However, as Mar-low gets to know the young man, he realizes that Jim is ashamed of his actions and tormented by guilt. The night before Jim is to be sentenced, Mar-low offers Jim money and the chance to run away before his sentencing. Jim declines, not wishing to run. After Jim's commission is revoked, Marlow gives him a second chance by recommending him for a job. Marlow is glad to hear from Jim's employer that Jim is working out well, but he is distressed when he finds out shortly thereafter that Jim has left the job.
When Marlow inquires into the particulars, he realizes that Jim left because somebody had brought up the Patna incident. This happens several more times, at which point Marlow seeks out the services of Mr. Stein, a merchant and butterfly collector. With Stein's help, Marlow is able to send Jim to the remote island of Patusan, where Stein's friendship with one of the tribes, the Bugis Malays, helps Jim to win favor early on.
Marlow visits Jim two years later and is impressed to see how Jim has been transformed from a guilt-ridden young man into a confident leader. Everybody assumes that Jim, a white man, will not stay for long in Patusan, since most whites leave the island after awhile. Jim's wife, Jewel, thinks Jim will leave her and asks Marlow about why Jim cannot go back to the white world. Although Mar-low tries to indicate that Jim is not wanted, she does not believe him.
Marlow leaves the island shortly thereafter and never sees Jim again. At this point, Marlow ends his yet incomplete tale. However, for the next two years, Marlow seeks out information about Jim, including the events surrounding his death. He travels around the world interviewing witnesses, including the pirate Brown. At one point, he compiles all of these accounts, along with other items written by and to Jim, and sends them to one of his guests from the dinner party where he started telling the tale. Although Jim is the main protagonist in the tale, Marlow also undergoes changes as he tries to come to grips with why Jim acted the way he did on Patusan.
Stein is Marlow's friend, a merchant who offers Jim the chance to go to Patusan. Stein is a wealthy man, having made his fortune in business. However, he is a romantic and a naturalist and loves nothing more than collecting butterflies and beetles. He recounts to Marlow one day the story of when he found a particularly rare butterfly.
He says that he felt at that point that his life was fulfilled and he could die. However, he lives for many years and is distraught over Jim's death, which he does not understand. Dain is Jim's friend and Doramin's only son, who is killed in an ambush by Brown. Dain is a strong warrior, who eagerly leads battles, as when he and Jim lead the attack on the fort of Sherif Ali.
Dain and Jim become best friends, and Dain trusts Jim's opinion, even when he does not agree with him. Dain wants to kill Brown and his men but holds off when Jim instructs him to. As a result, he is at ease and not prepared for Brown's ambush, which takes his life. The novel is saturated with the idea of betrayal and the consequences that result from it. The defining incident in the book, the Patna incident, is horrible in many people's eyes because of the betrayal involved.
When Jim decides to jump into a lifeboat, leaving the passengers to what he thinks is a certain death, he betrays both his code as an officer and his personal code of heroism. When he first starts on his path to be an officer, he has visions of his "saving people from sinking ships, cutting away masts in a hurricane," and other heroic deeds. When he betrays that by abandoning the Patna 's passengers, the effect on his psyche is immediate, as he equates the physical jump from the ship with a fall from the heroism he so adored: "He had tumbled from a height he could never scale again.
At the end of the novel, Jim is betrayed by Cornelius, who, unbeknownst to him, dislikes him. Jim sends Cornelius as a messenger to the pirate, Brown, but Cornelius uses the opportunity to let Brown know that he "is acquainted with a backwater broad enough to take Brown's boat past Dain's camp. Dain's death, in turn, leads to Jim presenting himself to Dain's father, holding himself accountable for his friend's death.
When he does this, Jim's wife, Jewel, thinks he is betraying her: "'You are false! Heroism is another major theme in the book. In addition to Jim's early heroic daydreams, Mar-low also notes some "heroism" in Patusan's past, when the demand for pepper was such that men would "cut each other's throats without hesitation … the bizarre obstinacy of that desire made them defy death in a thousand shapes … it made them heroic.
For these men, the motivation is "mere greed," not altruism. However, Jim himself does exhibit the true kind of heroism that he aspires to do. After he has been staying with the Bugis Malays in Patusan for a while, he gets a vision one night of how he can conquer the other warring tribes and thus bring peace to the island.
