Character Analysis Lena


Of all the characters in Victory, Conrad admits that he "looked longest" at Lena. Almost a child of the streets, her life has known little but unmitigated sadness until Heyst enters to intervene between her and the vicious Mrs. Zangiacomo.

Lena is beautiful with heavy dark hair, deep-cut lips, white skin, and dreamy eyes. Her face is audacious and miserable, but Heyst finds it more fine-featured than any he has looked upon before. Her most enchanting allurement, for Heyst, is her melodious voice, which seems to render whatever she says into something lovely and memorable.

Lena begs Heyst to rescue her from the cruel Zangiacomo couple in whose orchestra she is a violinist, and also from the romantic attentions of Schomberg. Out of pity, Heyst abducts Lena and carries her off to his lonely island of Samburan. In the desolate peace of their situation, Lena changes from a rather coarse and bedraggled girl into a mature woman, genuinely in love with Heyst. As the story rushes to its dramatic and tragic climax, Lena grows in stature. Actuated by every instinct of a loving woman, her weakness changes to strength, her dependence to protective competence. She meets Ricardo's "feral spring" with a courage that matches his own and wins his admiration.

Lena discovers how completely disarmed Heyst is. She resolves to prove her love for him in such a way that he will accept her fully. She deceives both Heyst and Ricardo. Out of this duplicity, she wins her tragic victory which costs her life.

Conrad raises Lena to the dignity of a universal symbol of pure love — self sacrificing love — and even ascribes to her person a touch of divinity. Lena seems to have been Conrad's favorite woman character.