Lord Jim: Novel by Joseph Conrad - Summary & Analysis

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Summary

A novel by Joseph Conrad, published in 1900.

      Jim is a chief mate on the steamship, Patna. During a voyage towards Mecca, with its cargo of pilgrims, the ship strikes a submerged object. Watching the small crew lowering a lifeboat to save their own skins, Jim appears to be an idealistic onlooker but then, impulsively; he jumps. The significance of this action is the crux of the novel. The action moves to Aden, where the narrator, Marlow, observes Jim at the Court of Inquiry. Ironically; and contrary to the crew's belief, the Patna had not sunk; Jim is the only one, among the entire crew, who has decided to face the official ramifications of his actions. Marlow is interested in Jim's private consciousness of disgrace; being stripped of his Master's certificate proves to be a public, but not a spiritual atonement. With Marlow's assistance, Jim moves through a variety of jobs ashore, but the promise of real freedom 'talkers' (those who know of his sullied reputation) is provided only by a position as agent at the remote trading post of Patusan.

      Jim's life at Patusan, recalled by Marlow, has an active and practical character: to the people, including the elderly chief Doramin, he is Tuan, or Lord Jim. His relationship with the woman he calls Jewel, stepdaughter of his corrupt predecessor, contributes to his partial serenity. This is violently disrupted by the arrival of Gentleman Brown and his fellow thieves. Jim pledges to Doramin that Brown will leave the island without bloodshed; he is proved horribly wrong. Doramin's son is killed as a result of Jim's misplaced trust in Brown. Taking responsibility for his action, Jim allows himself to be shot by an angry and grieving Doramin.

Analysis

      Jim: A Romanticist and Sentimentalist. The novel is all about Jim who is a romanticist, a sentimentalist, a sailor who has the habit of dreaming about the most heroic deeds, performed by himself, in the face of disaster. But when he faces the worst, he acts as a coward and thus loses the opportunity to be a hero; and this act of cowardice pursues him for a long time and haunts him. Finally; he goes to seek a bullet so that he may feel that he is not a crowd. Conrad's amazing knowledge of the sea is well reflected in this novel. Besides, we perceive an uncomprehended and miserable man, Jim who finally sacrifices himself to feel that he is not a coward.

Multiplicity of Characters

      This novel presents a large gallery of characters like the skippers of the "Patna", the trader Stein, the Malay steersmen, treacherous Cornelius, and entertaining Brierly. Conrad's mastery over brevity is evident in the intense passages of the novel. His simplicity of style is beautifully reflected in the revelation of his own insight; as we recollect the suggestion of tragedy in the unfinished letter of Jim in the specific words of dialogue between Jim and the girl, before he departs to sacrifice himself. Thus, the novel is a marvelous piece of art regarding the theme, character and style.

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