Jim’s Excessive Romanticism Causes his Downfall & Death. Justify

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Mainsprings of Jim's Tragedy

      Jim is a tragic hero and there are several elements that conspire against him to force him towards his tragic end. The principal causes of Jim's tragedy are his peculiar mental constitution (romantic temperament and excessive idealism), faulty decision at two crucial moments and Fortune's fury against him. Jim was excessively romantic, all the time harboring dreams of a hero who was achieving some unattainable tasks and performing something miraculous among the ordeals of sea-life, saving the life of sailors and defending them from savages and tribal forces. His one wrong decision put him in a pathetic situation. His conscience started pricking him and he was perpetually haunted by the sense of guilt, disgrace and humiliation. He was almost paralyzed at the moment of Patna's collision and being utterly disappointed, he followed the other white officers who had already jumped into the life-boat to escape. From this point onwards, he was subjected to miseries, trials, disgrace, humiliation etc. Again, he took a wrong decision in reposing his trust in Brown, the ruffian invader. Brown deceived him and, unexpectedly; made an attack on Dain Waris who was killed during the battle and Doramin took his revenge by firing at Jim. As far as Fortune's hostility is concerned, we see its malevolent role in Patna's collision and Brown's arrival at Patusan. When we reach the last line of the novel, we feel great sympathy and admiration for Jim. His tragic end profoundly moves us. We should not regard his surrender to Doramin as an act of cowardice. Rather, this was an act followed by a sense of honor, bravery and fidelity.

Jim's Obsession for Romance

      Jim was temperamentally a romantic. Though Marlow comes to know this fact, in the middle of the novel, by Stein, yet the reader sees him nourishing and harboring his aspirations from the very beginning. We "see" him standing on board 'Patna', wrapt in romantic dreams, visualizing himself as a victor of several quelling mutinies of sea-life. The white officers of 'Patna' who deserted the ship at its disaster, were unromantic; they had no moral scruples and ethics. That was the reason why, later on, they did not feel guilty of committing a sin or violating the code of honor. But Jim has excessively romantic and thus, sensitive. The miseries, tortures, public disgrace and spiritual embarrassment that Jim had felt is beyond the limits of words to express.

Jim was provided Psychological Aid by Stein

      After listening to Marlow, patiently and attentively; Stein labeled Jim as 'Romantic'. He said that Jim was spiritually tormented because of the failure of his dream. He could not translate it into reality; that is why it was good for him to be left in the hands of destructive elements and let him struggle to keep himself up through own efforts and endeavors. As is interpreted by Elizabeth Drew: "He sees that, since Jim is a born romantic, his true existence is in a dream world. That has betrayed him, or he had betrayed it; it has proved to be the destructive element. Yet, in spite of this, it is his true life element. Therefore, in order to be, he must turn the dream, the illusion, into fact He must live it in action. Jim's life is useless to him because he can't fulfill his real nature, can't live his dream. He has tried to climb out into the air, but he can't sustain himself there. The hope is that the destructive element can be made creative. Stein suggests, therefore, Jim to go to Patusan, a white man alone among squabbling native factions, face its dangers and gamble on making his dream come true."

Jim's Dream Transformed into Reality

      Jim replaced Cornelius and, through his own virtues, honesty and physical energy, he succeeding in reaching a pedestal so exalted that the people of Patusan almost worshipped, treating him as someone gifted with supernatural powers. He won their trust, love and respect. He bursted out at the question of Marlow regarding his leaving Patusan:

"Look at those houses; there's not one where I'm not trusted... Leave!"

"Look at those houses; there's not one where I'm not trusted... Leave! No, on my word, I must feel-every day, every time I open my eyes-that I am trusted-thal nobody has a right-don't you know? Leave! What for? To get what?"

The Root Cause of Jim's Catastrophe

      The mainspring of Jim's tragic end was his romantic and idealistic approach to life. He committed a blunder in trusting, an intruder, Brown. When Brown, inadvertently, mentioned something fishy in Jim's life, he got reminded of the stigma attached to his name when 'Patna' had collided and he had deserted the ship in order to save his own life, leaving behind eight hundred pilgrims to perish. The inquiry was held, in this case, because the ship was fortunately rescued by the French officers, and thus Jim was put to terrible trials, disgrace and humiliation, because he only had faced the court. Jim got scared of the disclosure of this event by Brown and he suddenly became lenient towards him. He persuaded everybody to let Brown retreat harmlessly but Brown had treacherously made an attack on Dain Waris and his men. Dain Waris was shot dead and now Jim was left with two options: fight or flight. But Jim decided to face Doramin whose son was killed. Doramin shot Jim dead and thus Jim had lost his life due to his extreme concern with the idea of fidelity.

      Stein has rightly judged Jim and called him a 'romantic.' This means Jim is a visionary and is imaginative. No doubt Jim is excessively romantic, always harboring dreams about his heroic adventures. This excessive sensitivity restricts his material progress and also causes mental chaos for Jim but these qualities do not possess him permanently because Jim does not prove a failure all the time. He shows his efficiency and competency as a sea man and also he proves his exceptional capability as a water-clerk. Jim comes out as a hero in every field at Patusan because he wins the faith, trust and love of the Patusan-people with his energy, courage, humility and honesty. He leads a campaign against Sherif Ali and drives him away from his headquarters, thus makes the Patusanians free from the fear and horror of this chief, Sherif Ali. He does not fail anywhere at Patusan. He only commits some erroneous judgments in trusting Brown, and Cornelius even when he knows about their wickedness and treachery. And, for this error, he has to sacrifice his life at the hands of Doramin. Here Dr. N. Dasgupta's analysis in worth quoting: "Jim is a romantic young man living in his own dream world and believing in some great ideals of life. He is faithful to his own world, faithful to his ideals and faithful to himself. And, after his failure, he suffers immediately. Then he tries to expiate, to atone for his failure. His failure haunts him like a ghost. He has to make precious sacrifices; he has to undergo terrible mental tortures. But basically; Jim is an egoist - a stern individualist - he had no dealings but with himself. Marlow comments after his death: "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."

      But Jim dies with a conviction that he has not betrayed himself. He dies unflinchingly, with honor and pride. His death should not be regarded as the death of a coward or a historic suicide, it is a sacrifice, a martyrdom.

      As far as Jim's assessment is concerned, it is hard to assess him perfectly. Attempts can be made to analyze his different traits and to peep into his soul. Here Marlow makes us recall. "The last word is not said - probably shall never be said," He further says - "Are not our lives too short for that full utterance which through all our stammerings is, of course, our only and abiding attention? I have given up expecting those last words, whose ring if they could only be pronounced, would shake both heaven and earth. There is never time to say our last words - the word of our love, of our desire' faith, remorse, submission, revolt. The heaven and the earth must not be shaken. I suppose - at least not by us who know so many truths about either. My last words about Jim shall be few. I affirm, he had achieved greatness; but the thing would be dwarfed in the telling or rather in the hearing."

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