Because of the Dollars

tutorial, critical comment, plot, and study resources

Because of the Dollars was written in 1914, and first appeared as part of Joseph Conrad’s collection Within the Tides published by J.M. Dent and Sons in 1915. The other stories in the volume were The Partner, The Inn of the Two Witches, and The Planter of Malata.

Because of the Dollars

Because of the Dollars – critical commentary

This story features a very typical Conradian dramatic situation – an honourable protagonist in an isolated and vulnerable position, threatened by ruthless villains, and usually with the added complication of a woman on hand for whom the hero feels a gentlemanly sense of responsibility. It’s a situation he used in novels from Lord Jim (1900) to Victory (1915). In this instance there is the additional consideration of a sick child thrown into the plot.

Fortunately for Davidson, he is at least armed with a revolver, and his prime foe the Frenchman has the disadvantage of having no hands. This however does not stop him killing the innocent woman in question, Laughing Anne, who ironically has tied the seven pound weight to his arm stump with which he kills her.

But even after he survives the attempt to rob him of his dollars, his travails are not over. Honourably taking it on himself to look after Laughing Anne’s son Tony, he runs up against the suspicions and ire of his own wife. She suspects that the child is Davidson’s. This is an interesting point, since Laughing Anne is more or less a prostitute, and she does know Davidson from the past. The connection is not impossible, but does not seem to be substantiated by anything else in the text.

Moreover, Mrs Davidson has been flagged up by Hollis earlier in the story as a less than completely sympathetic character:

What I noticed under the superficial aspect of vapid sweetness was her convex, obstinate forehead, and her small, red pretty, ungenerous mouth.

Davidson himself however is universally regarded as ‘a good man’ – so the tale is a cautionary reminder that even good men may suffer misfortune and injustice in pursuit of doing The Right Thing.

Because of the Dollars – study resources

Because of the Dollars Because of the Dollars – CreateSpace editions – Amazon UK

Because of the Dollars Because of the Dollars – CreateSpace editions – Amazon US

Because of the Dollars The Complete Works of Joseph Conrad – Kindle eBook –

Because of the Dollars Because of the Dollars – eBook versions at Project Gutenberg

Because of the Dollars Joseph Conrad: A Biography – Amazon UK

Red button The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad – Amazon UK

Red button Routledge Guide to Joseph Conrad – Amazon UK

Red button Oxford Reader’s Companion to Conrad – Amazon UK

Because of the Dollars Notes on Life and Letters – Amazon UK

Because of the Dollars Joseph Conrad – biographical notes

Because of the Dollars – plot summary

Part I.   An un-named outer narrator and his friend Hollis see captain Davidson on the harbour front of an Eastern port. Hollis relates the background story of his character and life, explaining why he is known as ‘a good man’ . Davidson is the commander of the Sissie , which is owned by a Chinaman. When a new printing of dollars is issued, Davidson collects packages of the old silver dollars from people in the ports where he calls. His wife thinks that transporting currency might be dangerous, but he believes that nobody else can take his place. He also wishes to call on Bamtz, a loafer who has taken up with fellow drifter, Laughing Anne. When Davidson first called at the remote island of Mirrah he was recognised by Anne as an old friend. She explains that she has settled with Bamtz for the sake of her child Tony.

Part II.   In a quayside bar the blackmailer Fector overhears Davidson’s plans to collect in the old dollars, and he recruits thugs Niclaus and the Frenchman (who has no hands). After collecting dollars, Davidson arrives late at night at the Bamtz house to find the three men with Bamtz, waiting for him. Anne’s son Tony is ill with a fever. Whilst she and Davidson attend to him she warns him about the Frenchman, who that day has asked her to tie a seven pound weight to the stumpt of his right arm.

At night the thugs attack the ship to steal the silver, but Davidson is armed with a revolver and scares them off. The Frenchman realises that Anne has given their plans away, and in the melee that ensues he bludgeons her to death with the weight. Davidson feels that she has somehow died to save him, and he feels guilty. However, he rescues the child.

Davidson buries Anne at sea and gives the child to his wife to look after. However, his wife suspects that the child is actually his, and she turns against both of them. Eventually, even though he tells her the whole story, she leaves him and goes back to her parents. The boy is sent to a church school in Malacca, where he eventually does well and plans to become a missionary. Davidson is left alone with nobody – which is where the story began.

Joseph Conrad – video biography

Principal characters
I an un-named outer narrator
Hollis his friend
Davidson commander of the Sissie
Bamtz a loafer with a beard
Laughing Anne a drifter from Saigon – a ‘painted woman’
Fector a blackmailer and ‘journalist’
Niclaus a dead beat
the Frenchman a thug with no hands

Joseph Conrad’s writing

Joseph Conrad - manuscript page

Manuscript page from Heart of Darkness

The Cambridge Companion to Joseph ConradThe Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad offers a series of essays by leading Conrad scholars aimed at both students and the general reader. There’s a chronology and overview of Conrad’s life, then chapters that explore significant issues in his major writings, and deal in depth with individual works. These are followed by discussions of the special nature of Conrad’s narrative techniques, his complex relationships with late-Victorian imperialism and with literary Modernism, and his influence on other writers and artists. Each essay provides guidance to further reading, and a concluding chapter surveys the body of Conrad criticism.
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Joseph Conrad - writing table

Joseph Conrad’s writing table

Further reading

Red button Amar Acheraiou Joseph Conrad and the Reader, London: Macmillan, 2009.

