Introduction to the Study of English Literature Acharn Rongrat Dusdeesurapot September 18, 2010 Final Paper Arsat : Life that hanging on the moral, traditional values and blind love Joseph Conrad’s “The lagoon” portrays the life of a Malaysian man “Arsat” who afraid to live forward, just waiting for the bright future which is not likely to come, even at the dawn of the new day after the death of his wife.
In this short story of Conrad, intensely describes the dramatic feeling of Arsat , suffered by his own decision which result in the sad ending of his brother and wife. As the story proceeds, it gradually revealing many point of view which have powerful effect on Arsat’s life. Arsat, as an ordinary man, has affection toward Diamelen (his lover, who was previously a servant of the Rajah’s wife). But his desire some how not easily to be completed.
As one’s life is not only depend on itself, it has to adjust itself with others life in the world, containing variation of livings. Social is one of the powerful factor that effecting Arsat’s life, if there is no social there might not have the elopement. Social always has its own way of administration such as social judgement and traditional values which were used as an organization of the society.
Arsat, too, is one of the victim of the society because of its self-organization, being a victim in traditional valuation bringing the great mistake to his decision. In Conrad’s works, he always contrasts Eastern and Western attitude, describing Western as an area of modern civilization and Eastern as an ancient civilization. Therefore, Eastern countries are full of out-of-date, undeveloped and impractical tradition. The duty of Arsat as the sword-bearers f the Ruler has been entailing from time to time and make it way to him, liking a slave status. So, for him and his family, this duty can’t be denied, these can be assumed that nowadays Eastern still has the unreasonable rule that opposing people from their individual right. This make Arsat has no choice but conform to this Ruler’s principle. Because every country , in old days , the servant have to serve the royalty with there life forever, although at the present this tradition is likely to be discarded for a long time.
The bad thing is when Arsat can’t accept this tradition anymore, the people or the royalty have to hunt him down before other will follow his path. The elopement of Arsat and Diamelen breaks the rule of Rajah —the word rajah means “king”, the leaders of local tribes and old kingdoms had that title before Indonesia became an independent nation—being disloyal and these was the grand turning point of his life.
The story takes place in Malaysia which has “Islam” as the national religion, even though it doesn’t has any precise taboo in Islam’s rule, still the elopement is shouldn’t be done in any religion. It causes bother for everyone who evolved and it never Tongyoo 2 lasts so long, because the lover have no marital rights and no family support. The basic unit of Islamic society is the family, and Islam defines the obligations and legal rights of family members in marriage.
Marriage in Islam is a civil contract which consists of an offer and acceptance between two qualified parties in the presence of two witnesses. In Arsat’s case, both of their family can be presented as the royalty—both King and Queen—for Diamelen, as a servant of the queen, she can’t get married until the Queen give her a permission, so the elopement of the lover is unacceptable.
The lover who are not conform the contract will be expelled from the society. Arsat’s former society can’t accept his action, even his new society at the lagoon too, is not accept him because of his weird attitude toward this area which has ghostly reputation and frighten aspect and this is the impact of tradition values too. The polers deny him because he is a strangers, more important because he has not fear in ghost “. . . hey disliked Arsat, first as a stranger, and also because he who repairs a ruined house, and dwells in it, proclaims that he is not afraid to live amongst the spirits that haunt the places abandoned by mankind. Such a man can disturb the course of fate by glances or words. ” We are led to think that Arsat has something mysterious by the description of his isolation that no man would live in such a place without having a reason of his action.
Although Arsat is not afraid of ghost he is haunted by the bittersweet past that he has kept his desire, trusting himself into the betrayal toward his brother and disloyalty to his ruler. The old superstitious of ghost and evil still exist in the east, dividing folk into 2 sides, the believe one and the disbelieve one. These lead to the opposite feeling toward each side, believing that whoever not agree to the priority, that one will be a stranger and excluding from the society.
Arsat, too, is the stranger, so he live alone with his wife, no folk want to be near him. Maybe, his wife might not die if the polers accept in this difference, Diamelen might be cured or relieved by the poles’ help. Those that mentioned is only the external conflict of human, confronting with other people in society. The main principle that directly effects on people’s life too, is morality which rooting in human’s mind.
Morality is a sense of behavior that differentiates intentions, decisions and actions between those that are right or wrong, bad or good, for Arsat this sense is hard to help him make a decision. Arsat, in the story, faces this internal conflict, the morality, 2 times, one occurs in his brother’s incidence and the second one occurs in his wife incidence.
