An exploration of the outsider's role in selected works by Joseph Conrad, Malcolm Lowry, V.S. Naipaul
This thesis explores ways in which the outsider questions rather than confirms dominant cultural values whilst avoiding the crudity of overt politicisation. I argue that the outsider's preference for an observer's stance is not so much an act which denies responsibility to the world of his day, but rather a means of reassessing its priorities. In Section One, I discuss Conrad's role as an outsider in the age of Empires. I demonstrate the ways in which Conrad employs narrators, frequently using strategies of irony which can be and have been read in very different ways. I argue that Conrad uses irony as a tool for condemnation rather than condonement of imperialist practice, if not its ideology. In Section Two, I discuss Lowry as an emigre from England (so contrasting him with Conrad, the immigrant from Europe), and examine his dissenting voice which opposes bourgeois prejudice against the working class, a totalising ideology like Fascism, and a Western rationalism which sees too rigid a distinction between sanity and madness. I demonstrate how Lowry as an outsider reacts to the age of twentieth century World Wars. In Section Three, I discuss Naipaul's role as an outsider in the age of decolonisation, when bogus liberals and false redeemers fail to rebuild the newly independent post-colonial states. As in Conrad's case, I show how a failure to read Naipaul's ironic tone of voice has given rise to radically divergent views as to what he is about. I also link Conrad and Naipaul through their cultural negotiation between the 'centre' and its peripheries. By looking at these three writers in chronological order and offering a comparative perspective on their work, I highlight the outsider's disturbing, yet illuminating role within a historical context. I also draw attention to creative tensions between artistic concerns and a serious political purpose. I assess the outsider as observer and man of conscience rather than as a` mere onlooker. I conclude that the outsider also fulfils a social obligation by promoting critical awareness on the reader's side by means of his defamiliarising perspective.