Lord Jim: A Tale

Lord Jim: A Tale

Lord Jim: A Tale

Lord Jim: A Tale

Synopsis

First published in 1900, Lord Jim established Conrad as one of the great storytellers of the twentieth century. Set in the Malay Archipelago, the novel not only provides a gripping account of maritime adventure and romance, but also an exotic tale of the East. Its themes also challenge the conventions of nineteenth-century adventure fiction, confirming Conrad's place in literature as one of the first 'modernists' of English letters.

Excerpt

Lord Jim is both a psychological novel and a story of imperial adventure. It is the story of a young Englishman known only by his first name--'Jim'--who disgraces himself as a sailor in the merchant navy but later compensates for his disgrace by becoming the effective benevolent ruler of a Malay community. Jim is an officer on a British merchant ship, is injured and hospitalized in an unnamed eastern port--Singapore--and on his recovery becomes first officer of a native-owned ship, the Patna, under a detestable 'New South Wales German' skipper. The Patna, carrying 800 Muslim pilgrims from Singapore to Jeddah, strikes something--probably a partially submerged floating wreck, the 'wandering corpse' of a ship--is badly holed, leaks and lists dangerously. Jim and the four other white men of the crew--the German skipper and three engineers--are convinced that the ship is about to sink and that there is no hope of saving the lives of the sleeping Muslim passengers. One of the engineers dies of a heart attack brought on by fright; the other three white men desert the ship by boarding a life-boat and Jim, almost involuntarily, jumps from the Patna and joins them. The Patna does not sink but is towed to Aden by a French gun-boat with the pilgrims still aboard. Jim and the others are picked up and taken back to Singapore.

The narrator, Marlow, takes up the story in Chapter 5, where he has his first sight of Jim when he attends the Official Inquiry into the desertion of the Patna. Jim is the only officer to give evidence at the inquiry; the skipper has fled and the two surviving engineers are in hospital. Marlow himself is a middle-aged merchant seaman, a seasoned, good-natured, mature man who is immediately attracted by Jim's appearance. Jim seems to be a gentleman, upright, good- looking, 'one of us' (a phrase Marlow often uses of Jim; its sense is clarified by its context at the end of Chapter 22, especially), a man who looks as though he should be loyal to the 'solidarity of the craft' of merchant seamen (Chapter II), and yet has clearly betrayed that solidarity. After Jim has been sentenced to lose his certificate of seamanship--which means the loss of his livelihood, since he is penniless and has no training other than that of an officer of the . . .

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