Red button Jacques Berthoud, Joseph Conrad: The Major Phase, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

Red button Muriel Bradbrook, Joseph Conrad: Poland’s English Genius, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1941

Red button Harold Bloom (ed), Joseph Conrad (Bloom’s Modern Critical Views, New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2010

Red button Hillel M. Daleski , Joseph Conrad: The Way of Dispossession, London: Faber, 1977

Red button Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan, Joseph Conrad and the Modern Temper, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Red button Aaron Fogel, Coercion to Speak: Conrad’s Poetics of Dialogue, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1985

Red button John Dozier Gordon, Joseph Conrad: The Making of a Novelist, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1940

Red button Albert J. Guerard, Conrad the Novelist, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1958

Red button Robert Hampson, Joseph Conrad: Betrayal and Identity, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992

Red button Jeremy Hawthorn, Joseph Conrad: Language and Fictional Self-Consciousness, London: Edward Arnold, 1979

Red button Jeremy Hawthorn, Joseph Conrad: Narrative Technique and Ideological Commitment, London: Edward Arnold, 1990

Red button Jeremy Hawthorn, Sexuality and the Erotic in the Fiction of Joseph Conrad, London: Continuum, 2007.

Red button Owen Knowles, The Oxford Reader’s Companion to Conrad, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990

Red button Jakob Lothe, Joseph Conrad: Voice, Sequence, History, Genre, Ohio State University Press, 2008

Red button Gustav Morf, The Polish Shades and Ghosts of Joseph Conrad, New York: Astra, 1976

Red button Ross Murfin, Conrad Revisited: Essays for the Eighties, Tuscaloosa, Ala: University of Alabama Press, 1985

Red button Jeffery Myers, Joseph Conrad: A Biography, Cooper Square Publishers, 2001.

Red button Zdzislaw Najder, Joseph Conrad: A Life, Camden House, 2007.

Red button George A. Panichas, Joseph Conrad: His Moral Vision, Mercer University Press, 2005.

Red button John G. Peters, The Cambridge Introduction to Joseph Conrad, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Red button James Phelan, Joseph Conrad: Voice, Sequence, History, Genre, Ohio State University Press, 2008.

Red button Edward Said, Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography, Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press, 1966

Red button Allan H. Simmons, Joseph Conrad: (Critical Issues), London: Macmillan, 2006.

Red button J.H. Stape, The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996

Red button John Stape, The Several Lives of Joseph Conrad, Arrow Books, 2008.

Red button Peter Villiers, Joseph Conrad: Master Mariner, Seafarer Books, 2006.

Red button Ian Watt, Conrad in the Nineteenth Century, London: Chatto and Windus, 1980

Red button Cedric Watts, Joseph Conrad: (Writers and their Work), London: Northcote House, 1994.

Other writing by Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad Lord JimLord Jim (1900) is the earliest of Conrad’s big and serious novels, and it explores one of his favourite subjects – cowardice and moral redemption. Jim is a ship’s captain who in youthful ignorance commits the worst offence – abandoning his ship. He spends the remainder of his adult life in shameful obscurity in the South Seas, trying to re-build his confidence and his character. What makes the novel fascinating is not only the tragic but redemptive outcome, but the manner in which it is told. The narrator Marlowe recounts the events in a time scheme which shifts between past and present in an amazingly complex manner. This is one of the features which makes Conrad (born in the nineteenth century) considered one of the fathers of twentieth century modernism.
Joseph Conrad Buy the book from Amazon UK
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Joseph Conrad Heart of DarknessHeart of Darkness (1902) is a tightly controlled novella which has assumed classic status as an account of the process of Imperialism. It documents the search for a mysterious Kurtz, who has ‘gone too far’ in his exploitation of Africans in the ivory trade. The reader is plunged deeper and deeper into the ‘horrors’ of what happened when Europeans invaded the continent. This might well go down in literary history as Conrad’s finest and most insightful achievement, and it is based on his own experiences as a sea captain. This volume also contains ‘An Outpost of Progress’ – the magnificent study in shabby cowardice which prefigures ‘Heart of Darkness’.
Joseph Conrad Buy the book from Amazon UK
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© Roy Johnson 2013

Joseph Conrad links

Joseph Conrad - tutorials Joseph Conrad at Mantex
Biography, tutorials, book reviews, study guides, videos, web links.

Red button Joseph Conrad – his greatest novels and novellas
Brief notes introducing his major works in recommended editions.

Joseph Conrad - eBooks Joseph Conrad at Project Gutenberg
A major collection of free eTexts in a variety of formats.

Joseph Conrad - further reading Joseph Conrad at Wikipedia
Biography, major works, literary career, style, politics, and further reading.

Joseph Conrad - adaptations Joseph Conrad at the Internet Movie Database
Adaptations for the cinema and television – in various languages. Full details of directors and actors, production notes, box office, trivia, and quizzes.

Joseph Conrad - etexts Works by Joseph Conrad
Large online database of free HTML texts, digital scans, and eText versions of novels, stories, and occasional writings.

Joseph Conrad - journal The Joseph Conrad Society (UK)
Conradian journal, reviews. and scholarly resources.

Conrad US journal The Joseph Conrad Society of America
American-based – recent publications, journal, awards, conferences.

Joseph Conrad - concordance Hyper-Concordance of Conrad’s works
Locate a word or phrase – in the context of the novel or story.

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