Although "he had to drive it into reluctant minds," his idea finally takes hold, and Jim coordinates the massive effort of moving Doramin's heavy cannons up onto the mountaintop that faces Sherif Ali's "impregnable camp. Although many themes can be determined from Conrad's complex novel, the majority of them can be based on one larger theme that permeates the others: beliefs.
What the characters believe is extremely important to understanding them. At the beginning, although young Jim dreams that he wants to be a hero, when he is put to the test on the Patna , his actions show that he believes first and foremost in his survival. Jim is not the only one. When Marlow talks to the French lieutenant whose ship rescues the Patna and tows it to shore, he notes that, even though he willingly stayed with the debilitated steamer, "all the time of towing we had two quartermasters stationed with axes by the hawsers, to cut us clear of our tow in case she….
In Patusan, after Jim has become a hero and a leader of the people, he meets Brown, a despicable sort, whom most of Jim's people advocate killing. However, Jim believes "that it would be best to let these whites and their followers go with their lives. It would be a small gift.
At this point, unlike in the beginning, holding true to a code of ethics is more important to Jim than survival. For once, Jim chooses his destiny and dies knowing he has done the right thing by adhering to his beliefs. Narration is the most obvious technique that Conrad uses in Lord Jim.
In the first line of the first chapter, the reader is introduced to the title character in the following way: "He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he … made you think of a charging bull. Then, starting in the fifth chapter, Conrad introduces a first-person narrator, Mar-low—a character from some of Conrad's earlier stories—who continues to tell Jim's story to the reader: "And it's easy enough to talk of Master Jim.
The first of these recollections describes how he met Jim at the inquiry into the Patna disaster: "My eyes met his for the first time at that inquiry. Lord Jim is a good example of a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story in which a young protagonist must face painful challenges on his or her road to adulthood. Bildungsromans are educational novels that show how other young people have weathered the necessary initiation into adult society, with its mature values.
In his case, Jim is plagued by his act of betrayal, when he forsook his duty and left the Moslem passengers to die on the Patna without trying to save them. This shameful episode haunts him wherever he goes and affects the course of his life; Jim ends up leaving several jobs where he is happy, when anything even close to the Patna incident is mentioned.
However, Jim eventually finds peace and happiness in Patusan, and when the past is mentioned again, he does not run from it. Instead, in the end, he faces up to his past, and when he is forced to be sacrificed out of honorable duty to his slain friend, he accepts his fate with "a proud and unflinching glance. Lord Jim is regarded by many as one of the best examples of literary modernism, a type of narrative writing that distinguished itself from most other late-nineteenth-century novels.
Modern novels are often harder to read, requiring more work on the part of the author's audience. However, the payoff is also larger for the reader. Rather than use one narrator to tell his story straightforward, in chronological order—or at least in a simple order that is easily understandable to the reader—Conrad tries techniques that were relatively new at that time. As mentioned above, he employs more than one narrator. Also, Conrad keeps the reader in suspense by manipulating time in confusing ways.
The author describes in chronological order the events that lead up to the Patna incident, but he only alludes to what is actually happening: "What had happened? The wheezy thump of the engines went on. Had the earth been checked in her course? They could not understand. And neither can the reader, especially when at the start of the next chapter, Conrad has jumped ahead in time to the inquiry at which Jim is explaining his actions: "the official inquiry was being held in the police court of an Eastern port.
He stood elevated in the witness-box. They demanded facts from him, as if facts could explain anything! Conrad uses this technique of delaying crucial background information many times in the novel. Using complex narrative techniques like multiple narrators and chronological ambiguity is a hallmark of the modern novel, which Conrad helped to develop through works like Lord Jim.
Conrad wrote his novel at the dawn of the twentieth century, when the world was rapidly changing in many ways. One of the biggest changes was the massive and widespread colonization of islands and other remote lands by European countries and by the United States —in many cases to establish trade or military posts. These colonization efforts, which in many places had begun centuries earlier, came to a head in several conflicts and events at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century.
