"NOSTROMO: Note Interpretative,"
Mario Currelli, Ph. D., 1969,
Universita' Degli Studi di Pisa, Italy
The first chapter deals with the genesis of the novel, focusing on Conrad's anxieties and fears concerning the novel as they are expressed in his letters to Ford and Elsie Hueffer, David Meldrum and H. G. Wells.
Narrative technique is the subject of the second chapter. The confusion of the narrative is difficult to understand to those who are unfamiliar with Conrad's method: the reader who expects the traditional pattern of Fielding, Austen, and Dickens will be disappointed; for Conrad's technique is that of James, Joyce, and Woolf. The fragmentation of the narrative creates a sense of uncertainty that emphasizes Conrad's world with its anti-heroes and often unheroic situations. Conrad could write a conventional story, but Nostromo represents a new direction in Conrad's development as an artist.
A discussion of the themes, symbols, and images is the material of the third chapter. The most frequent images are clouds and darkness. The silver mine, with its elements of power, irony, struggle and death, occupies the central position. The two "gringos" who die hoping to secure the treasure are referred to in many places. The three principle characters unite in themselves many of the themes, images, and symbols. Perhaps the most interesting is Nostromo himself, who gives the book its title but who is not himself the hero of Nostromo.
The last chapter discusses the origin of Costaguana, as well as the origin and derivation of the name and Conrad's knowledge of South America. The country of Costaguana is a microcosm that Conrad exploits quite fully. The names of the cities and geographical sites in Costaguana are symbolic. A consideration of the etymology of the name Costaguana leads to the conclusion that "guana," meaning "palm" or "palm tree," is the root. Many passages justify this point of view.