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Lord Jim
Joseph Conrad

THE STORY, continued


You now get a vivid picture of the way Cornelius abuses Jewel- screaming at her, calling her and her mother names, flinging dirt at her, and demanding almost in the same breath that she respect him and call him "father." But she has too much spirit to suffer meekly. She knows how to turn on Cornelius and make him "writhe" with a word or two.

Cornelius' behavior is so disgusting that Jim would like to leave. He'd be safer in Doramin's quarter, anyway. Besides, his original reason for moving in- business responsibilities to Stein- has disappeared. Cornelius has already embezzled whatever he could get his hands on. There are no more goods or money, no account books, and thus no reason to stay- no reason, that is, except Jewel. Leaving her, Marlow notes, would seem like a "base desertion"- a phrase that intentionally recalls what happened on the Patna.

One night Cornelius offers to smuggle Jim out of Patusan for $80. (Since Jim has no intention of leaving and Cornelius is so eager to get rid of him, wouldn't it make more sense for Cornelius to do the paying?) When Jim refuses, Cornelius declares that he can no longer be responsible for Jim- as if he ever had been. His warning is absurd on the surface, but it suggests that Cornelius knows something Jim doesn't. A bizarre night follows. Nobody sleeps. Jim lies awake hatching his plan for defeating Sherif Ali. Jewel stands watch outside. Cornelius sneaks around suspiciously, and there seem to be some others around, too- assassins, perhaps. Jim is feeling so edgy that finally he loses his temper completely and gives Cornelius the bawling-out of his life.

NOTE: The hints that there are assassins nearby will be reinforced in the next chapter. The native Malays are scared to death of Jim, so the spectacle of him screaming in a strange language (English) probably does much to impress them, and to protect Jim.


The next morning Jim urges Doramin and his men to take action against Sherif Ali. The Bugis are worried because Sherif Ali is allying himself with the Rajah Allang. His men have been encouraging villagers to kill the Muslim strangers, Doramin's followers.

Even though the second half of Lord Jim is more straightforward in technique than the first half, the time scheme remains complex and events do not always follow in chronological order. The events that Marlow is speaking about now happened earlier in time than the defeat of Sherif Ali (Chapters Twenty-six and Twenty-seven).

That night Jewel wakes Jim urgently, claiming there are killers lying in wait for him. At first, Jim is annoyed. He's had so many death threats recently that he's begun disregarding them.

When Jim tells Marlow that at this point he wasn't acting like himself, Marlow contradicts him, "Oh yes. You were though." The reply is significant. He means that the true Jim doesn't fear for his life- suggesting, in turn, that the cowardly Jim of the Patna wasn't the real Jim. It's not direct, but it's as close as Marlow comes to dismissing Jim's transgression out-and-out.

As Jewel warns Jim, he realizes how deeply he loves her. Cornelius, meanwhile, is skulking about, or seems to be. Jim asks who's to give the signal to attack him, and Jewel doesn't answer- but Cornelius is definitely implicated.

Jewel finally takes Jim to the storehouse, where the killers are hiding under mats. They turn out to be Sherif Ali's men, not the Rajah's. One of them rushes him with a kriss (dagger), and Jim easily shoots him. The other three quickly come out of hiding and surrender.


That night, Jewel and Jim declare their love.

Like Jim, Jewel is dressed in white, bathed in light- details that imply her superiority to the darkness, the corruption around her. She seems to glide "without touching the earth," and in the last image in the chapter, when she raises her arms, her sleeves billow "like unfolding wings." She could almost be a butterfly (see the note in Chapter Twenty), or an angel.

Marlow now shifts the scene to a conversation he and Jim have on Marlow's last day in Patusan. You learn from it that Jim has not forgotten, and can never forget, the Patna. He's loved and he's trusted and he's revered, but there will always be self-doubt at the back of his mind. And Marlow, for all his warmth and admiration, ultimately can't give Jim the reassurance he would like. When Jim says that Marlow wouldn't trust Jim as one of his ship's officers, Marlow begs for him to stop torturing himself. But Marlow can't bring himself to say, "You're wrong. I would trust you." Jim understands- perhaps he agrees- but there's a current of pain in his words. Would you trust Jim?

As they speak, Marlow notices "the gradual darkening of the river, of the air" as night falls. Conrad calls attention to his impression in a way that signals symbolic intent. Darkness has been associated, generally, with the corrupt, the deceitful, the bad. The image is pessimistic- counteracting the optimism that Marlow expressed (obliquely) in Chapter Thirty-one. By now it should be clear that he can't reach a final judgment, positive or negative, about Jim.