Looking back at the time Atsat run away with Diamelen and his brother, he himself, turn his back toward his brother, when he was captured, even though he hear his brother screaming out his name for three times, as Saint Peter has denied Jesus three times: a man who had been his brother, teaching him and giving friendship to Peter. he betrayed his brother for a women he loved and no looking back.
In this case, no matter how hard he tries to do the right thing by helping his brother, but at the time, his selfishness overwhelming him, Tongyoo 3 making him blind and sees only himself’s happiness. Arsat, pressed by passion abandons his brother to the hands of the enemies and escapes with Diamelen, to live in the “shadows” of “The Lagoon”. He had made his choice “ Then I looked at her , Tuan , I pushed the Canoe. He heard his brother call him twice and yet he wanted to live for his passion “Was she not there in that canoe ? And could I not with her find a country where death is forgotten – where death is unknown” There is a question that we, readers, have to make a decision whether Arsat hates his brother or not. The paradox of Arsat’s statement is still vague “There’s no worse enemy and no better friend than a brother. . . ”. Did he envy in his brother’s bravery ? This ambiguity is expressed when Arsat speaks out “What did I care who died ? I wanted peace in my own heart. ” or may be they are just a brotherhood rival, still if Arsat truly hates his brother, his sudden action of discarding his brother might not have nothing to do with his morality. When Diamelen dies, Arsat looking back to himself with the mistake that he has done.
He, for once, thinks with moral that if she had not followed him to this remote place, she would have been cared for and therefore would not have met the death. One of the reason that she died is because she brings herself against her people’s social traditions. At her death, Arsat feels empty and understands that everything had been an illusion and he had left his brother to die for nothing.
In the end, as his conclusion, his own passion is the main cause of the death of both people he loves. Despite from the morality and tradition values, there is still a one main factor that has powerful effect on Arsat and that thing is love. For Arsat , his love toward his beloved wife, Diamelen is so powerful and pure that nothing can stop him from being with her, still he doesn’t notice that his pure love is nothing but an illusion.
It makes a person blind and irresponsible to the family and society. His duty is to serve his King but he rejecting his duty and follow his heart, yet it is a good thing, but in other aspect this feeling of passion can bring disaster to his family, administration and even himself. Arsat’s love for Diamelen makes him blind and he truly becomes a “half man” without any sense of responsibility to family and his own country.
Arsat confesses of how he took Diamelen and run off with her instead of avenging his brother’s death, this can be implied that he is motivated by own desire not by any sensible reason or logic. The conclusion The lagoon is the story of isolation and failure. The isolation of a man who throw away his life and try to fulfill his passionate desire, occurred by love. The lagoon is not only a symbol for isolation in its physical of differentiated area but also Arsat’s moral that only cares for his
Tongyoo 4 sake and desire. Arsart kicks himself free from the world and the universe, doesn’t has to care for the royalty or other people attitude, as long as he can has his desire. He even unconsciously destructs Diamelen because of his selfish attitude. It revealed by his action that he choose to have passion better than pride “There is a time when a man should forget loyalty and respect. Might and authority are given to rulers, but to all men is given love and strength and courage”.
In the end, Arsat’s possession of Diamelen is nonpossession, she leave him there, alone in the world Life, is somehow full with controversy, Sometimes it leans toward us but sometimes it doesn’t and likely to depends on the society valuation. Even thought we have decided to believe in ourselves, insisting to stand for our path and be honest to our thought. In the end we still be eliminated, condemned, resisted by the society, because of our difference in thought and action.
Living in society, is too difficult to deal with, human can’t only adjust or block their own thought for others forever, if they do so, there will be no difference in any humanity and will no more be themselves. As a result of social pressure, some people have to struggles for live their own life and not depend on the society just like Arsat. Yes, it might good to fully be yourself but it will be bad if you only think for yourself and not even care fore other people.
In the end, people will be familiar with their selfishness and it will bring disaster to their life. As a suggestion, studying from Arsat’s life, everything has a solution whether it will be difficult or not. Life is ours and life is not ours, we have to accept the truth that humans are social animals, we create complex social structures composed of many groups, from families to nations. Social interactions between humans establish a variety of values, social norms and rituals, which together form the basis of human society.
From this reason, humans can’t stay alone and in order to live with other people, we have to conform the rules of the society with reasonable evaluation, at the same time respect our thought that will bring us happiness which is not injure other people, family and ourselves.
Writer Resource Conrad, Joseph. “The lagoon. ” Cornhill Magazine, 1897. Alvarez, Carmen G. The lagoon – A study in imagery, 2009. Billy, Ted. A wilderness of words: closure and disclosure in Conrad’s short fiction, Texas: Texas tech university press, 2007.