Reflecting Conrad's genius for narrative that focuses on the quest for inner truths, The Arrow of Gold is an exploration of the dangerous appetites of men and of human vulnerability, as well as a profound meditation on the emotional boundary between people. Boasting a cast of extraordinary and eccentric personalities, including the heroine Dona Rita, this is a story of adventure on the high seas, of the revelation of love, of the crushing weight of loss, and of freedom found in the recklessness of unadorned sincerity.
During the Carlist war of the early 1870s, a young sailor, the unnamed protagonist, joins the champions of Don Carlos de Bourbon, pretender to the throne of Spain. The Carlists use the eager youth's intense attraction to the sea to persuade him to run perilous enterprises for their cause, ventures he later learns have been financed by the beautiful mistress and heiress of a rich man's fortune. When he falls in love with her, he finds himself moved absolutely by this discovery, despite the fact that she is unable to return his love fully. In the end he is left alone with his first love, the sea, his brief time with the mysterious Dona Rita marking a tumultuous awakening to a life of passion, the desolation that hides in its shadow, and the possibility of rebirth in its wake.
Although not as well known as his earlier novels Lord Jim and Nostromo, The Arrow of Gold was critically acclaimed when it first appeared in 1919 and is still considered to be among the best of Conrad's later works.