Brierly: Character Analysis in the Novel Lord Jim

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Brierly, a Ship's Captain and a Judge

      Brierly was a sea-man par excellence. His career was completely stainless, without any mistake or accident. He was well established and enjoying an enviable reputation. When he was thirty-two years old, he had been made the commander of the finest ship sailing in the East. He was well-secured with his rank; there was nothing that could undermine it. He was one among the judges during the inquiry that was held against the officers of 'Patna'. We are amazed to read that, soon after the inquiry, he committed suicide

Suicide was not Extemporaneous

      By Jones's account of Brierly, we judge that Brierly's suicide should not be called an impulsive act. He informed Marlow that Brierly's suicide was pre-meditated. He had taken the precaution to prevent his dog from following him when he would jump into the sea. Before committing suicide, he had written two Letters that were the evidence of the fact that he was going to end his life. The first letter was addressed to Jones. It contained the technical instructions to the chief mate about proceeding the ship to its destination. The second letter was written to the owners of the ship. Brierly had recommended Jones for the captainship after his death. He had also explained that he was not betraying them because he was leaving the ship under the charge of an efficient seaman. But, any reason for committing suicide is not indicated in the letter; thus it has remained a riddle for Jones, Marlow and the reader.

The Presumptions About Brierly's Suicide

      Brierly had tried his best to save Jim from the disgrace to which he was subjected. He told Marlow to persuade Jim to avoid court. When Marlow said that Jim was so penniless that he could not even manage to run off from the place, Brierly offered two hundred rupees to make Jim leave the place and, thus save himself from humiliation that he was undergoing. Most probably, Brierly was sympathetic towards Jim because he was of the same color or, he wanted to save the entire white community from the stigma of the act of cowardice or he did not want to give judgment against Jim, who was also white, because his testimony was useless in the absence of solid evidence. Jim's justification of his act might have touched some sensitive chord in Brierly. Perhaps, he was reminded of his own guilt during the inquiry and failed to make peace within himself after realizing Jim's high moral fiber that he, himself, was lacking.

      To Sum Up: No apparent cause is indicated in the novel. He was neither poor nor old, neither was he in debt nor suffering from any fits of madness, as reported by Jones to Marlow. Thus his suicide remained a mystery to the characters of the novel as well as to the reader of Lord Jim.

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