Marlow: Character Analysis in the Novel Lord Jim

Also Read

Marlow: The Narrator

      Marlow was a sea-captain who played a pivotal role in so many novels of Conrad - Youth, Heart of Darkness, Chance and Lord Jim. He is more than a mechanical character or novelist in disguise, he is an individual having personal qualities of its distinction. He is sympathetic, intelligent, having vast knowledge of the world. He has his own likes, dislikes, prejudices and opinions. He is such a simple and innocent man that Brown, Stein, Jim and Jewel, all like to confide in him. It is only in a few chapters of the novel that Conrad himself has narrated the story but the major part of the novel is narrated by Marlow. Marlow stimulates our interest in the novel and stirs our sympathy and admiration. He has laid bare the characters, inwardly and outwardly, so that nothing seems complicated to comprehend.

Marlow's Rich Experience, Extra-Ordinary Intelligence and Large Humanity.

      We often feel amazed to see Marlow's exceptional knowledge of human psychology and his wide range of experience of human life. There has developed a cosmopolitan outlook in him because of his dealings with the people of various nationalities. At so many times, Marlow appears as a philosopher, profoundly thinking and reflecting over a character's views or activities. His personality is so unified and compact that nowhere we find him telling a lie or twisting facts or expressing them in a hyperbolic manner. Marlow possesses an exceptional penetrating insight into the minds of characters. The striking features of his personality are: sympathetic, helpful, tolerant, close observer, indulgent, understanding etc.

Marlow's Deep Probe into the Psyche of Jim

      Marlow has, very well, presented Jim's sense of guilt, plight at facing disgrace and humiliation. He has psychologically analyzed Jim's mind, his feelings before, during and after the trial. When the court revoked the certificates of 'Patna' officers in order to punish them, Marlow took Jim along to his hotel-room. He kept a close watch over Jim when Jim was left to ponder over the situation calmly. Marlow wrote down his (Jim's) thoughts and ideas as they occurred in his mind and went off. The reader comes to understand Jim through Marlow's psychological analysis of Jim's mind. Though Stein's remarks are also very useful in comprehending Jim's character, Marlow's dissection of Jim's soul is indispensable to understand Jim.

      Marlow has given an impression not only about Jim but also about Jewel, Rajah Allang, Stein etc. Jewel appeared, to Marlow, a mysterious girl and Stein, a romantic.

Marlow, a Keen Observer

      Marlow was a keen and close observer. He did not keep his eyes closed to all that was going on around him. Not only did he critically analyze the faces of the judges, including that of Brierly, during the court of Inquiry, he also studied Jim and his 'Romanticism' and 'Idea of Fidelity', equally intently. He has, very sensibly and accurately; also been able to probe into the minds of the other characters and discern them. To him, Cornelius looked most dangerous for Jim; for Jewel, he found, a sense of danger always troubled her heart, and Tamb Itam was most "faithful" to Jim. He showed the same insight in commenting upon the French Lieutenant, the German trader, Stein and Australian Chester.

Marlow: A Universal Genius

      Marlow, like a philosopher, while, pondering over things, comes to very sound conclusions that speak volumes about his wisdom with respect to the world. We feel amazed to see Marlow’s wisdom in such statements as the one in which he declared that there could be no clean slate for anybody in this world. He says:

"A clean slate did he say? As if the initial word of each our destiny were not graven in imperishable characters upon the face of a rock"

      Everybody knows that man can never shake off his past completely. Another example is, when he said that nobody is good enough in this world. How thought-provoking is his remark that the human heart is vast enough to hold everything. It can bear all the burden-though it does not have the courage to cast that off. We find Marlow most appealing when he says that justice does not govern human beings, but it is accident and fortune that twist a man according to their own will. He makes a most valuable statement of universal appeal - 'Magna est veritas et' - meaning that truth should ultimately prevail.

Marlow's Humorous Temperament

      Undoubtedly, gravity is the pivotal characteristic of Marlow but, occasionally, he appears humourous also, cutting ironical remarks and commenting on others. For example, he seems a jovial and in a light mood when he speaks about the fatness of the German captain and his short legs. The German captain reminds him of a baby elephant walking on its hind legs. Enough humor is seen in his talk with the gossipy Chester.

      Thus we see Marlow as a narrator, as a friend to Jim, as a helping man full of sympathy, as an observer possessing exceptional penetrating insight to delve into the human mind, as a highly experienced and intelligent man full of gravity and humor.

Previous Post Next Post