Jim leaves, and Jewel finds Marlow. As they talk, it becomes apparent that she's afraid Jim will leave Patusan, as the whites who visit the village always seem to do.


Jewel's interview with Marlow is mostly about whether Jim will stay in Patusan. He has sworn he'll never leave, but she still doubts him. Part of her mistrust stems from her mother's experience with her father: He had promised not to abandon her and betrayed his promise. Jewel describes her mother's death, with Cornelius beating on the door demanding "Let me in!" as her mother wept on her deathbed.

The description horrifies Marlow. For a moment, he says, "I had a view of a world that seemed to wear a vast and dismal aspect of disorder." His words recall the passage, in Chapter Five, about how ghastly it is to lose your confidence in the "fixed standard of conduct." The world seems suddenly askew, and utterly amoral. Morality takes on the aspect of a sham constructed for our convenience. Marlow isn't very reassuring; he says he snapped out of his vision for one reason: "One must- don't you know?" His argument for believing in the fixed standard was similarly practical, and dodged the issue of whether that standard is based on truth. If you lose your belief in it, he said, you can't survive.

Jewel knows there's something in Jim's past that's stronger than his love. She senses his obsessive guilt, but she doesn't seem to know the details of the Patna incident. Marlow tries to calm her fears, because he knows that Jim's guilt will, if anything, keep him in Patusan. But he's faced with the delicate task of reassuring her in a way that won't belittle Jim. As she demands whether Jim isn't more true," "more brave" than other men, Marlow has to dodge her questions. For example, he says, "Fear will never drive him away from you."

To still Jewel's fears, Marlow says, would require a "poisoned shaft dipped in a lie too subtle to be found on earth." There's a distinct pessimism in this image of a lie, because it grants that Jewel's fear has some truth at the bottom of it. Jewel senses that Jim's guilt is dangerous because it's stronger than his love, and Marlow, though he can't yet say why, senses that she's right.

Finally, the difficulty of reassuring Jewel drives Marlow to harshness. He says Jim will stay because nobody else wants him, and when she presses him for the reason, he tells her brutally, "Because he is not good enough." Jewel replies that Jim said the same thing- but, she snaps, it's a lie.

Marlow's statement might be just another of his mood swings (one moment approving Jim, condemning him the next), except that this time he adds a sentence that radically changes his meaning: "Nobody, nobody is good enough." This suggests that the "fixed standard of conduct" (Chapter Five), necessary though it may be, is so artificial and inflexible that any one of us may run up against it at some time or other. Marlow doesn't expand on this intriguing statement (perhaps because the implications are too disturbing), but the idea seems to be that we shouldn't judge Jim too harshly because each one of us is capable, under the right circumstances, of jumping off a Patna. Jim had made this argument, rather feebly, when he told Marlow (Chapters Seven and Eight) that no one had a right to judge him because no one had been put to the test as he had. Marlow had resisted that argument on the grounds that it would weaken the "fixed standard of conduct" to the point of collapse. His attitude here is altogether more lenient- but, as usual, it's not his last word on Jim.


Continuing the theme of the last chapter, Marlow pauses for some gloomy, even cynical, reflections. He quotes, sarcastically, the Latin of the Vulgate Bible: "Great is truth, and mighty above all things." Truth doesn't prevail; neither does justice. What rules in this arbitrary world is Fortune. Fortune is with Jim now, and he's almost satisfied- which is more than most people can claim.

By the time Marlow and Jewel have finished their talk, night has fallen. The night-imagery suggests gloom, illusion. Jim finds them, and although he and Jewel greet each other with their usual affection, the greeting sounds "like a moan" to Marlow. He finds it "too confoundedly awful." The moon-over-Patusan image (see the Notes in Chapters Twenty- one and Twenty-four) assumes its most negative aspect, turning the world into the semblance of a large grave. Its light casts doubt on everything Jim has accomplished in Patusan: "Nothing on earth seemed less real than his plans, his energy, and his enthusiasm...." In this context, Marlow's reflections about Jim's being "almost" satisfied seem particularly ominous. What keeps Jim from being quite satisfied is his lingering guilt about the Patna. All this emphasis hints that it still has a dangerous power over him.

