"All a man can betray is his conscience." Justify Regard of Lord Jim

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Introduction: Betrayal of Conscience

      First, we must clear the meaning of betraying one's conscience. Indeed, it means not following the dictates of one's conscience; when we ignore the call and voice of our conscience, it amounts to betrayal of conscience. But the point to ponder over is, what are the dictates of conscience? If we notice, we feel two kinds of real brightness. The first voice is that which steers us to the choice of all that is spiritually and morally 'right', to a kind of life where ideals are invincible. The other voice tempts us to follow the wrong, false, evil, harmful and unfair. For a very transient period, and from the material point of view, this voice seems pleasant and beneficial. In other words, it is a kind of insidious call, and evil guised in beautiful and bewitching apparel. To tread on the first path may be fraught with hurdles, but it represents the lofty, elevated and magnanimous and spiritual aspect of human life whereas, the second one represents whatever is physical, material, transitory and superfluous in human life. This is the reason why we meet different kinds of people in our society. A few persons believe that the elevated or spiritual aspect of life is more permanent and thus far more preferable than the material aspect which is perishable and transient. But there are such kind of people also who believe in only the material aspect of human life and they are called men without conscience or spiritual values. Conrad states that all a man can betray is his conscience. It means that man is the master of his life and is gifted with the skill of distinguishing between what is 'right' or 'wrong'. If one chooses the good and spiritual aspect, one never does harm to anybody or the world at large, but if one chooses the wrong or material aspects, one may be performing good for himself that is very short lived but he positively does harm to others, Here, Conrad says that man can only harm himself. What he intends to say is that no one else but man himself is completely responsible for choosing the good or evil because everyone is endowed with the power of discriminating between good and evil, true and false, right and wrong.

Jim's Betrayal of Conscience: 'Patna' Episode

      In reference to Lord Jim, the hero, Jim, had no intention to leave the ship at the moment of the disaster, he wanted to stick to the collided 'Patna' till the last moment. There were eight hundred pilgrims sailing on the ship and Jim wanted to save then from drowning but there were only seven lifeboats to save eight hundred pilgrims. Thus it was an impossible task to achieve. Jim was all alone on board, facing a storm inside, about - how to save the passengers. Thus, after a great mental conflict and good deal of hesitation, he plunged into the life boat in order to save himself. He had just followed other naval officers; he felt himself as hooked by them from behind and jumped into the boat. But the moment he left 'Patna', his conscience began to prick him badly. He found himself so guilty that he felt like swimming back to the collided ship and dying with the eight hundred pilgrims, though he actually did not put that feeling into action. Thus, he betrayed his conscience and, later, paid the penalty in the from of a hell like, miserable and spiritually-tormented life. He kept on shifting from port to port, job to job as if pursued by a nightmare. He was haunted by the stigma and whenever he heard someone murmuring about the tragedy of 'Patna', he immediately preferred to quit that place. This happened to him because he had betrayed his conscience.

'Patusan' Episode

      Jim betrayed his conscience again while living in Patusan. He trusted Brown and assured him a harmless retreat. Brown and his men had stranded and reached Patusan because of food and other essential necessities. Jim committed a blunder in letting Brown retreat and forbidding Dain Waris, the son of Doramin, to attack them. Brown betrayed his trust and shot Dain Waris dead. This double mistake troubled Jim's soul so badly that he ultimately went to surrender himself, in front of Doramin and thus sacrificed his life. Doramin, in a fit of fury, raised his hand and shot Jim dead.


      Thus the statement, "all a man can betray is his conscience is justifiable in reference to the life, character and career of Jim. Though the interpretation is highly psychological but most applicable to the immortal literary figure, Jim, among the heroes of Conrad's novels."

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