Home » England » Joseph Conrad » Outcast of the Islands

Joseph Conrad: Outcast of the Islands

The hero of this novel, if that is the word, is Willems. Like Almayer, he is a white man who has not been able to adapt himself to the Far East, breaking a trust. As a boy, he had been befriended by Lingard, whom we have already seen in Almayer’s Folly. Lingard trusts him but he discovers the secret route to Sambir, where Lingard has special trading arrangements through Almayer of Almayer’s Folly. Lingard places him there to assist Almayer, after he catches Willems in petty theft. However, Willems starts a relationship with Aissa and then works with Balalatchi, a local chief, to help give access to the settlement to Abdulla, an Arab trader and Lingard’s competitor. But, of course, Lingard is his only friend and when has betrayed Lingard, there is no-one left to befriend him, certainly not Aissa, Balalatchi or Badulla. When the inevitable bloody confrontation occurs, Willems is certain to be the loser.

Even more than Almayer’s Folly, this novel shows the fate of the outsider, the person who betrays trust and honour and loyalty and who does not stick”to his own kind”, a key theme of Conrad. Others (by which, in this case, he means the Asians) are different from us and we cannot hope to understand their ways or be part of them. Almayer, both in this book and in Almayer’s Folly, is already partially excluded because of his wife. Willems betrays the trust, on more than one occasion, of his employer and friend and can expect no help for doing so.

Publishing history

First published in 1896 by Fisher Unwin