Marlow is now waylaid by Cornelius, whom he's avoided the entire month he's been in Patusan. Cornelius wants Marlow to talk Jim into paying him for Jewel. He promises Marlow that he'll also take her back when Jim leaves Patusan. When Marlow assures him that Jim won't leave, Cornelius is infuriated- he hates Jim.

Amid his curses, Cornelius makes one shrewd observation about Jim: "He's no more than a little child here." Marlow himself constantly plays up the boyish side of his young friend. Jim is as impulsive and inarticulate and brash- and, on some level, as innocent- as a child. And as Marlow likes to point out, Jim has retained the illusions that most of us (including Marlow) shed when we grow up.


Jim accompanies Marlow down the river as he departs. It's a melancholy scene, both men silent and thoughtful. When they reach the ocean, Marlow feels an "elation of freedom" at the view. Poor Jim, who knows he can never go back, is more subdued. A couple of Malays approach and start complaining to Jim about some misdeed of the rajah's, and Marlow watches him again playing peacemaker and Solomon. They talk of the way Jim has captured his opportunity, but there's a sadness, a hesitancy, in Jim's conversation. Happy as he is in Patusan, thoughts of the wide world, and especially of home, make him gloomy.

In Marlow's last view of him, Jim is dressed from head to toe in white. As the sun sets and the beach darkens and Marlow's boat moves farther and farther away, Jim is eventually just "a tiny white speck, that seemed to catch all the light left in a darkened world." Even associating Jim with all the positive aspects of white and light, he's nevertheless surrounded by darkness. For Marlow he's a "white figure... at the heart of a vast enigma"- a puzzle Marlow can't ever solve. Originally that puzzle was the mystery of Jim's behavior, but it's grown over the course of the novel until now it's the whole "darkened world" itself. The "vast enigma" Marlow faces is, ultimately, the cosmos: is it chaotic, amoral, and "dark," or morally ordered and "light"?

With this chapter, Marlow's after-dinner talk comes to an end. He's talked for a total of thirty-one chapters, a length some early reviewers attacked as unbelievable. (One of them estimated that he drones on for eleven hours.) Conrad defended the credibility of his device (not very successfully) in the "Author's Note" he added in 1917. Today most readers regard the debate as irrelevant. We've grown used to far less realistic novels, and suspending disbelief about the endurance of after-dinner guests isn't a problem.


The final stretch of the novel begins with a new, nameless character, who was one of the after-dinner guests the night Marlow told Jim's story. This "privileged man" receives a packet containing what Marlow has learned about Jim since that night.

The "privileged man" criticizes Jim's retreat to Patusan, arguing that you can bring progress to backward places only by representing your civilization, not running away from it. (His position is couched in the racist terms of British Imperialism, which you will probably find offensive.) Marlow counters that Jim's egoism, his concentration on himself, makes him a special case. Earlier (Chapter Sixteen) Marlow had criticized Jim for paying more attention to his reputation than to his guilt. So his egoism, his concern with his guilt, now meets with measured approval. But as usual, Marlow refuses to draw any final conclusions: "I affirm nothing."

There are four items in Marlow's packet. First, an explanatory letter, which makes up most of this chapter and the next. Second, Marlow's narrative, which will form the remainder of the novel. Third, a few tantalizing words in Jim's handwriting: "An awful thing has happened. I must now at once...." Fourth, an old letter from Jim's parson father, written before his son signed on with the Patna.

Though Conrad gets some poignant effects out of this letter, he has two deeper moral purposes in quoting it. First, he contrasts the "easy morality" of the letter with the incredible complexity of Jim's situation. Once again the moral seems to be that those who haven't been tested have little right to judge. The air of nostalgia for home further increases sympathy for Jim.

The second, larger moral purpose is to contrast the nearsightedness of a certain religious outlook with the complexity of Marlow's (and Conrad's) agnosticism. Jim's family lives a life of "easy morality" and "undisturbed rectitude" because their morality has never been tested, their rectitude has never been disturbed. Belief is easy, Conrad seems to be saying, when you're not given any reason to doubt the moral order of things. Marlow's own doubts about the fixed standard, his fear that the cosmos may be ultimately amoral, obviously don't attest to a firm religious faith.


Marlow turns his attention to a certain "Gentleman" Brown. He doesn't say much about him- only enough for you to gather that "Gentleman" is an inappropriate name for this villain.

