Blog Assignment #1: Conrad’s “Youth”

Tomorrow we will be discussing Joseph Conrad’s short story “Youth” (1898). The story is narrated by someone sitting around a table of men with ties to commerce, yet nearly the entire story is quoted from someone named Marlow. In what ways is the manner of the story’s telling related to Marlow’s theme of Youth?


July 15, 2008. Uncategorized.


  1. yukonj88 replied:

    By using a chronological narrative I felt like I was watching Marlow grow and slowly cast aside his youth. But as he tells his story we are constantly reminded that he is now an adult when he says “Pass the bottle.” There are similar interjections within the story whenever Marlow comes across an older more mature sailor. They always seem to remind him to take it easy and learn before he thinks he knows everything about the sea.

    Also, by the end of his story, when Marlow seems to have lost his youthful inexperience, the Judea has moved onto another phase in life. When he seemingly becomes the man who is telling the story, the Judea’s life is over. I found it interesting that the events that made Marlow into a man were also the ones that destroyed the ship.

    Lastly, when I began reading his story Marlow’s tone sounded a little like a giddy kid eager to tell a wild story. As the narrative progressed I felt a slight change like he was growing up both in his story and story telling ability. Everything just seemed to age as I read this.

  2. Roni replied:

    Marlow’s story couldn’t have been told by just anyone. It had to be someone who has walked in his shoes. The narrator and the five men around the table all had the sea in common. The narrator says that you can go yachting or cruising but that these are only “the amusement life.” The life in the merchant service is “life itself.”

    Any one of the men around the table would have been able to capture the danger, excitement and perserverance of Marlow’s tale. For instance if Marlow’s story was told by someone who has never been on a boat, their opinions and perspectives would cloud the retelling of his story and you wouldn’t get the same effect.

  3. Joseph Falco replied:

    Marlow’s story is about the trials of life in one’s youth associated with pursuing goals. According to Marlow when you are young, you are challenged by the odds of making your dreams come true no matter what is thrown at you. In Marlow’s case, he recall his first sea experience as Biblical epic journey where is tested and is up for the challenge. He takes pride is survivng each trial and never loses his faith in reaching his goal.

    There a desrcipitions that allude the power of nature. Imagery of pillars of fire reminded me of the scene described in the bible where God put a pillar of between the Egyptians and the Jews in Exodus. The story is told in manner that one would imagine hearing from an old seaman who is taking a drink now and then. They also remind me of the trials of the biblical Abraham and Job. Faith is always tested by nature/God to the very limtis of endurance. I also agree with Roni’s second paragraph.

  4. SimonaGoldin replied:

    This is a story of endurance, filled with immense detail and expectation. Marlow’s experience is colorful and brave, in his story he is fearless because he is young, and his future seems to be at a safe distance.

    The narrative sparks up quite the vivid visual experience for the reader, in other words it is extremely imaginative. Youth in itself is a period of life that allows a person to dream and imagine his/her life without inhibitions, because everything and anything seems possible. “O youth! The strength of it, the faith of it, the imagination of it! (p.6)”

    The manner of Marlow’s story-telling reflects an inner emotional roller-coaster. He begins with achievement of a desired position, then off to a stormy start in the travel, back to calm waters and the warmth of Mrs. Beard, and yet again into a near death experience during the fire. A young person’s life is often defined by twisted emotions and confusion. The road to stability and wisdom is filled with both success and failure, just as the road to Bangkok, which is filled with both joy and loss.

  5. Nina replied:

    “She was the trial of life…I shall never forget her…Pass the bottle.” Marlow’s recollection of his journey to Bangkok is simply a reflection of anybody’s life.

    We are all looking for that something: a place, a soul mate or a position within society. Marlow is dreaming of docking in the East Sea, as if this would fulfill his desires and make him a better or wiser man. But as the narrative goes, he realizes that his journey is more about the discovery of himself than to found a geographical place.

    We are all looking at our life as a journey through perils and moments of distress. The water flooding and the fire of the Judea are only symbolic of the times we will experience dramatic events of such nature.

    We are all looking at moments of stall. Times were we want to do more but something, like nature, would stop us from going forward. Can anyone predict if it will rain on your wedding day? Marlow describes that we must often deal with the unpredictable and suggests the reader to be patient.

    The story is well written, given Conrad’s knowledge of life at sea, and in some ways, as I read it, it reminded me of “Moby Dick” due to his descriptions and the comrade within the ship. As in life, there will be times that we will be friends with some people due to the constrictions of the situations. So, as the narrator describes, some men are creating an alliance forced by the events that is meaningful and becomes deeper.

    I agree with yukonj88. I feel that the narrative goes deeper and deeper as I was approaching the end. The sentences were longer and more intricate. The descriptions were more detailed and elaborated. As in life, as you get older and move towards approach the final dock, things become more difficult.

  6. cnudelmann replied:

    This story seems to reflect what youth is to people. Everytime something negative happens to the ship, the crew strives on. They have their minds set on reaching Bangkok and refuse to give up on their goal. This seems to reflect someone that is young. They set their mind on attaining something and nothing can stand in their way.

    The ship was sinking and the crew kept pushing foward and survived the feat. Some of the crew left after surviving the flood while others continued on the voyage. They were focused on finishing the journey. But just like in life the calm does not last. The ship caught fire and the crew still fought on to finish their journey. Just like a young adult that fights for what they want, so did the crew of the ship.

  7. benficajp9 replied:

    This story in it’s own way sybolizes the struggle of youth. The Judea is, “the endeavor, the test, the trial of life”. The fact that it is old and run down reflects the fact that the Judea has lived and has many lessons to give. Marlow is constantly put to the test and where crew after crew abandon the old ship he remains and carries on.
    Marlow constantly reminds his listeners, “Remember I was twenty, and it was my first second-mate’s billet, and the East was waiting for me”. This is what drives Marlow, the responsibility and new unknown lands. The fact that he is the first to reach Java ahead of the Skipper and Mahon shows the eagerness and strength of his youth.
    This story is a reflection of youth, and the sea in the eyes of all the men sitting around the table. The sea is whats links them together and they all were shaped into men by their relations with the sea.

  8. Raine replied:

    You can see the youth in Marlow as he talks of his experience. He is constantly told to slow down his pace and to take the time to learn, he at times seems to be amazed at how well he is doing compared to the older men on the ship: And there was somewhere in me the thought: By
    Jove! this is the deuce of an adventure–something you
    read about; and it is my first voyage as second mate–
    and I am only twenty–and here I am lasting it out as
    well as any of these men, and keeping my chaps up to
    the mark. I was pleased.
    I agree with Nina and yukonj88, as the story comes to an end, you can sense this growth, his voice seems more mature.

  9. elizadrea replied:

    “…I lived the life of youth in ignorance and hope. (pg9)” Yes the story definitely seems to be a coming of age story that takes you along for the ride. At times it seemed that Marlow’s youth was manipulating him and luring him to his death; as it does many teenagers today who feel invincible. However, there was also a message (although conveyed in a confusing manner in terms of the narrative) that seemed to be about placing value on something so precious and fleeting as the period of our youth.

  10. deguitaranna replied:

    Nature plays a major role in Conrad’s “Youth”…

    “Between the darkness of the earth and heaven… she

    was burning fiercely upon a disc… the black smoke

    poured continuously at the sea.” pg. 19 Conrad seems

    to give the earth a sense of control and power in this

    short story. I also believe that in this excerpt, Judea

    was caught in a realm between heaven and earth, almost

    like the ship was stuck in another world (like another


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