Moral Meaning in Joseph Conrad's Nostromo: A Study of the Role of Mrs. Gould
Moffat, Douglas. Moral Meaning in Joseph Conrad's Nostromo: A Study of the Role of Mrs. Gould; A Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, English Literature [University of Manitoba]. Winnipeg, May 1978.
Nostromo is Joseph Conrad's most ambitious novel. Many believe it is also his finest achievement, for in it he has created an imaginative world of landscape, history, and a volatile people struggling to achieve political identity in post-colonial South America. Against this rich backdrop an intense and dramatic story is told, a story that is inseparable from the larger context of politics and revolution, but one that is shaped, nevertheless, by the personalities of the major characters involved. One such character is Emilia Gould. This thesis is a study of the role of Mrs. Gould in Nostromo. She figures significantly in all aspects of the work, and though a close analysis of her role much can be learned about the novel. In this study, moreover, the view is taken that Mrs. Gould is of special interest to the critical reader of Nostromo, for she is seen standing at the centre of the moral world of the novel, the exemplar of positive moral values Conrad himself revered. Through an understanding of her character and function, one can achieve an understanding of moral meaning in Nostromo. In three chapters this study is undertaken. Chapter One is a study of Mrs. Gould in relation to the narrative of Nostromo. It is shown, through the examination of certain key episodes, that she plays a vital role in moving the plot forward. Chapter Two is a study of Mrs. Gould's relationship with other major characters in the story. Particular emphasis is placed on her relations with Don Jose and Antonia Avellanos, Dr. Monygham, and her husband, Charles Gould, in an effort to understand her role as the moral centre of the work. Chapter Three works from the ground established in the first two chapters. It is a study of the moral world of Nostromo in its entirety. In contrast to Mrs. Gould's disillusioned but humane view of the world, the morally imperfect individuals in the novel are seen living constantly in a world of illusion characterized by a romantic self-conception and a penchant for morally ambiguous, “audacious” action.