"Seeing", Phrase used by Different Persons in Lord Jim

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Different Perspectives of Various Persons are Used to "See" Jim

      Jim is the pivotal figure of the novel. All the characters, situations or events revolve around him. Except Jim, other characters appear and disappear. Only Jim remains with us till the end of the novel. Thus, main focus is on the character of Jim, and the novel is the story of Jim's life. Conrad has adopted a specific technique of telling the story. In the first four chapters, Conrad himself tells the story and then the charge of narrating the story goes to Marlow. But the point which we are going, to discuss is that Jim is presented through various eyes of different characters. Everybody forms an impression Jim from his own point of view. In other words, we are made to "see" Jim from various perspectives and, at the end, it is left to the reader to decide what kind of a man Jim is.

Jim as "Seen" by the Judges

      From the moment of Jim's desertion of 'Patna', at the moment of its disaster, he is perpetually haunted by a sense of guilt, that is, later on, aggravated by the verdict of the judges. An inquiry is held against the white-officers because 'Patna' has not sunk but has been rescued by the French Officers. In the opinion of the judges, the officers, who had been entrusted with the safety of the pilgrims, had succumbed to a very unethical and unheroic act, leading to a serious breach of discipline, when those eight hundred pilgrims had been left to their fate, to perish at sea. This act was extremely objectionable. Thus they revoked the certificates of all the white officers in order to make their ineligible for an officer's post on any ship. Jim takes this decision to his heart He faces much disgrace and humiliation because he alone has attended the court.

Brierly's Own Vision of Jim

      Briefly was a sea captain and, in the novel, he is one of the judges of the inquiry. He says to Marlow, after the first day’s trial, that there is no point in Jim attending the inquiry. He further says that he does not praise this kind of courage which Jim is trying to show by attending the court, when the rest of the officers have absconded. He offers some money to make Jim absent himself from the court. Thus, Brierly has seen Jim from his own vision. He does not want Jim to appear in the court perhaps because he does not want to slander the white community or a white man to face public humiliation. Later on, he commits suicide. The reason behind the suicide has remained a mystery but it is made clear that his act was pre-meditated. Perhaps, he was reminded of some dishonorable act of which he had been guilty, in his past.

Chester's Views on Jim

      Chester, at the end of the trial, informs Marlow that Jim has taken the decision of court to his heart and such a sensitive man is good for nothing to achieve anything in his own life. Marlow does not agree with him. Then he offers Jim the post of Manager in the project of his newly discovered Guano. Thus, he contradicts himself because if he thinks that such man who takes everything to his heart, is worthless, why has he offered such a responsible post to Jim. Marlow's and French Lieutenant's Own Vision of Jim

      The trial has affected Jim badly. It puts him into such a desperate state that he starts thinking of committing suicide. After the court's verdict, Jim's plight is more pathetic. At this moment, Marlow takes him along, to his room, in Malabar Hotel. Jim wishes to be left all alone and Marlow agrees to it. Jim, at this time, sits on a chair and begins to recall all the painful experiences and, after a great mental conflict, he succeeds in composing himself. All the time Marlow observes Jim. He feels that, for his livelihood, Jim desperately requires a job. He tries his best to procure it with the help of his friends. During this period, he meets the French lieutenant who had rescued 'Patna'. The French officer tells him that man is a born coward. The officers who deserted the 'Patna' had lost their honor. He further says that Jim would soon overcome the feeling of guilt and disgrace. The Frenchman regards Jim as a coward who had violated the seaman's code of honor though Jim has already informed Marlow that he jumped into the lifeboat not due to fear. He just had followed the other officers.

The Views of Jim's Employers

      Marlow arranges job after job for Jim who keeps on shifting from one place to another because of the fear of disclosure of the misconduct during the 'Patna' episode. All the employers who have given him a job, say to Marlow that Jim was a nice man. He was very sincere and fully devoted to his work. He was very diligent and untiring but they could not understand why he left the job without any information and explanation. The Schomberg, a bar-owner, says to Marlow that though Jim was a good man, he can not allow any fight in his bar. Jim had quarreled with a man who made a disparaging remark about the 'Patna' officers. Marlow feels upset to know about Jim's quarrel at the bar, but Jim apologizes to Marlow for losing his temper at that moment.

Stein's Remarks about Jim

      After listening to Marlow carefully, Stein comments on Jim: "A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. If he tries to climb out into the air... he drowns...No! I tell you! The way is to the destructive element submit yourself, and with the exertions of your hands and feet in the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up. So if you ask me-how to be?... In the destructive element immerse."

      What is Stein saying in this rather cryptic passage? He sees that since Jim is a born romantic, his true existence is in a dream world. That has betrayed Jim, or he has 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 or transform his dream into reality. 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, that Jim should go to Patusan, a white man alone among squabbling native factions, face its dangers and gamble on making his dream come true.

The Views of Doramin, Jewel and Cornelius on Jim

      Jim meets several men in Patusan when he arrives there for rehabilitation. Everybody has his own view about Jim. Doramin and his wife see him as a most powerful and energetic man. Doramin's wife loves Jim like her son. Rajah Allang perceives Jim as a strong and powerful menace to his reputation. Cornelius sees Jim as his enemy who has robbed him of his job and step-daughter. He thinks Jim a fool who can be easily hood-winked. Jewel loves Jim madly. She considers him a cheat, a fraud who has betrayed her and broken his promise to stay with her life long. It is true that she fails to understand Jim's mind. These views are reported to Stein after Jim's death.

Brown's view of Jim

      Brown tries to establish an understanding with Jim. He has the selfish motive of dislodging Jim from his place whenever he (Brown) would get the opportunity. But when he sees Jim, he does not find him of the same race. He vows to punish him motivated by the jealousy and frustration. When he was on his deathbed and Marlow comes to see him, he says that he would meet an easy death because he has fulfilled his desire to overthrow and ruin Jim.

Marlow's Views on Jim

      Marlow's views on Jim vary from time to time. When he first sees Jim in the court, he regarded him as "one of us". He finds him as a man of integrity and faith. But, he also says that Jim is an enigma to him, his personality is too mysterious to comprehend. In Patusan, Marlow views Jim as a man who has mastered his fate. Whatever are the variations we meet in Marlow's views of Jim, he is only after Stein who understands Jim better than anyone else.


      We see Jim as a man of romantic temperament who harbors very heroic aspirations and also dreams of achieving some heroic targets. His act of leaving 'Patna' was impulsive and stimulated by the sudden fear and panic. He was constantly haunted by guilt, disgrace and humiliation because he was most conscientious and sensitive who took everything to his heart. His life in Patusan was the life of his heroic dreams and his death was also something heroic and noble because, in a very unflinching manner, like a hero, he had embraced death. He was sincere and loyal in his love for Jewel, his love should not be judged by the views of Jewel. It was imstained and pure. He committed a blunder in judging Brown's character which caused his tragic end.

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