Stein: Character Analysis in the Novel Lord Jim

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Stein: A German Merchant and Amateur Naturalist

      Stein, a German, was born in Bavaria, and at the age of twenty-two, actively participated in the revolutionary movement of 1848, aimed to overthrow all monarchies in the continent. When Stein found his life in danger, he fled from there and escaped into foreign countries. He came to Italy and, for a time, worked, with a watch-maker. Then he traveled to Africa. In the course of his wanderings, he met a famous Dutch explorer who was a naturalist, interested in collecting beetles and butterflies. After staying with him for four years, he came back to Europe. He started working with an old Scotch trader and became his successor after his death. He got married to a native chieftain, Mohammed Bonso's sister and had a daughter by her But his wife and daughter had died because of some fever and Stein was looking after his business. Collecting butterflies and beetles was his hobby and his collection was considered unique and finest in the world.

      When we first come across this character, we find him very rich, prosperous, having trading posts in many parts of Malaysia. Marlow went to visit Stein because he considered him most trustworthy among his friends and capable of giving wise advice in case of Jim, who had failed to establish himself at one place and kept on shifting from one to another, because of the stigma attached to his name. Stein hailed Marlow with great zeal. He was the most influential trader and gained international recognition because of his vast variety of butterflies and beetles.

Stein's View of Man

      Stein was a man of great intellect and wisdom. During their conversation, when Marlow asked Stein about the place of man in nature, he replied that though man was a wonderful creature yet not a masterpiece. He further continued that man had come over to the place where he was not wanted. He (man) ran here and there with great boast and pretension. To sum up, what Stein meant to say was that man is an insignificant creature in this vast world but he has over-estimated himself and formed too high an opinion about his own self.

Stein's Remark About Jim, a 'Romantic'

      Stein patiently listened to Marlow's account of Jim and said: "I understand very well. He is a romantic." Then, he goes on to analyze the difficulties of such a nature:

"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 him, 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 his real nature, can’t live his dream. 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 go to Patusan, a white man, alone, among squabbling native factions, face its dangers arid gamble on making his dream come true. He succeeds. Two years later, Marlow visits him there, hears of his many fighting adventures, of his final peace-making, and his building of a model community. His original act of cowardice had been the betrayal of a trust toward the human community of the pilgrims. Now it is the human community which is the core of his new life.

      Thus, this was Stein's remedy for Jim's malady.

Stein was Kind-Hearted and Sympathetic

      Stein was wise and far-sighted as well as his heart was full of the milk of human kindness. It was his sympathetic attitude to Jewel's mother that he provided her a home and, later on, gave shelter to Jewel, accompanied by Iamb Itam. Stein looked after her as a father and was deeply distressed at his vain attempts to console Jewel's grief ridden heart and make her understand Jim. Marlow, himself had seen their cordial relationship when they walked together in the garden: "Her little hand rested on his forearm, and the broad, flat rim of his Panama hat, he bent over her, grey-haired, paternal, with compassionate and chivalrous difference." Stein was deeply hurt to find his plan concluding in such a distressing manner. Jim's death and Jewel's failure to understand Jim hurt Stein. Jewel, staying in his house, was a perpetual reminder of the defeat of his plan. Marlow's words were full of pathos when he said, "Stein has aged greatly of late. He feels it himself, and says often that he is 'preparing to leave all this...' while he waves his hand sadly at his butterflies."

Stein's Significant Role in the Novel

      Stein, a romantic as well as a realist, stands firmly at the center of the novel, both thematically and technically. He plays a pivotal part in Jim's life, for, it is with the help of Stein that Jim rehabilitated in Patusan and succeeded in making his dream come true.

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