In order for Marlow to have all the information he needs to finish Jim's story, Conrad has to have him speak to Gentleman Brown, who sets the catastrophe in motion. So he has Marlow locate him in Bangkok, dying and eager to talk. Do you think Conrad makes this coincidence as convincing as he made, for example, Marlow's running into the French lieutenant (Chapters Twelve and Thirteen)? Do you find Conrad somewhat clumsy in bringing a major character into the story at this late stage?

Marlow next tells about visiting Stein, eight months before his meeting with Brown. On arriving, he's surprised to encounter Tamb' Itam and another of the Patusan Malays, as well as Jewel. He soon perceives that some kind of disaster has occurred. Maddeningly, nobody will explain what happened- Conrad is still playing his game of tantalizing the reader. Jewel claims Jim has deserted her, and she refuses to forgive him. But when she accuses him of being false, both Stein and Marlow jump to his defense.


We now move to the second item in the packet, the long narrative Marlow enclosed. Gentleman Brown, it begins, is one of the most savage pirates of the day. (His name comes from his supposedly being the son of a baronet.) He has no fear of death, though he's terrified of prison. But after 20 years as a pirate, he's down on his luck- until he and his men manage to steal a Spanish schooner. But even that success creates problems. A corrupt government official blackmails Brown out of his only money, a bag of silver dollars, and allows all the sails to be taken from the ship, rendering it more or less useless. So Brown and his men are forced to steal a second schooner. But this time they have to operate so quickly that they escape with too little food and water.

Brown then comes up with the idea of raiding Patusan. He knows little about the village, but it looks defenseless enough on a map. If all goes well he can extort food out of the villagers and even frighten them into giving him money. He leaves the schooner with two of his men at the mouth of the Patusan River, and the other 14 pack into the schooner's long-boat and sail to the village, assuming they'll have an easy time subduing the populace. But they've been spotted. To their astonishment, when they arrive the villagers open fire on them. An indecisive battle follows. Two of Brown's men are wounded, and the Rajah's boats cut off their retreat; but Brown and his men manage to entrench themselves on a hill overlooking the Rajah's stockade.


As bad luck would have it, Jim is in the interior when the pirates invade Patusan. In his absence, the villagers, close to panic, call a meeting. Jewel urges strong and immediate action to wipe out the invaders. Dain Waris shares her opinion, but he refuses to speak up in the presence of his father, Doramin. And Doramin, the most influential man present, won't give the order to fight.

In choosing this overly cautious course, Doramin is acting purely out of self-interest. Knowing how brave Dain Waris is, he fears his son might be injured or killed attacking the invaders. So he orders him to take an armed party and blockade the river about ten miles downstream. This is, as it turns out, a tremendous mistake. Brown and his men are virtually defenseless at this point. They could easily be defeated. Doramin's conniving will boomerang on him, and lead to a disaster he'll ultimately refuse to accept responsibility for.

Meanwhile, the Rajah is doing his own conniving, through his diplomatic representative, Kassim. The Rajah and Kassim hate Doramin and his Bugis followers, and they hate Doramin's friend Jim. Their idea is to ally themselves with Brown and rout the Bugis before Jim's return. (Later on, according to their plan, they can overpower Brown.) So Kassim takes Cornelius (who, of course, also hates Jim) as an interpreter, and approaches Brown for negotiations.

Brown is overjoyed, though he's careful not to show it. His position had been all but hopeless; now, suddenly, it's extremely promising. By allying himself with the Rajah, he may be able to squeeze more wealth out of Patusan than he had ever envisioned. He begins by getting a supply of provisions for his starving men.

Cornelius' main concern is having Brown kill Jim the first chance he gets. But Brown is more interested in double-dealing with Kassim. The rumor has spread that Brown's ship, at the mouth of the Patusan River, is loaded with guns and fighters. (Actually, there are only two weary men on board.) Kassim urges Brown to order the ship upstream for battle, failing to mention the blockade that Dain Waris is setting up. Brown, for his part, pretends to send for it. The deceitful Kassim and the cunning Brown are pretty evenly matched.


Trapped on his hill, the bloodthirsty Brown is itching to kill for the pleasure of it. "The lust of battle was upon him." He's the opposite of Jim, whose joy is in the peace he's brought Patusan. Trying to picture Jim, Brown can only imagine a scoundrel like himself, robbing the village little by little. He decides to team up with him so they can rob at a faster rate. After that, he'll shoot him.

