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Making A Moral Decision

             In Joseph Conrad's short story "The Tale" and James Joyce's short story "A Painful Case" there are several similarities between the characters of the stories. Each story is composed of parallel moral lessons, which becomes the theme of the stories. The main characters look back at a point in their lives and are unsure if they made the wisest choice in their individual situation.
             The moral of each story is an ethical decision may never have a right answer. Conrad and Joyce portray a moral lesson in a very similar way. In each story the main characters, the commanding officer and James Duffy, look back on moments in their life and regret the decisions they have made. The commanding officer in "The Tale" decides an entire ships fate by directing them off cliffs, consequently the captain of the ship and his crew die. The commanding officer states, "That course would lead the Northman straight on a deadly ledge of rock. And the commanding officer gave it to him" (Conrad 17). The main character of "The Tale" is aware of the importance of his decision and questions whether or not it was the wisest choice. He contemplates with this and it effects him on an emotional level. At the beginning of "The Tale" the women (who is never given a name) requests he tell a tale like he used to before the war. She states, "You used to tell- your- your simple and professional- tales very well at one time you had sort of art- in the days- the days before the war" (Conrad 2). This statement supplies the reader with evidence that the commanding officer is a changed man since the war and foreshadows that the story will not be like his old "simple" stories. Throughout the story the commanding officer battles with his instinct to decide whether or not to believe the Northman. He continually asks himself why the Northman did not sound his horn when they entered the bay, and why the Northman's voice and expressions continually change.

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