladies' Orchestra is established there as regular entertainment. Heyst, while still fascinated by the islands, is disenchanted with life in general. The failure of the T.B.C. Company affects him in a subtle way, "like a gnawing pain." He also grieves and feels guilty over Morrison's death although no one could possibly have foreseen the effect of Dorsetshire's cold and damp weather on the good sea captain.

Heyst is in no mood for frivolous entertainment and spends his evenings sitting on the hotel verandah. Sounds of the orchestra reach him in fragmentary and rasping plaints which aggravate his loneliness. He has only lately become aware that nowhere in all the world is there a single soul belonging to him. He is hurt.

One evening, driven to desperation by the squawking tunes, Heyst descends to the concert hall and sees the white-frocked women of the orchestra sawing away at their violins. When the music ends, the women come down to mingle with the audience, an arrangement of Schomberg's to stimulate sale of drinks.

Heyst is disgusted yet pities these poor unfortunates. He is about to leave when he sees the youngest girl in the troupe being abused by the orchestra leader's wife. She pinches the girl and forces her down off the platform into the audience. Heyst rises, impelled by the same emotion of pity which moved him to relieve Morrison in Delli; he speaks to the girl and invites her to sit with him. They study each other across the little table.

Heyst receives a definite impression of a face with unusually fine features, both audacious and miserable, and the girl's voice seduces him with its amazing and exquisite quality. He talks to her with "delicate, polished playfulness," and she responds by accepting his sympathy.

Analysis

In Heyst's study of the girl from the orchestra, there is a suggestion of the artist. Remember, he brought back a portfolio of sketches from New Guinea. And, like most artists, he can appreciate art on more than one level. He is infinitely sensitive to the girl's melodious voice. Her sordid origin is suggested in several references:

". . . a pair of hands, not very white."

"Never had much reason to sing since I was little."

"Haven't come across many pleasant people in my life."

Heyst is alluding to his New Guinea trip when he says that the orchestra leader's wife is more disagreeable "than any cannibal I have ever had to do with." The suggestion here is that Heyst must have had some terrifying experience among the natives.

In his pity for the girl, Heyst follows, without realizing it, the same pattern he followed when he relieved Morrison.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

How did Lena die?




Quiz