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Synopsis

Señor Gould is a native Costaguanero of English descent who owns the silver-mining concession in Sulaco. He is tired of the political instability in Costaguana and its concomitant corruption, and puts his weight behind the Ribierist project, which he believes will finally bring stability to the country after years of misrule and tyranny by self-serving dictators. Instead, the silver mine and the wealth it has generated become a bone for the local warlords to fight over, plunging Costaguana into a new round of chaos. Among others, the revolutionary Montero invades Sulaco; Señor Gould, adamant that his silver should not become spoil for his enemies, entrusts it to Nostromo, the trusted "capataz de los cargadores" (head longshoreman).

Nostromo is an Italian expatriate who has risen to that position through his daring exploits. ("Nostromo" is Italian for "mate" or "boatswain", but the name could also be considered a corruption of the Italian phrase "nostro uomo," meaning "our man.") Nostromo's real name is Giovanni Battista Fidanza — Fidanza meaning "trust" in archaic Italian.

Nostromo is a commanding figure in Sulaco, respected by the wealthy Europeans and seemingly limitless in his abilities to command power among the local population. He is, however, never admitted to become a part of that society, but rather viewed by the rich as their tool. Some would say that he was also what would today be called a shameless self-publicist. He is believed by Señor Gould to be incorruptible, and for this reason is entrusted with removing a treasure of silver from Sulaco to keep it from the revolutionaries.

In the end, the silver is "lost" in a manner such that only Nostromo knows where it is hidden and not, in fact, lost at all. Nostromo's power and fame continues, as he daringly rides to summon the army which saves Sulaco's powerful leaders from the revolutionaries.

In Conrad's universe, however, almost no one is incorruptible. The exploit does not bring Nostromo the fame he had hoped for, and he feels slighted and used. Feeling that he has risked his life for nothing, he is consumed by resentment, which leads to his corruption and ultimate destruction, for he had kept secret the true fate of the silver after all others believed it lost at sea, rather than hidden on an offshore island. In recovering the silver for himself, he is shot and killed, mistaken for a trespasser, by the father of his fiancée, the keeper of the lighthouse on the island of Great Isabel.

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