Contextualization (J.C.) Copy

JOSEPH CONRAD (1857-1924)


The Victorian age

  • Britain reaches heights of wealth and power during Queen Victoria’s reign;
  • Colonial expansion continues in Asia and Africa; India is the most valuable of all British colonies.


Social reforms:

  • Education becomes a universal right;
  • Improvement of health services;
  • The number of people who can vote doubles;
  • The cheap postal system is introduced.

Industrialisation continues and more factories are built;

England becomes the world’s workshop, and London becomes the world’s banker.

The 20th century

  • At the beginning of the First World War I (1914), Great Britain was the greatest colonial power in the world;
  • During the First World War (1914-1918) 1 million Britons died and 2 million were wounded;
  • After the First World War, the colonies increased their demands for independence. The British Commonwealth of Nations was set up in 1926.
  • The first half of the 20th century marked the end of the British Empire and the Industrial Revolution.


Britain’s economic and military position was weakened by the wars;

After World War I, debt and unemployment led to The World Economic Depression (1930);

Women started to take on new roles:

  • The Suffragette movement led to women being granted the right to vote;
  • Women enjoyed more freedom, unlike in the Victorian era, when they were generally housebound.

The start of the 20th century marked a dramatic rise in the number of writers and readers.


Literary trend: REALISM

Principles of Realism:

  • normal situations and ordinary characters are described in familiar settings;
  • attention to detail;
  • description based on experience, not imagination;
  • lower strata of society are emphasized;
  • very little use of metaphors.

Realistic novel traits (the novel is the best form of expression for realism, as it describes the world faithfully and doesn’t idealize it):

  • Major theme: the place of the individual in society;
  • Long, dense, with complicated plots;
  • Physical descriptions of characters are realistic;

Literary trend: MODERNISM

  • Focus on the inner world of the character: literary devices  ̶  memory, perception.
  • The plot is replaced by specific modernist patterns: time, place, character, leitmotifs, symbols, mythic patterns, and cinematic devices (space and time montage).
  • Theme: atemporal, eternal conflicts of the soul, philosophy;
  • Non-chronological, it experiments with the representation of time (temporal juxtapositions, sudden jumps);
  • The modernist narration moves from one level of narration to another without warning; thus, it breaks narrative frames.
  • The modernist narration focuses on the inner world. The plot of events becomes less important than the character’s consciousness, unconsciousness, memory, and perception.
  • Experiments with form and style.


Born in Ukraine, in a Polish family;

Did not speak English fluently until his twenties;

Worked in the merchant marine and became a captain;

Published his first novel in his 40s;

Moderately successful during his lifetime;

Came to be regarded as one of the most representative writers depicting the change of mentalities from realism to modernism.


  • “Heart of Darkness”
  • “Lord Jim”
  • “Typhoon”
  • “The Arrow of Gold”
  • “The Rover”