Lord Jim: Chapter 1 - Summary & Analysis

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Jim, a Water-Clerk and a Romantic


      The protagonist of the novel, Jim, is introduced in the first chapter. He has a magnetic, dynamic and imposing personality. He is nearly six feet tall, strongly built, stands and moves in a very impressive manner. "His voice was deep, loud and his manner displayed a kind of dogged self-assertion which had nothing aggressive in it.."He was spotlessly neat, apparelled in immaculate white from shoes to hat...he was very popular."

      In the very beginning, we are informed that he is an adept ship chandler's water clerk in the service of an unnamed Eastern port. Though he is very proficient and skillful, he has the habit of shifting his place, he never stays at a place for a long time. People think of him as eccentric, impulsive and foolish but there is something virtuous, noble or dignified in him that people call him Lord Jim. Very soon he is recognized as an outstanding personality whom everybody knows very well.

      He was a born-seaman but unfortunately, he had to be content with the humbler job of a water clerk. He is one among the five, born in a country parsonage in England. Lord Jim is very ambitious and wants to cast a positive impression on people far and wide. He takes pleasure in dreaming about himself as a hero. But when his shipwrecks, instead of acknowledging the gravity of the situation and taking intelligent and wise steps to save the people, he stands aside and thinks of doing some wonderful and heroic deed, better than anybody has yet performed. When the boys, who save the voyagers, come back excitedly and thrilled with a sense of exaltation, Jim feels that he has lost the golden opportunity to achieve glory.


      In the first chapter, Jim is exposed to the reader, outwardly and inwardly, with the details of his past and present life. The most striking feature, i.e., his romantic imagination has come to light. The novelist, in the course of the narration, does not follow the chronological order, moving backward and forward in Jim's lifetime.

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