To petrify the villagers even more, Brown has one of his men shoot a Bugis who thinks he's at a safe distance from the camp. Brown knows that he and his men are outnumbered two hundred to one, and their only chance is to scare the daylights out of the villagers.

It looks as if the order Jim has established in Patusan is about to collapse in bloodshed. Kassim is proceeding with his double-dealing, having dispatched a message to Dain Waris that the white men's ship is on its way up the river. His plan is to weaken the Bugis by fighting. (He doesn't know Brown is deceiving him and there's no ship coming.)

Once night falls, Brown starts worrying again: Rationally considered, his chances really aren't very good. One of his men heads down to the boat for some tobacco, and is surprised by three shots in the stomach. The marksman turns out to be a relative of the Bugis who was shot earlier. Doramin has sent him down to deliver a message to Brown: There can be no peace between the Bugis and the invaders on the hill. He's just reached the river when he's startled to see the white man clambering out of the boat. So he takes advantage of the opportunity to avenge his kinsman, and turns himself into a local hero. Brown's man is wounded but not killed, and he moans horribly all night- until he's drowned by the morning tide.

Finally they hear a great clamor in the town, and Cornelius, who has attached himself to them, explains: Jim is back. The noise is a noise of celebration. Eager to deal with Jim, Brown wants to know how he can reach him. Cornelius assures him there's no need; Jim will come to Brown, because he's "not afraid of anything." (Recall the Patna and you'll perceive the irony of his words.) He urges Brown to shoot Jim as soon as he shows himself.


Brown and Cornelius spot Jim, who's dressed, as usual, in white. (Notice how Conrad emphasizes the symbolic color contrast between the "immaculate" Jim and the "sun-blackened" Brown.) When at last the two come face-to-face, their antagonism is immediate. Brown recognizes that Jim isn't the kind of man who would team up with him, and his crushed expectations make him all the more bitter.

Nevertheless, Brown must deal with Jim, and he does it cleverly. He admits that he and his men are trapped like rats. But, he adds threateningly, "even a trapped rat can give a bite." His men can still inflict some heavy damage on the village. "Not if you don't go near the trap," Jim replies, "till the rat is dead." Brown's men are surrounded, and the villagers can simply let them starve.

Jim, it would seem, has all the advantages. But Brown is an instinctive psychologist; he manages, almost unconsciously, to locate Jim's weak spot and then go for it. When Jim asks him what made him come to Patusan, Brown snaps, "Hunger. And what made you?"- an answer that causes Jim to start and blush. Brown assumes that everybody's as depraved as he is (that's how he pictured Jim in Chapter Forty), so naturally he figures that any European in remote Patusan must be running from a shady past.

"I am not a coward," Brown insists. "Don't you be one." He's arguing (dubiously) that Jim would be cowardly to let his men starve, but once again he's touching a sore spot. (Later he tells Marlow with some pride, "I knew what to say.") When Jim retorts that Brown doesn't deserve a better fate, Brown turns the judgment around: "And what do you deserve," he shouts. "And what did you come for?" Lamenting that he and his men are all in the same boat, Brown declares that he's "not the sort to jump out of trouble" and leave them in the lurch. Quite accidentally, he's hit on the perfect figure of speech to freeze Jim: the image of a man jumping out of a boat.

Brown's strategy is working. Jim has started to feel less sure of his superiority. Curious now to compare their pasts, he asks what crimes Brown has committed. Brown avoids specifics, which would quickly reveal how much more malicious than Jim's his misdeeds have been. But he does make an effective admission, "I am here because I was afraid once in my life." Afraid of prison, he means, but again he's touched on the very reason Jim is in Patusan.

No wonder Jim is inclined toward leniency. Do not "judge men harshly or hastily," his father's letter said (Chapter Thirty-six). Jim felt, during the Patna inquiry, that his judges were too harsh and too hasty, and for the same reason: because he was afraid once in his life.

Brown tells Jim accusingly, "you talk as if you were one of those people that should have wings so as to go about without touching the dirty earth." His jibe explicitly recalls Stein's image, in Chapter Twenty, of the "magnificent butterfly" on its "little heap of dirt." But it also captures Jim's limitations. He doesn't have wings, he can't live the perfectly spotless life, above the "dirt" of compromising facts. But he can still excel. As Stein observed (Chapter Twenty): "Man is amazing, but he is not a masterpiece." For all the flaws that keep him from being a masterpiece, Jim is still amazing.

