The imaginings of the female other in Joseph Conrad’s An Outcast of the Islands

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Lajiman Janoory Ani Omar Adenan Ayob


This article examines the imaginings of the female Other identified by Joseph Conrad in his novel An Outcast of the Islands. The novel has its setting in Sambir, a fictitious settlement situated within the Malay cultural and social milieu. The research focuses on the love/hate relationship between Willems, a Dutchman stranded in Sambir and Aissa, the daughter of an Arab pirate and a Malay mother. The research contextualizes the analysis by articulating the theory of dialogism as proposed by Mikhail Bakhtin. For Bakhtin, an author of a literary text represents only one of the many voices inherent in a discourse; he does not have the power to unify the supposed centrality of his textual perspectives. When an author conjures a range of different fictional characters in his novel he does not merely summon plausible characters to make the thematic trajectory of his novel more cohesive; rather, this allows for different voices to intrude into the whole discourse, whether acknowledged by the author or otherwise. By utilizing this concept the researcher proposes a counter-hegemonic discourse by intruding into the narrative of the text. The strategy is to insert the voice of the reader as a countervailing discursive force to reveal Conrad’s essentially and ideologically-loaded discursive construction of the female natives. The paper suggests that Conrad’s portrayal of Aissa resonates with common Eurocentric views of Eastern woman as being close to nature and far from culture. Being a female Other she is alluring and mysterious, diabolical and devious. The implication of this research forces us to question a one-sided dialectical representation and monolithic representation of the female Other by Western writers as represented by Conrad.

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JANOORY, Lajiman; OMAR, Ani; AYOB, Adenan. The imaginings of the female other in Joseph Conrad’s An Outcast of the Islands. Proceedings of English Education International Conference, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 2, p. 361-374, nov. 2016. ISSN 2527-8037. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 06 dec. 2022.