Two Opposites of Good & Evil in the Novel Lord Jim

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Justify the following remark with reference to Lord Jim: "Conrad's characters are always divided selves, fighting within themselves - a fight between appearance and reality; between the face and its mask, between the soul and its shadows. The fight is to get rid of loneliness, the spiritual isolation that a man is put to. The fight is to get happiness, real freedom."


      First, it must be made clear What is a divided self? When a person finds himself miserable or tattered between two equally powerful opposite poles, he is said to possess a divided self. It is very hard to find anybody who does not have divided self in this world which is made of both good and evil, true and false, cruelty and compassion, noble and ignoble, humble and arrogant, so on and so forth. Very few people are absolutely good or bad, kind or cruel, peaceful or militant. Instead, most of the men put on a mask or beautifully guise themselves to pose as what they are not. The divided self and undivided self can be compared to Conrad's references to soul and shadow, which is clearly manifested in most of the characters of his novels. According to Conrad, a person who does not keep on changing rapidly; in other words, who is invariable in his moral sense or spiritual outlook, is best called undivided self.

Spiritual Camaraderie

      Conrad has laid much emphasis upon the fight between appearance & reality, facts & masks, soul & shadow, in other words, between two opposite poles, in a divided self. He further says that his fight is in order to be free from loneliness or spiritual isolation that inflicts almost everybody. This problem of spiritual isolation is perhaps an obsession with Conrad. It is not sure to happen with everybody that he will suffer from spiritual isolation. Several people do not even know about spiritual camaraderie and several others do not believe in such kind of companionships. They believe that we are made of flesh and blood and thus, can only feel or enjoy bodily impulses or material things like progress in science, industries, wealth, name and fame, dominance etc. In the modern age, very few people think about spiritualism, spiritual exaltation, spiritual elevation or spiritual comradeship. Frankly speaking, those people who fail in the field of material existence or who fail to fulfill their materialistic ambitions and longings, mostly are heard to suffer from spiritual isolation.

Jim: A "Divided Self"?

      Here we should know what is Conrad's definition of real happiness or freedom. Conrad seems to be an Orientalist in his opinions and ideas about men and things, and this is the reason why, in most of his novels, he talks about spiritual isolation, spiritual freedom or spiritual exaltation. Now the question is, do we ever find Jim suffering from spiritual isolation? After the 'Patna' collision and Jim's act of jumping in order to save his own life, he must have felt that, now, he is cut off from the material world and from his relatives, friends and companions, and that now he could never fulfill his material ambitions because of the stigma attached to his name and especially after his certificates were revoked, according to the court's verdict. Jim is, of course, a man of romance, adventures, extremely sensible but this does not lead us to understand that he is like a spiritualist or a 'divided self'. Jim might be tormented between imagination and reality, between sky touching ambition and frustration, but he is not divided between appearance and reality; soul and shadow. He never fights to come out of spiritual isolation. He struggles to rehabilitate himself in his physical world, re-establish his companionship with his mates. We do not find him anywhere to be confused between reality and appearance. In other words, as a matter of fact, there is no such thing like real or unreal freedom or real or unreal happiness for him.


      What Conrad meant by real happiness and freedom is not the happiness or freedom from the material pleasure. Jim, surely like us, wanted to enjoy both spiritual and physical pleasure or freedom. He is the character very much life-like. He possesses the same thoughts and feelings as we, human beings, feel.

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