In , France, eager to gain more control over West Africa's interior, where it already had many holdings, launched a campaign against Da-homey—a country that provided much-needed access to the south coast of West Africa. The bitter conflict, in which the Dahomeyan army launched themselves at French forces several times, ended with a victory for France, although both sides suffered many losses. In , the United States , foreseeing the need for a military base in the Pacific Ocean near the rising power of Japan, annexed the Hawaiian is-lands—of which Pearl Harber on the island of Oahu had already been ceded to the United States six years earlier.
Although the United States came prepared to wage war if necessary, landing scores of marines who surrounded the Hawaiian capital, it was an easy annexation, as the islanders did not fight back. Queen Liliuokalani, who had been concerned about the increasing American influence, was deposed. In , England, wishing to strengthen the hold it maintained on South Africa , launched a war against the Matabele warriors who inhabited Matabeleland, modern-day Zimbabwe. Jameson, the administrator of Mashonaland, one of the neighboring English colonies, declared the war after Matabele warriors raided some Mashona natives working for the English.
Lord Jim: Centennial Essays
It was a very quick battle, as the English carried guns, whereas the Matabele warriors brandished spears. In , following the direction of an Italian government that sought the success of foreign conquest as a mask for troubles at home, General Baratieri and his army of sixteen thousand occupied northern Tigre. Ethiopa, angered by this affront, launched an army of one hundred thousand many of whom carried Italian rifles against the Baratieri, leaving almost half of the Italian force dead and sending a shockwave throughout Europe, which had been used to winning its battles.
In , when Cuban rebels began to fight for their independence from Spain, a number of American newspapers created sensationalistic stories about the brutality that the Spanish were supposedly visiting upon the Cubans. The American public, and indeed Congress, spurred on by this hype, encouraged President McKinley to declare war on Spain, although McKinley was reluctant to do so at first. After the mysterious sinking of the USS Maine in a Havana harbor, which was sent to protect United States citizens resident in Cuba, war was inevitable.
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Within a couple of months, America had won. In the peace treaty drawn up later that year, Spain ceded Cuba, Puerto Rico , Guam, and the Phillippines to the United States for twenty million dollars. Murfin notes that the book "was generally well received" on its first publication in Murfin says that reviewers were fond of "the novel's romance, the faraway feelings it evoked, and the original poetry of Conrad's language.
Conrad's mode of composition demands it. Conrad's latest and greatest work. Reviewers throughout the twentieth century had various reactions to the work, which was in retrospect identified as a modernist creation for its tendency to break the narrative conventions of the day. Although many early critics were confused by Conrad's ambiguous narrative structure, later critics, such as Paul B.
Armstrong in the s, note that Marlow "paradoxically feels at times that he knows less about Jim the more he acquires opinions about him. Each interpretation seems 'true,' at least to some extent. Guerard, notes the ambiguity of the novel but talks about the "psycho-moral" implications, which have "no easy solution. In , Ian Watt, in Conrad in the Nineteenth Century , drew attention to the sources that Conrad used in his composition, following the progression of the novel from its first appearance as a small sketch.
Watt believes that understanding this path is important "because it provides some initial clues both to the narrative form and the thematic development of the novel. Questions of Jim's authenticity and what, in fact, Conrad intended the novel to mean have plagued the book throughout its existence, although, as with the early critics, most modern critics acknowledge Conrad's literary artistry.
The book has so captivated critical and public minds that in , on the book's one hundredth anniversary, leading Conrad scholars were called together for a special publication, Lord Jim: Centennial Essays. As Allan H. Ultimately, the novel is based on a paradox that invites us to admire commitment to an ideal that can never be justified: the quest for an underlying moral truth that will somehow explain Jim implies the belief that such a truth exists; yet the belief itself is unsustainable.
Poquette holds a bachelor's degree in English and specializes in writing about literature. In the following essay, Poquette discusses the religious qualities of Conrad's novel , Lord Jim. Hillis Miller echoes the same belief that many critics have held since the first publication of Lord Jim in Says Miller, the book "reveals itself to be a work which raises questions rather than answering them.
The fact that it contains its own interpretations does not make it easier to understand. Conrad was an acknowledged master at his art, and Lord Jim was written when the author was in the strongest, most experimental phase of his career, so the reader can surmise that this enigma was intentional. In fact, by examining Lord Jim in light of its religious references and themes, Jim's spiritual journey, and his ambiguous, messiah-like death, one realizes that Conrad is ultimately encouraging readers to examine their own beliefs.