Marlow closes the chapter with a reminiscence of Brown on his deathbed. Even relishing his triumph over Jim, the dying Brown is fairly pathetic. Marlow recalls a story he heard about Brown weeping over the corpse of a woman he'd run away with. These views show the human, vulnerable side of Brown, but even at his most vulnerable he's still disgusting- a beetle to Jim's butterfly.


Brown's conversation with Jim continues, Brown demonstrating his "satanic gift of finding out the best and the weakest spot" in his opponent. Brown tries to excuse his crew as suffering men down on their luck. He lies (not very convincingly) that they came to Patusan in order to beg, not to plunder. Throughout, he keeps pressing "a sickening suggestion of common guilt" as he tries to convince Jim that they're somehow alike. Yes, there have been casualties in the village, but doesn't Jim understand that when it "came to saving one's life in the dark, one didn't care who else went- three, thirty, three hundred people"? Jim, of course, remembers the 800 pilgrims aboard the Patna. Faced with such awful reminders of his guilt, the ordinarily all-white Jim looks "black as thunder."

Brown is such an expert at manipulating others that he even manages to set the terms for his departure. He absolutely refuses to surrender his men's weapons. Jim, cowed, accepts his refusal, and leaves him promising either "a clear road" out of Patusan, "or else a clear fight"- no starving them out. It's just what Brown had hoped for.

Once Jim leaves, Cornelius appears to scold Brown for failing to shoot him. He's helpless, though, to do anything more than complain. When Cornelius finally leaves his "new friends" he is sulking with disappointment.

Jim goes directly to confer with Doramin. What they say isn't reported, but Jim apparently gets the old man's approval for the course he's formulated. Tamb' Itam is hoping he'll decide to fight. "What was it but the taking of another hill?" he asked Marlow later, referring to Jim's triumph over Sherif Ali. But other villagers, fearing bloodshed, just want to see the white invaders leave.

Jim calls a meeting to present his plan. He's decided that the invaders should be allowed to leave in peace. For the first time since he's risen to his position as leader, Jim faces severe opposition. But he's arguing the course that he thinks is best for the village- the only course that will prevent casualties. Jim reminds the assembled people of the courage he's shown, and of his love for them. And he makes the same promise he had made before the assault on Sherif Ali: "He was ready to answer with his life for any harm that should come to them if the white men with beards were allowed to retire.

Readers strongly disagree about Jim's decision to let Brown leave. The way you evaluate Jim's motives here will be crucial to how you interpret the novel overall. Is Jim's behavior at this juncture related, somehow, to his behavior on the Patna? Or is he acting differently now?

There are, generally speaking, two schools of interpretation. One school condemns Jim for not taking more vigorous action, pointing to the way he was similarly immobilized on the fateful night when the Patna was damaged. Faced with a sudden crisis then, you may recall, different plans of action occurred to him, but he failed to carry out any of them. Various pieces of evidence support this view. The similarity between the names Patna and "Patusan" suggests that the second part of Jim's adult life is in some sense a repeat of the first part. The ease with which Brown convinces Jim of their common guilt doesn't speak well of Jim, either. Nor does the extent to which Jim accepts Brown's sentimental self- justification: "They were erring men whom suffering had made blind to right and wrong." And then there are the foreboding words at the end of Chapter Seventeen: "A clean slate, did he say? As if the initial word of each our destiny were not graven in imperishable characters upon the face of a rock!" (See the Note to that chapter.) These words imply a fatalism of character: we are who we are, and we can't stop being who we are. If Jim jumped off the Patna once, they seem to say, then he'll keep repeating that mistake, in some form or other, as long as he lives.

The other school takes a more lenient view of Jim. True, he may be foolish to trust Brown at all. But there are excellent reasons for letting Brown go without a fight. The invaders have already inflicted several casualties on the village; a battle would inevitably lead to many more. At least they've been prevented from plundering, and there's scant danger they'll return. Jim has already demonstrated his general willingness to forgive, as well as his distaste for bloodshed. When Sherif Ali sent four assassins to kill him, Jim released three of them unharmed (Chapter Thirty-two). He shot the fourth (Chapter Thirty- one) only because the man was rushing at him with a dagger. Jim's first thought is for the people's well- being; he's willing to put their safety above punishing the invaders, which a strict rendering of justice might call for.

Conrad remains carefully neutral, presenting the facts via Marlow, but stopping short of any final judgment. That he leaves to you.


