Plot Analysis of the Novel Lord Jim

Also Read


      Conrad is a distinguished artist of the 20th century English literature. Plot-construction of Lord Jim has its distinction for being most original, creative and artistic. His issues, in the development of plot, are highly psychological and infused with the profundity of thought. His characters are usually revealed from within rather than without. His plot produces an artistic design and creates suspense in the reader, buoying him to read further with more interest. Conrad has succeeded in making his plot more enchanting by using such devices as suspense, role of Fate, depth of thought and the vital interpretation of the 'stream of consciousness'. Here, in the special context of Lord Jim, are given all the important issues and situations, one by one, which are quite coherent and well-knit.

The Indispensable Role of 'Chance' in Lord Jim

      Chance, essentially, plays a vital role in the novel. In Lord Jim, chance takes the shape of active evil and effects Jim's life to a great extent. Marlow, the close friend of Jim, has well remarked on the accident of 'Patna', which had scared the white officers badly. He said:

      "The incident was rare enough to resemble a special arrangement of a malevolent Providence which, unless it had for its object the killing of a donkeyman and the bringing of worse than death upon Jim, appeared an utterly aimless piece of devilry."

      Chance also has proved a hostile force in Jim's life when he had established himself in Patusan and achieved the rank of honor, love, respect and trust. At that time, when Jim had seemed to master his fate, it was sheer chance that led Brown, the ruffian invader, to Patusan and brought Jim's death. Thus Conrad has freely used the poignant irony to make situations more effective and impressive. The malignancy of 'chance' in Jim's life reminds us of Hardy's concept of 'chance' that it is a cruel and hostile force.

Transgression of the Code of Honour

      When 'Patna', the ship, collided, the white officers paid more attention towards saving their own life rather than the lives of eight hundred pilgrims going from Bombay to Arab. They got involved in lowering the boat to escape but Jim was very much troubled and wanted to save the life of the pilgrims. He was constantly thinking about how to save 'Patna' and its pilgrims from the disaster but, getting utterly disappointed and helpless at realizing that nothing could be done, he finally jumped into the boat that was lowered to save the white officers. Till the last moment, Jim was under great stress to save 'Patna' but being left all alone, and at the possibility of its certain collision, he saved his own life, but afterward, he was perpetually haunted by the sense of guilt and the stigma attached to his name due to this disgraceful act. Their duty was to save the lives of pilgrims first, but they violated this code of honor and proved their infidelity in this course. But 'Patna' was fortunately rescued by a French gunboat and towed to the nearest English port. This incident caused a great humiliation and disgrace on the part of 'Patna's four officers who had left her to her fate. An inquiry had been set and only Jim dared to face the trial because he did not want to indulge, again, in an act of cowardice.

Marlow's Views About Jim: "One of Us"

      Marlow was a sea-captain attending and listening, very carefully; to the testimony of Jim in the court. Marlow was an intelligent, sensitive man with a penetrating insight. He was very much sympathetic towards Jim and recognized him as "one of us." This phrase has several meanings. First, it means a man of same color; second, he (Jim) was also a man of honor and sensibility as Marlow had been; and thirdly, the phrase takes a larger shape to include all the human race. Every human being is guilty of some known or unknown misdeed and all have a secret knowledge of transgression of morality Marlow uttered the phrase "one of us" in all these contexts and meanings.

Jim: A Symbol

      Jim did not belong to a specific race or country; he was a universal figure. Nowhere, in the novel, Jim was given his family name, He was just called Jim, Thus Jim was a representative of all human race who have somehow, somewhere and sometimes violated the code of honor or morality. The difference is, they have not revealed it to anybody, they are not exposed, but confided their wrong doings in themselves but Jim's act of cowardice has come out in the light and published in the newspaper

