Critically Assess the Tragic Vision in the Novel Lord Jim

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Conrad's Tragic Vision of Life

      There is no denying the fact that Conrad primarily concentrates on the dark side of life. He believes that everything is preordained by Destiny and we are subjected to follow that. But we should not misunderstand Conrad and label him a pessimist because nowhere he says that life is not worth living or it would be better not to be born. He is well aware of the noble side of human nature and life also. He is not blind to the bright aspects of human life. He has often depicted his characters as strugglers who fight against the ordeals of life. He also has stressed the idea of fidelity and solidarity and said that only fidelity and solidarity could save us from the evils and darkness of all kind.

      Though Lord Jim is replete with the tragic situations and incidents, it does not exhibit the pessimistic approach towards life. Lord Jim sacrifices his life because of the idea of fidelity.

The Romantic Jim: An Act of Cowardice

      Jim is the pivotal figure in the novel. He belongs to a family of priests. Jim is the chief-mate of Patna, a ship which is very old and in a bad condition. 'Patna' is carrying eight hundred pilgrims from Bombay to Arab - Jim is excessively romantic who always harbors high aspirations about his future. He dreams about himself as a hero who saves the sailors from the various mutinies of sea-life, and also from the tropical savages, But he misses the opportunity of coming out as a hero when the situation arises. During his training period, he misses the chance to prove his heroic qualities. When he becomes the chief-mate of 'Patna', again an accident occurs. 'Patna' suddenly collided against some submerged wrecked ship and there is a leak. All the officers think that the ship is likely to sink. They indulge in lowering a lifeboat to save themselves regardless of all the eight hundred sleeping pilgrims sailing on the ship. Jim is the only officer who is thinking of how to save the pilgrims. The white officers request Jim to help them in lowering the boat, but Jim rejects them boldly. They threaten him and after sometime, get over their trouble and plunge into the boat. Later, they call for George who is lying dead because of the heart-attack oil board the ship and in the darkness, after a great perplexity and mental-conflict, Jim jumps into the boat to save himself. Jim was paralyzed and panic-stricken at that moment and after feeling greatly disappointed, he jumps to save himself. Thus the man who has been nourishing heroic dreams, falters and instead of staying on the ship, leaves it to its destiny.

Jim's Plight after Leaving 'Patna'

      The moment Jim has left 'Patna', a sense of guilt starts haunting him. All the three officers take the event casually and soon forget everything, but Jim, most conscientious and sensitive, takes everything to his heart. Thereafter an inquiry is held because 'Patna' was rescued by the French Officers. Only Jim attends the court and faces public disgrace and humiliation during the trial. Jim is offered money to avoid the trial and go away but he does not like to indulge, once more, in any act of cowardice. Now, the court finds Jim unable to give the clear evidence and the verdict goes against the white officers. They are disqualified to do any job on ship. Therefore, Jim's sense of disgrace is aggravated by the court's verdict, he becomes so desperate that he thinks of committing suicide. Now, Marlow, who has been present throughout the inquiry, takes Jim along to his room in Malabar Hotel. There Jim recalls the whole incident and feels great spiritual agony. Now, Marlow thinks of procuring some job for Jim's livelihood.

Jim's Shifting from one Place to Another

      With the help of his friends, Marlow procures jobs for Jim. But Jim keeps on leaving one job and catching hold of another because of the fear of the disclosure of stigma attached to his name. The sense of humiliation was perpetually haunting him. Jim is not able to endure even a disparaging comment over the act of 'Patna'. Thus, he is subjected to intense agony and mental conflict.

Jim's Achievements in Patusan

      Marlow's most trustworthy German friend, Stein, gives the picture of Jim's plight. Considering Jim a romantic, he proposes to send him to Patusan, a very distant country because this is good for Jim to leave him in the hands of destructive elements and there he would try to keep himself up with his own endeavors and efforts. Jim feels very much delighted and enthusiastic about this offer; he goes to Patusan and, after crossing several barriers, he reaches Doramin whom he is sent to meet. He campaigns a war against the chief of a notorious group, Sherif Ali. His success places him at a very high position in
Patusan and he is believed to possess some supernatural powers by Patusan people. Everybody loves him, trusts him and pays his high respect to him. There has developed a love between him and Cornelius's step-daughter, Jewel. His love for her is very pure and he vows not to leave Patusan ever. Thus he seems to master his fate there.

Jim's Tragic Death

      A smuggler, Brown, takes refuge in Patusan with a group of men. In the conversation with Jim, he indicates something fishy in his past. It reminds Jim of his act of 'Patna' and he becomes very generous and lenient. He persuades everybody to let Brown retreat harmlessly but Brown, finally, acts as a scoundrel and he makes an attack on Dain Waris and his men. During this clash, Dain Waris is shot dead. Now, everybody turns hostile towards Jim. Jim resolves neither to escape nor to fight. He surrenders himself to Doramin who shoots him without any delay.

Jim's Heroic Death

      We should not regard Jim's death as an act of cowardice. He enlivens his dream and, heroically, embraces death. But before that, Jim had materialized his dream of performing heroic deeds during his life in Patusan. By surrendering himself to Doramin he remains true to his concept of heroism.

Role of Chance and Destiny

      Destiny plays a great role in bringing downfall to Jim's life. The crucial moment of 'Patna', its rescue, Jim's jump into the life boat and the arrival of Brown etc. are caused by Destiny. Destiny's role is very important, as Marlow says, that nobody can start his life on a clean slate. Everything is decided by Destiny in advance and we are bound to follow that.

To Sum Up

      Though there are several tragic situations in the novel, Jim is presented true to his concept of himself. He sacrifices himself to enliven his dream of being a hero and that of romance.

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