A reader might be struck by the overwhelming number of religious references that Conrad includes. The book is positively saturated with religious words, which manifest themselves in a number of ways, from a number of people. When Jim is first introduced, the omniscient narrator says that Jim has "the patience of Job," a biblical character from the Old Testament whose faith was tried by God through a number of brutal trials. God is also mentioned directly many times in the novel. Even those who are not particularly devout, such as Chester, the slimy opportunist who tries to get Marlow to have Jim work for him on one of his colonial projects, invoke the name of God.
This is true even when telling stories that are morally suspect: "the Lord God knows the right and the wrong of that story. These are but a handful of the religious references that are scattered throughout the book, underscoring the book's theme of beliefs. These references are particularly apparent during the descriptions of the ill-fated Patna.
The steamer is carrying a large group of Moslem pilgrims, "Eight hundred men and women with faith and hopes," who "at the call of an idea … had left their forests, their clearings, the protection of their rulers. When he describes the lighthouse that the Patna passes, he notes that it was "planted by unbelievers on a treacherous shoal" and that it "seemed to wink at her its eye of flame, as in derision of her errand of faith. This is an odd way to describe a nightfall at sea, so it becomes one of the obvious cues that Conrad uses to underscore the religious tone of the story.
Later on, the reference is more direct. When Jim sees that the ship has beaten the odds and is still floating, he notes that the "sleeping pilgrims were destined to accomplish their whole pilgrimage" and remarks that it "was as if the Omnipotence whose mercy they confessed … had looked down to make a sign, 'Thou shalt not! The figure of Jim is juxtaposed next to this highly religious, almost miraculous incident.
Jim has become a naval officer because he hopes to be a real hero someday, putting his life at risk for the benefit of somebody else. However, Jim is human, which means he is flawed. When the moment comes when he can prove his heroism, he panics, and, for whatever reason—Conrad makes it unclear in the end as to why Jim acts the way he does—deserts the ship, taking a symbolic fall from heroism to shame as he jumps into one of the lifeboats, leaving the eight hundred passengers in his care to go under on the partially sunken ship.
Jim feels the effects of his actions right away: "There was no going back. It was as if I had jumped into a well—into an everlasting deep hole. In the Christian sense, Jim has "fallen" from grace, and fallen souls, if not redeemed, will be cast into an eternity of hell, another everlasting deep hole. From this point on in the story, Jim embarks on a spiritual journey, which Conrad paints in biblical terms at times. When Marlow is discussing the stormy night following Jim's trial and subsequent expulsion from officer service, Marlow uses some curious terms: "The downpour fell with the heavy uninterrupted rush of a sweeping flood, with a sound of unchecked overwhelming fury.
Of course, the analogy is not a perfect one. Jim is not Noah, the one virtuous man whom God spared from the flood. Also in the Hebrew Bible, the Flood occurs long after the Genesis of Man, whereas in Lord Jim , Jim does not experience his genesis into his new life until he reaches Patusan, where "he left his earthly failings behind him.
Jim is not Christ and attempting to label him as the Christian messiah while labeling the other aspects of the story as Christian symbols is a futile enterprise. So if Jim is not Noah or Christ, who is he? At one point, after his near-death in the marshy Patusan creek, he becomes Adam, as Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan notes in her book Joseph Conrad and the Modern Temper : "He wakes up, covered with mud and 'alone of his kind' as Adam was when he was created. After this, the natives "called him Tuan Jim: as one might say—Lord Jim.
Once Conrad establishes the religious undertone of the book and then paints Jim as a religious messiah, he stays true to the fate of most messiahs and has Jim die at the ending of the book. However, even the way that Jim dies points to the religious theme. The last part of the book, which details the events that lead up to Jim's death, deviates from the rest of the narrative. For the majority of the book, Marlow narrates Jim's tale to a group of friends, based on what he has heard from Jim or experienced himself.
But when Marlow ends his portion of the tale, Conrad finishes the story by using several, sometimes disparate accounts from various narrators. As Paul B. Armstrong notes in his article, "Monism and Pluralism in Lord Jim " for the Centennial Review : "considered as a group, the readings do not fit together. And because they are finally irreconcilable, they frustrate Marlow's attempt to develop a coherent, comprehensive view of Jim as much as they aid it.