The villagers are thunderstruck by Jim's decision. Many of them, clearly, want to fight. But, one by one, they assent to his judgment. When, somewhat later, he has a few minutes alone with Jewel, she asks him how bad Brown's men really are. Jim's reply shows either how naive he still is, or how far Brown has duped him into sharing his guilt: "Men act badly sometimes without being much worse than others." The statement may be true of Jim, but Brown and his crew really are "much worse than others."

The village prepares for the invaders' departure. The Rajah flees; Jim's men temporarily take over his stockade. Kassim, having been embarrassed in his diplomacy, does what he can to ingratiate himself and make amends with the villagers. Jim spends a sleepless night, while the faithful Tamb' Itam keeps an eye on him.

Finally Jim sends Tamb' Itam off on a mission. He's to find Dain Waris and his men, who are still downstream guarding the river, and instruct them to let the white invaders pass. Because the message is such an important one, Tamb' Itam asks for a token to verify that it comes from Jim. (Actually, since Tamb' Itam is so well-known, the token is mainly a formality.) Jim gives him Stein's silver ring, the ring that was originally a gift to Stein from Doramin.

In the invaders' camp, the men are preparing to leave. Brown has received a note from Jim, via Cornelius, promising him a clear road out. Cornelius has decided to stay around to goad Brown for not killing Jim. Brown is already furious enough at losing his plunder. But Cornelius hasn't given up some hope of causing mischief. He tells Brown about Dain Waris and his crew, camped down-river, and reminds him that it was Dain Waris who led the initial, humiliating attack on the invaders. He also tells him about an alternate river route that would take them behind Dain Waris' camp.

Finally Brown takes the bait and lets Cornelius lead them to the back route. (Cornelius' familiarity with the river is particularly useful in the dense morning fog that's settled over Patusan.) As they pass the stockade Jim calls out, with remarkable good-nature, that if they're willing to wait for a day he'll send down food. Jim really is an innocent; he has no inkling of the depths of malice in a man like Brown.


Tamb' Itam arrives at Dain Waris' camp and delivers Jim's message, handing over the ring as he does so. Dain Waris toys with the ring and slips it on as he listens to the report. Then he dismisses Tamb' Itam to get food and rest, The men at the camp prepare to return to the village that afternoon.

Cornelius, meanwhile, has led Brown's long-boat into the river channel in back of the camp. Brown promises his men revenge, and they disembark with loaded guns, hiding themselves at the edge of the forest in full view of the Bugis encampment. At a signal from Brown, they fire. A number of Dain Waris' men are hit. Tamb' Itam, realizing at once what's happened, falls to the ground, feigning death. But Dain Waris rushes to the open-shore- just in time to get a bullet in the forehead on the second volley. One more volley and Brown's crew flees, leaving the Bugis camp in total panic.

But Cornelius has been stranded at the camp. He'd talked Brown into bringing a canoe for his escape, but in the rush to get away Brown's men have forgotten to untie it. Cornelius, panicked himself, tries to escape in one of the Bugis canoes. But Tamb' Itam spots him and quickly comprehends his role in the massacre. He stabs the old villain to death before speeding back to the village with the terrible news.

(See the Note in Chapter Thirty-three.) Conrad has depicted a senseless, cold-blooded massacre; the killers have escaped punishment at the hands of the villagers. Twice before (in Chapters Five and Thirty-three) Marlow has confronted the vision of a cosmos that is morally askew. But Conrad is unwilling to let that vision stand as his final pronouncement. He retains some faith, however measured and tentative, in a moral order. So he has Cornelius executed at the hands of Tamb' Itam. Brown and his crew are more problematic, but they don't get off free, either- at least, not all of them. Marlow supplies a rather vague report that three members of the crew are found dying of thirst in a long-boat somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Three others, reportedly, have already died, and two of the survivors die shortly after their rescue. The third survivor is Brown, who of course has to keep breathing long enough for Marlow to hear his story. But Brown at least dies a ghastly death (if that's justice)- though to the bitter end he gets huge satisfaction remembering how he tricked Jim. There's no information on what became of the rest of his crew.

Thus, Conrad's final vision is neither totally bleak nor particularly comforting. Certainly he has less faith in a moral order than earlier artists who believed in a just God. But he's not convinced that the universe is morally chaotic, either. He asks, but doesn't answer, How much of the order we do perceive is arbitrary? How much do we invent for our own reassurance? Is the standard of conduct "fixed" in the sense of "stable"? or is it merely "fixed" by our general agreement to adhere to a certain code of behavior?


