Critically Examine the Court Scene of Lord Jim

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Critically Examine the Court Trial Scene of Lord Jim

Violation of the Code of Honour

      When 'Patna' collided, its officers deserted the ship in order to save their own lives. This was a very serious breach of duty. Thus it becomes unavoidable to hold an inquiry against the conduct of these officers because the ship did not sink but was rescued by a French gunboat. This act of deserting the ship, at the moment of its disaster was most unprofessional and unethical. The duty of the officers on ship is to save the lives of passengers first, then any attempt to save themselves can be justified. But all the four officers of 'Patna' behaved in a most irresponsible manner. Jim was, of course, not willing to desert the ship but he, ultimately, did the same after a good deal of hesitation. There was the gap of twenty-five minutes between the collision of the ship and Jim's jump to save himself that shows Jim's prime concern to save the ship and all the pilgrims. He did not assist other officers in lowering the life-boat but just flatly refused them at their request. However, finally he too followed them and jumped into the life-boat.

Only Jim attended the Court

      When the inquiry was held against the conduct of 'Patna' officers, all the officers, except Jim, absented themselves from facing the court trial. Only Jim attended the court to justify himself. Jim regarded it as an act of cowardice. Thus, he attended the court and Marlow first saw him there. Being a retired sea-captain and white man, Marlow took much interest in this inquiry. The news of desertion of 'Patna' reached everybody and there had been much indignation among the people. Everybody was curious to find out whether there was any secret cause behind leaving the ship 'Patna’.

Why Jim Had attended the Court?

      Marlow found Jim extremely hopeless because he failed to justify his point. Here Marlow took notice of Brierly's feelings, one of the judges in the court. He felt that Briefly did not like Jim's appearance in the court. It was true that Brierly, personally, had not liked Jim to attend the court when others had absconded. He told Marlow privately that he did not appreciate this kind of courage which Jim was trying to show by attending the court. He had offered an amount of two hundred rupees for Jim to escape. But we learn from Marlow that Jim wanted to act according to the dictates of his conscience. He also wanted to justify his action of plunging into the life boat.

Several Questions dnd Coutt's Conclusions

      There were several questions before the court. First, it was to know whether the ship was worthy of sea voyage in every respect. The court concluded that ship was not in a good condition. Second question was related to the point that' till the time of the accident, had the ship been navigated with care arid attention, and court reached the conclusion that the ship was navigated with proper attention. The judges concentrated on the question - what was the cause of the accident? Court arrived at the conclusion that it was not dear why the ship had met with the accident. Perhaps it collided against a submerged-ship.

Jim's Testimony

      Jim said in his testimony that he had deliberated a lot over the entire matter before deserting the ship. He found it was impossible to save all the eight hundred pilgrims with only seven life-boats. If he had awakened all the pilgrims from their sleep, a mad rush would have ensued, making the ship sink sooner. Thus, after meditating over how to save the passengers for twenty-five minutes, he plunged into the boat. He had just followed the other officers and did not take any initiative in leaving the ship.

Court's Verdict

      The court's judgment Was that all the officers of 'Patna' had committed a serious breach of duty, they had violated the code of honor and abandoned the ship and passengers at the moment of its disaster. They had neglected their duty to save the lives and property in their charge. Thus, the court punished them by cancelling their certificates and disqualifying them from holding any post on a ship, in future. This verdict had a terrible effect on Jim who hurriedly left the court in order to hide his sense of public disgrace, guilt and dismay. This trial scene is no less important than the incident of 'Patna'

Marlow's Comments on the Trial

      Marlow did not like the court's verdict because the court had taken into consideration only the superficial matters of the incident. There was no attempt made to understand what was going on in the mind of Jim before he had plunged into the life-boat. To Marlow, it was not fair to judge the persons only by their actions and in the light of; "a certain fixed standard of conduct". But we don't agree with him. His thinking is very impractical. If there were no fixed standards by which the credibility of a person could be judged, there would be no code of conduct, no discipline in the world. Moreover, judges were not psychologists whose duty was to probe deep into the mind of the person. They were not expected to go into the working of the minds of the officers when they had deserted the ship.

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