The events surrounding the death of Christ in the New Testament have been particularly scrutinized, since there is no one account that tells the events in chronological order, from beginning to end. Conrad mimics this style, especially at the end, turning the events surrounding Jim's death into legend, as he paints Jim as a Christ-like figure. When he is faced with imminent death, as Christ was, Jim does not flinch from his destiny and instead chooses to conquer by submitting: "There was nothing to fight for.
He was going to prove his power in another way and conquer the fatal destiny itself. Murfin notes in his book, Lord Jim: After the Truth , "Christ's 'new' law of self-sacrifice" is "at the heart of the Judeo-Christian faith.
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Christ died for the sins of all humanity, including his enemies', as Jim dies for the actions of Cornelius and Brown, the enemies who seal Jim's fate when they kill Dain and force Jim to make good on his promise to be accountable for the death. Says Erdinast-Vulcan of Jim, "He perishes, like a true biblical or mythical hero, by his own word. In the end, many readers, like Marlow, walk away confused, feeling, as Marlow felt at one point, that Jim stands "at the heart of a vast enigma. Even in this essay, where an abundance of religious references, Jim's spiritual journey, and the narrative method surrounding Jim's ambiguous death have been used as support to show Conrad's religious undertone, one cannot pin Conrad down to an overall guiding thematic structure—which is exactly how Conrad wanted it.
Jim's life and death will hold different meanings for different readers, just as Marlow, Jewel, and Tamb' Itam all elicit widely different interpretations. Whether one views Jim as a redeemed human, a religious messiah, or a foolish romantic, in the end it is only relevant to the individual reader. The meaning of Jim's life, like the meaning of life in general, is ultimately beyond human explanation. The important thing is to be true to one's individual beliefs, religious or otherwise, as Jim is true to his beliefs in the end and so dies a fulfilled man—even if most of those left behind do not agree with or understand his actions.
Source: Ryan D. Lord Jim was begun immediately after Conrad had finished writing 'Youth' in the summer of , dropped for a time, taken up again after he had written Heart of Darkness , and finished in the summer of But later he perceived that. Signs of this change in conception may be discerned, though not where we might expect to find them—in a thinness of material or an untidy linking of an illogical second part.
Rather are they apparent in a certain muddlement throughout, an uncertainty of the final impression intended by Conrad. In terms of plot there are undoubtedly two parts to the story: the defection of Jim and the disaster after he seems to have rehabilitated himself; certainly the second part has been added. But, as we have seen, and as I hope to show here in more detail, they are intimately connected. It is, indeed, difficult to imagine the first part alone as a satisfactory story—certainly as a story by Conrad; the account of a cowardly leap for safety alone could hardly be enough; it demands development.
The general lines of the story are given in miniature in the first chapter. Jim, having developed a romantic view of himself as one who will meet crises with calmness and determination, is not shaken in this faith by his failure to reach the cutter of his training ship when it puts out to effect a rescue. In the main crisis of the first part of the novel the failure is repeated under circumstances where he offends most unequivocally against 'the obscure body of men held together by a community of inglorious toil and by fidelity to a certain standard of conduct'.
His crime is described in terms which are reminiscent of some passages of 'Heart of Darkness'—in terms of what, in that story, is called 'sordid farce'. It was part of the burlesque meanness pervading that particular disaster at sea that they did not come to blows. It was all threats, all a terribly effective feint, a sham from beginning to end…. There is a flavour of shameless farce about all the weaknesses and crimes of which Conrad writes at this time; his mean characters are all horribly comic.
Jim's offence is one upon which the Court of Enquiry can have no mercy. But he insists on what, to many of the spectators, seems like trying to brazen it out. Brierly's question: 'Why eat all that dirt? His hope, however, is that he can rehabilitate himself; as in his first failure in the training ship, he is still sure that at bottom he is ready for any emergency, that he has only been betrayed by circumstances. He will not accept his weakness and stay in a place where men know his story, and so he is driven farther and farther eastwards in the search for a refuge where he can start with a clean sheet and establish himself as a trustworthy man.
