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The Nigger of the 'Narcissus'

In Joseph Conrad's The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' (1897), the 'Narcissus' is a merchant ship sailing from Bombay to London. James Wait is the last sailor to board the 'Narcissus' and the first to leave. He is the only black member of the crew. His last name becomes ironic as the story unfolds. Because Wait is the last one to board ship and is late for the first roll call, the other characters in the novel are in a sense 'waiting' for him to arrive before the ship sets sail. Later the crew find themselves 'waiting' on Wait by doing his share of the work, taking care of him during his illness and obeying his every whim the best that they can.

The short novel is one in the Norton Critical Edition series. That edition prints a glossary of nautical terms used, the Preface and Conrad's 'To My Readers in America' written for the first American edition, as well as Conrad's correspondence, 1896-1924, directly concerning the work, and contemporary reviews, with several critical essays.

The title had become so offensive in American English by the later 20th century that, in many U.S. colleges, it prevented this novel from being taught.

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