Meeting of Jim and Marlow After the Trial

      Jim was trying to justify his act in the court but due to the lack of evidence, he failed to prove himself innocent. Now, he wanted to explain the situation to somebody who could understand it clearly and empathize with him. He did not want to forgive himself and present himself as innocent but he just wanted somebody to understand everything clearly. Thus he explained everything to Marlow. He had confidence in himself before he plunged into the life-boat. In the court, he elucidated every point regarding this act of jumping. He rationalized himself by his testimony and explanation in the court. Hence, he tried to maintain his dignity and self-respect although the incident was apparently very disgraceful He explained that there was an interval of twenty-seven minutes between the discovery of ship's collision and his jump to escape. He tried to prove himself innocent and insisted on the point that he had just followed the other officers. The responsibility of leaving 'Patna' must not go to him because he had not taken the initiative to save himself. Thus, in this manner, he had not betrayed the code of honor. To Marlow, it seemed that Jim had been caught and hooked by the fellow-officers who pulled him into the boat.

Marlow's Concept of Clean Slate (Destiny)

      When Marlow gave a letter to Jim, recommending him for a job, Jim stated that he would try to start his life on a clean slate. Later on, like a philosopher, Marlow told himself that nobody could start his life on a clean slate because everything is prefixed by destiny. And this is, later on, proved correct in the case of Jim. Wherever he went, his dreadful past followed him. He had to shift form one place to another due to the stigma attached to his name. According to Hardy, man is a puppet in the hands of Fate and is made to live according to the wishes of Fate.

Stein's Suggestion to Rehabilitate Jim

      When Marlow sought the help of his German friend, Stein, in order to rehabilitate Jim, Stein offered him a job at Patusan. The atmosphere of Patusan was not healthy; it was full of violence and bloodshed, resulting from the antagonism of the three parties there. He called Jim a romantic who must be left to the destructive element and provided the opportunity to keep himself up through his own exertions and efforts.

Jim's Achievements: Dream into Reality

      Jim, at Patusan, succeeded to fulfil his dream as a hero. When Marlow had visited Patusan, he learned about Jim's several fighting adventures. Jim had once betrayed the trust of and duty towards the pilgrims and now, through his heroic efforts, he achieved great name, respect and love among the Patusan men. He proved himself faithful and loyal to others and to his own concept of being a romantic hero. Marlow, at the time of his departure from Patusan, felt that Jim had mastered his fate now.

Jim's Mental Conflict and Brown's Treachery

      When Brown, the ruffian had arrived at Patusan in search of food and other needs, and indicated something fishy in Jim's past life; Jim got perplexed. Jim who was regarded as Tuan (Lord) in Patusan, was reminded of his disgraceful act of deserting 'Patna' at the moment of crisis and suddenly became lenient towards Brown. Though the Bugis community and authority wanted to kill Brown and his men, Jim persuaded them to let Brown retreat harmlessly, provided with enough food. But Brown did not retreat peacefully and shrewdly made an attack on Dain Waris and his men. He shot Dain Waris dead and thus deceived Jim. Jim decided to let Brown go back because he had yet not forgotten his act of cowardice and did not want to sacrifice the life of a single man of Patusan in the battle against Brown. Thus, he allowed him to retreat but Brown proved a swindler.

Jim's Death: Idea of Fidelity

      For Conrad, fidelity means man's ideal, concept about himself and conscientiousness towards his duty. Jim could not adhere to it in the case of Patna's collision, and left the ship to its fate; he had saved his own life and thus violated the code of honor, duty and moral. But this time, he did not want to repeat the same act. When Jim came to know that everybody in Patusan was against him and all the responsibility of Dain Waris's death were attributed to him, he was advised by Tamb Itam to escape and by Jewel to fight. But he decided to adhere to his idea of fidelity and enliven his dream of being a romantic hero. Thus, very heroically, he confronted Doramin who shot him dead as a revenge against his son, Dain Waris's death.

      Thus, we see that all events are chained together, they emerge out of previous events and thus develops the whole plot. The plot of Lord Jim is well-knit, closely interwoven and artistic to produce a whole design.

Previous Post Next Post