Finally, in the jungle settlement of Patusan, he rises to be 'Lord Jim', one whose authority and honour are never questioned and on whom all the natives are dependent. It seems that he has successfully isolated himself from his past, in a place where. The stream of civilization, as if divided on a headland a hundred miles north of Patusan, branches east and south-west, leaving its plains and valleys, its old trees and its old mankind, neglected and isolated.
But, despite the fact that he has achieved 'the conquest of love, honour, men's confidence', his past comes in search of him.
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Gentleman Brown and his crew of cut-throats penetrate the 'wall of forests' which shuts Jim in his isolation. Physically the people of Patusan are more than a match for Brown, but mentally Jim is helpless before this man who combines with his ferocity 'a vehement scorn for mankind at large and for his victims in particular' and who 'would rob a man as if only to demonstrate his poor opinion of the creature'.
Everything that Brown says recalls Jim's past weakness, undermines his certainty that he has put behind him a cowardice that was only momentary. He asked Jim whether he had nothing fishy in his life to remember that he was so damnedly hard upon a man trying to get out of a deadly hole by the first means that came to hand—and so on and so on. And there ran through the rough talk a vein of subtle reference to their common blood, an assumption of common experience; a sickening suggestion of common guilt, of secret knowledge that was like a bond of their minds and of their hearts.
Jim finds that 'his fate, revolted, was forcing his hand'. We remember the 'unforeseen partnership' with Kurtz which Marlow accepts in 'Heart of Darkness'; but here there is an explicit weakness in Jim to which the partner appeals, and he confronts this appeal under circumstances which make his actions of vital importance for all the inhabitants of Patusan. He speaks no more than the truth when he says: 'I am responsible for every life in the land'. Unable to disown Brown, he brings disaster on the village, takes the death of the chief's son on his own head, and is killed as punishment.
In enlarging the simple story of the pilgrim ship episode, however, Conrad makes a more significant addition than the second half of the story; he introduces Marlow, who, although he does not appear as storyteller until the fifth chapter, is the person to whom we naturally look for commentary and judgment.
Judgment we find in plenty—but, far from clarifying the moral issues, Marlow's reflections only succeed in making them more confused. We remain at the end, I believe, uncertain as to what our verdict on Jim is meant to be. Many views are put before us. The elderly French lieutenant's is clear:. But the honour—the honour, monsieur!
And what life may be worth when … when the honour is gone— ah? This discourages Marlow; he feels that the lieutenant has 'pricked the bubble'. Yet at times he seems to see Jim as expiating his fault by taking on himself the punishment for the disaster to the village, finally re-establishing his honour. At other times a totally different verdict seems to be presented, as in the conclusion:. But we can see him, an obscure conqueror of fame, tearing himself out of the arms of a jealous love at the sign, at the call of his exalted egoism. He goes away from a living woman to celebrate his pitiless wedding with a shadowy ideal of conduct.
We remain uncertain whether Jim's moment of panic is one which can be expiated or whether, in the judgment of Marlow the seaman, it has placed him for ever beyond the possibility of forgiveness, uncertain, indeed, whether he is to be blamed for hoping that his weakness can be forgotten or for being so morbidly conscious of it. The reason for this uncertainty is clear; it is because Marlow, Conrad's mouthpiece, is himself bewildered.
As in 'Heart of Darkness', which Conrad wrote while recasting the novel, Marlow plays a greater part than might at first be thought. We may reasonably wonder whether the feelings which brought 'Heart of Darkness' to birth may not be the chief cause why Lord Jim developed from a simple short story into a complex novel, for there are many resemblances between the relationship of Marlow and Kurtz and that of Marlow and Jim. There is an 'unforeseen partnership' not only between Jim and Gentleman Brown but also between Jim and Marlow.
Was it for my own sake that I wished to find some shadow of an excuse for that young fellow whom I had never seen before? A relationship is quickly established between them. When Jim explains his hopes of regaining the respect that he has lost, Marlow says:. It was the fear of losing him that kept me silent, for it was borne upon me that should I let him slip away into the darkness I would never forgive myself. Just as in 'Heart of Darkness' Marlow feels the power of nightmares which his previous experience and standards have not made him ready to understand, so here he is appealed to by Jim in ways for which he is not prepared.
