Summary and Analysis Part 3: Chapter 2



During Heyst's absence in Sourabaya, Wang has busied himself by burning off the land in front of the main bungalow. A broad space, "black and level," shows where flames have swept from the front of the house to the edge of the forest — a dismal sight.

This charred and blackened stretch of soil greets Heyst and Lena as they come up from the landing jetty. Wang gives no indication that he sees the girl clinging to his master's arm. She abandons Heyst's arm before they reach the six steps leading up into the bungalow. She seems hesitant to enter. Heyst tries to overcome "a sort of fear, a sort of impatient faintness."

Urged by Heyst, the girl suddenly rushes in ahead of him and hurries into the big central room of the house and then into the bedroom beyond, which is darkened. There, at last, she feels relief as though she had reached a refuge.

Wang helps bring in the luggage including the girls bundle wrapped in Mrs. Schomberg's shawl. When Heyst enters the house. Wang has vanished. He is out of sight, but not out of hearing. For the first time he listens to the girl's voice. He stands for a while as though waiting for something more, then lights a fire under a sooty pot and prepares to make tea.


The final stage setting is arranged in this short chapter. The blackened area in front of the bungalow is symbolic of the destruction of Heyst's established pattern of detachment, also of the tragic consequences which are to follow.

The remainder of the book (over one-half its length) covers a period of only seventy-two hours, and there is a gap of over three months between this chapter and the following one.

Conrad uses a curious shift of viewpoint to show Lena's reaction to the desolate and gloomy aspect of the house where she is to live. He shows her objectively as she abandons Heyst's arm and hesitates to enter. He suggests, objectively, that she is horrified at the dismal surroundings, then plucks up her courage and rushes inside. What else can she do? Then, after she is in the darkened bedroom, Conrad lets us into her mind, and we see her relief subjectively. Such viewpoint manipulation appears frequently throughout the remaining chapters of the book.