Theme of Isolation: in the Novel Lord Jim

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Conrad's Experience of Isolation

      Theme of isolation and quest for individual identity is one of the leading themes of this novel, Lord Jim. Conrad himself greatly suffered from isolation and the loss of individual identity. Right from the very beginning, he confronted isolation in his life. When he was just five years old, his parents were compelled by the Government to leave Poland and they shifted to Russia. He had found himself foreign amidst the Russian surroundings. Conrad was a Pole by birth and his family was kept under close examination of the Russian government. Conrad's mother had died during this exile and his father, who failed to live long, died some years later when they came back to Poland. Thus, Conrad became an orphan and was left under the care of his maternal uncle. Conrad could never overcome his sense of loneliness but he never let his patriotic feelings for Poland die in his heart. The exile and loss of parents had undoubtedly influenced his mind and soul. Conrad was feeling himself preoccupied with the urgent need of some kinship or fellowship. This, feeling could not cease to exist in his childhood but continued in the years of his maturity also. The two phases of his life-life at sea and life as an author-get tremendously influenced by the sense of isolation he had been facing. His sea-life extended from 1875 to 1894, and his long voyages on sea made him more isolated. A voyage to Congo caused a great blow to his health and, in 1894, he had to leave his life of a sailor He felt himself lonely in his career as a novelist also because, for a long time, he could not gain any recognition, name or fame. He lived in utter poverty until Chance came out and brought to him great popularity

Jim: An Isolated Figure

      Therefore, it should not surprise when we see Conrad's vision of man in the shape of someone outcast or a lonely sea-captain, or someone living in exile, feeling nostalgic or caught under the grind of some past incidents of his life etc. In the novel Lord Jim, the central figure, Jim, is a kind of fugitive, shifting from one place to another, pursued by the sense of disgrace and humiliation because of his one impulsive act of saving his life and leaving an old ship, 'Patna' at its malevolent fate. Jim was the last among the officers, to desert the ship. He very much wanted to save 'Patna' but finding no way to help it out, he finally deserted the ship in a state of fear and panic. After that, he was, all the time, haunted by a sense of guilt. His feeling was further aggravated when he attended the trial all alone. An inquiry was held because 'Patna' was incidentally rescued by the French lieutenant. Jim had miserably faced a sense of public disgrace during the trial. After the court's vetdict of the cancellation of the certificates of 'Patna' officers, Jim turned into that desperate condition that he began to contemplate suicide.

      Jim Haunted by the Sense of Isolation
Right from the very beginning, when Jim was appointed on 'Patna', he did not show any interest in talking to anybody or being intimate or informal to anybody: He was in the habit of harboring dreams about being a romantic hero facing various ordeals of sea-life. Thus he parted himself from others wrapped in his imagination. His sense of isolation was intensified by his impulsive act of deserting 'Patna' and further by the court's verdict. After that, he struggled a lot for the stability and rehabilitation. He had to shift from port to port, job to job, due to the stigma attached to his name. Marlow brought him close to himself and helped Jim a lot, for his livelihood.

Jim at Patusan

      Ultimately Jim was sent to Patusan at the proposal of Stein, Marlow’s most trustworthy German friend. Stein considered, him a romantic and offered him the post of manager on his trading station at Patusan, a remote country. Jim got very enthusiastic. When he arrived at Patusan, he had to cross several hurdles to reach Doramin whom he was sent to meet. Here, by his virtues, honesty, devotion and energy, he succeeded in establishing himself. He began to be adored, loved, respected and trusted by everybody in Patusan. But, being an egoist and romantic dreamer of heroic deeds, he remained an isolated figure. Even to his beloved, Jewel, and most intimate friend, he remained a mystery.

      He appears a most isolated figure when he resolved to surrender himself in front of Doramin against the advice of Tamb Itam to escape and Jewel's suggestion to fight. He found his dream world crumbling down and had nothing to fight for. All the Bugis community turned hostile to Jim when their chief's son, Dain Waris, was shot dead by Brown, the invader, whom Jim allowed to retreat harmlessly. Jim, in a very unflinching manner, surrendered himself in front of Doramin who shot him dead. Certainly Jim was successful in re-establishing himself and discovering his identity but, because of his mad aspiration to be a hero and strong sense of fidelity, he embraced death.

To Sum Up

      We find Jim, an isolated figure, throughout the novel. He is made isolated because of his romantic temperament and excessive sensibility.

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