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I was made to look at the convention that lurks in all truth [Marlow says] and on the essential sincerity of falsehood. He appealed to all sides at once—to the side turned perpetually to the light of day, and to that side of us which, like the other hemisphere of the moon, exists stealthily in perpetual darkness, with only a fearful ashy light falling at times on the edge.
He swayed me. I own to it, I own up. It is his own security for which Marlow fears; when he goes for information to one of Jim's fellow officers, it is because he hopes to learn of a redeeming motive for his offence. I see well enough now [he says of this incident] that I hoped for the impossible—for the laying of what is the most obstinate ghost of man's creation, of the uneasy doubt uprising like a mist, secret and gnawing like a worm, and more chilling than the certitude of death—the doubt of the sovereign power enthroned in a fixed standard of conduct.
It is obvious enough that Marlow is disturbed because Jim, a fellow English seaman, has not been true to the standards by which they all live. I was aggrieved against him [he says], as though he had cheated me—me! But this alone is not sufficient to account for the disturbance of mind in which he is plunged. Jim has also raised doubts of the finality of the very standards themselves; he has suggested the possibility that there are hidden depths of feeling against which they are powerless. Marlow—and, as we shall see in a minute, Brierly—cannot cast Jim out as an offender and forget him, and this is not merely because he is a fellow Englishman, but because he seems to cast doubt on the values by which they could condemn him.
Marlow speaks thus of the courage which Jim so signally fails to display:. Hang ideas! They are tramps, vagabonds, knocking at the back-door of your mind, each taking a little of your substance, each carrying away some crumb of that belief in a few simple notions you must cling to if you want to live decently and would like to die easy.
Marlow would seem here to be at one with Winnie Verloc of The Secret Agent in her belief that life does not bear looking into very closely, and he continues with the direct implication that such courage is only possible for fools:. This has nothing to do with Jim, directly; only he was outwardly so typical of that good, stupid kind we like to feel marching right and left of us in life, of the kind that is not disturbed by the vagaries of intelligence and the perversions of—of nerves, let us say.
He goes on to reminisce about 'that good, stupid kind' and about how moved he is when a boy whom he has taken to sea for his first voyage greets him after many years, now grown into one 'fit to live or die as the sea may decree', just as, in the voyage into the heart of darkness, the Marlow of that story clings for a moment to the manual of seamanship as the relief of something tangible in the midst of nightmare. The nostalgia for the normal, for the reliance on simple duties and uncomplicated virtues, is the same, and in both cases the relief can only be temporary. The feeling of insecurity is deepened by the story of Brierly's suicide.
That impeccable captain has felt the same apprehension as Marlow: '… the only thing that holds us together', he says, 'is just the name for that kind of decency. Such an affair destroys one's confidence'. We might feel the conclusion to be extreme, for in any group of men there will be some who will betray the faith reposed in them, but we know that, all the time he is enquiring into Jim's case, he is also sitting in judgment on himself and finding a verdict of 'unmitigated guilt'. Marlow speculates that, in his case too, it is the awakening of some idea:.
We are given no hint of what the 'idea' is, except that it is not a commonplace worry about drink, or money, or women, but the effect of what we are told about Brierly is to reinforce Marlow's own obliquely expressed conviction that the virtues of seamanship—all of which Brierly possesses in superabundant measure—are still vulnerable to 'ideas'—that they are not enough in themselves and can easily be imperilled.
For all those issues with which Brierly's virtues can deal, the judgment on Jim is certain, but, in Marlow's words, Jim's attempt to explain his deed gives the impression that. These were issues beyond the competency of a court of enquiry. The effect of muddlement which is so commonly found in Lord Jim comes, in short, from this—that Marlow is himself muddled. We look to him for a definite comment, explicit or implicit, on Jim's conduct and he is not able to give it.
We are inevitably reminded of the bewilderment with which the Marlow of 'Heart of Darkness' faces Kurtz. By appealing to 'that side of us which, like the other hemisphere of the moon, exists stealthily in perpetual darkness' he confronts Marlow with 'issues beyond the competency of a court of enquiry' and thus shakes the standards by which he would normally be judged.
Here, as in the short story, the experience of Marlow goes far beyond that of the man whom he cannot disown. But the muddlement goes farther than this. I have so far begged the question by saying 'Mar-low, Conrad's mouthpiece'. In fact the confusion seems to extend to Conrad's conception of the story, and this reveals itself in some of the rhetoric given to Marlow. A good deal of this is imprecise and some is little more than a vague and rather pretentious playing with abstractions.
It is in these terms that he speaks of the approaching catastrophe:. Magna est veritas et … Yes, when it gets a chance. There is a law, no doubt—and likewise a law regulates your luck in the throwing of dice. It is not Justice, the servant of men, but accident, hazard, For-tune—the ally of patient Time—that holds an even and scrupulous balance…. Well, let's leave it to chance, whose ally is Time, that cannot be hurried, and whose enemy is Death, that will not wait.
There are many such passages, and they give the impression rather of a man who is ruminating to obscure the issue than of one thinking to clarify it. But they are not 'placed'—Conrad, that is, does not so present them that we see them as deliberate, part of the portrayal of a man who is bewildered. They come rather from his own uncertainty as to the effect at which he is aiming. There is, very clearly, a conflict in his own mind; he raises the issue of the sufficiency of the 'few simple notions you must cling to if you want to live decently', but he does not, throughout the book, face it consistently.
Lord Jim is, at bottom, concerned with the same preoccupations as 'Heart of Darkness' and other works of this period, but Conrad has chosen to treat them in such a way that he inevitably feels more directly concerned. As he says in the concluding words of the 'Author's Note': 'He was "one of us".
The fixed standards of the simple sailor are those which, above all others, Conrad finds it difficult to treat with detachment. He was too aware of the depths of treachery and cowardice of which men are capable not to cherish whatever seems to provide a defence against them, and at times we have the impression that, just as much as Marlow, he is himself fighting to retain a faith in the efficacy and total goodness of the 'few simple notions'.
In the following essay, Bass discusses Conrad's difficulties with presenting speech, idiom, and dialect in his writing. One does not have to read far in Lord Jim to observe Conrad's difficulties in making speech idiom read true. A Yankee deserter who is the crack marksman of Brown's derelict pirates, keeping his eye on a human target, says unconvincingly, "This there coon's health would never be a source of anx-iety to his friends any more"; and later, when there are no further victims to shoot at, he pronounces the calm of Patusan to be "on-natural.
Jim is sometimes limited to a mere inept stutter, the mixture of pretense and modesty that is after all pretty much the base of his character. When Marlow proposes the Patusan venture to him, the young man speaks his gratitude in as embarrassingly stilted and unauthentic a manner as that of the Yankee deserter's phrases: "'Jove! If his words sound unreal during times of strong emotion, so is Jim himself excessive as a romanticist. He does not speak so all the time, fortunately; in fact, he generally speaks rather little. Also informative are the verbal anomalies associated with Jim these are sometimes auditory errors ; they suggest an index to "the subtle unsoundness of the man" that so puzzles Marlow, who knows Jim best of all.
Three incidents that come early in the novel show Jim as a victim of verbal confusion. Individually, they are errors that anyone might make, especially in the context of emotional tension in which they occur. Collectively, however, Jim's misunderstandings lead one to see them as symptomatic of a kind of inattention or failure on his part—almost, in a sense, as if language has come to mean something different to him from what it does to anyone else. Marlow's first encounter with Jim, on the steps of the courthouse where the Patna hearing is being conducted, is marked by a verbal-auditory error that dramatizes Jim's shame, as well as his belligerence, over his desertion from the ship.
An acquaintance of Mar-low's remarks of an ugly forlorn dog belonging to some Malay native, "Look at that wretched cur. Assuming Marlow to be his accuser, "He made a step forward and barred my way. We were alone; he glared at me with an air of stubborn resolution. I became aware I was being held up, so to speak, as if in a wood. Marlow himself is highly articulate and persuasive, and once he wins Jim's confidence the troubled young man unburdens his problems to him. Significantly, however, most of the incidents Jim recounts are couched in Marlow's words. One exception, however, is the second instance of Jim's verbal misunderstanding.
It takes place when Jim goes below deck to investigate the bulkhead of the disabled Patna which may at any moment give way and flood the ship. Returning past some of the native passengers, Jim is stopped by one of them. What water did he mean? What did he know? As calmly as I could I ordered him to let go. He was stopping me, time was pressing, other men began to stir; I wanted time—time to cut the boats adrift….
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