Tamb' Itam, paddling furiously, manages to reach the village before any of the other witnesses. He meets Jewel and discloses the terrible news; she immediately orders the gates shut. Both of them realize that Doramin will want revenge, and their thoughts turn to defense.

But when Tamb' Itam wakes Jim to deliver the news, his master's reaction is very different. At first, Jim is very much the leader, ordering Tamb' Itam to ready a fleet of boats to chase the outlaws. Tamb' Itam gently explains that he can't: The people have turned to revenge, and it's no longer safe for Jim's servant to go out among them.

Jim quickly understands how profoundly his position has changed. Just as a single error of action made European civilization an unsuitable home for him, a single error of judgment has ruined his life in Patusan. For the second time in his life, people have reason to regret having trusted their lives to him. Marlow comments, "I believe that in that very moment he had decided to defy the disaster in the only way it occurred to him such a disaster could be defied": that is, by facing it directly rather than running. (His readiness to face Doramin is not unlike his willingness to face the court of inquiry after the Patna incident.) Notice that Marlow says "the only way it occurred to him." Another man might be able to act differently, defending himself or planning an escape in good conscience. But Jim sees no alternative other than to face death at the hands of Doramin. "The dark powers should not rob him twice of his peace." He's run from death once, on the Patna, and it was the greatest mistake of his life. He won't run away now. And he refuses to fight, insisting that there's nothing to fight about. Doramin, in his view, isn't his enemy. Besides, he can't tolerate the thought of more bloodshed. It's at this juncture that he tries to write something, producing the inarticulate note that Marlow includes in his packet to the privileged man (Chapter Thirty-six).

In the Bugis quarter, Doramin and his wife are grieving over the corpse of their only son, which has been returned to the village. As they stare mournfully at it, a bystander removes the silver ring- Stein's ring, which Jim had given Tamb' Itam as a token. On seeing it, Doramin roars with "pain and fury" at this evidence of Jim's complicity in Dain Waris' death.

There is a certain amount of condescension, and perhaps racism, in this portrait of the bereaved Doramin. You can easily see why Jim isn't entirely to blame for Dain Waris' death. Though Doramin's fury is understandable as a product of his grief, it's hard to believe that the wise old man would so readily attribute his son's death to Jim's treachery. In fact, blame for the death rests partly on Doramin's own shoulders. If he had agreed to an assault on the invaders in the first place instead of holding off as he did in order to protect his son (Chapter Thirty-nine), Brown and his men wouldn't have lived to stage their sneak attack. Moreover, Jim is Doramin's (and the Bugis') most important ally against the Rajah; the people's well-being depends largely on Jim's continued authority. In destroying Jim, Doramin is destroying the very protections Jim has established, the order that ensures safety to every family. The only way to explain Doramin's irrational behavior is by dismissing him as an ignorant Malay chieftain- a racist view that would have been commonplace among the British imperialists of Marlow's day. Unfortunately, Conrad doesn't seem to rise above this view. Marlow's praise of Dain Waris for his "European mind" (Chapter Twenty-six) relegates the rest of the Patusan Malays- including Doramin- to a lower level.

Jim's departure from Jewel is a distressing scene. She accuses him of abandoning her just as she feared, just as her father had abandoned her mother. The meaning of her exchange with Marlow (Chapter Thirty-three) now becomes clear. She had expressed her anxiety that something in Jim was stronger than his love for her. That something was his guilt. It wasn't clear then how his love and his guilt might conflict, but they're conflicting now, and Jim's guilt is stronger. If he were to act solely out of love, he would try to stay with Jewel, through either battle or flight. But Jim has lived under the stigma of cowardice, and what's most important to him is proving he's not afraid of death- even if that means going to face an all-but-certain death at the hands of Doramin. This is what Marlow means by his reference to Jim's "superb egoism." Jim ultimately thinks of neither Jewel nor anybody else- only his own conscience, his own stained honor. When he tells Jewel, "Nothing can touch me," it's not because he has any illusions about being safe from death. As long as he acts in a way that demonstrates he's not afraid of death, he'll be morally- if not physically- invulnerable. No one can call him a coward. Is this courage or egotism?

But Jewel doesn't understand his guilt. In fact, she doesn't believe he could really be guilty. When Marlow told her that Jim was "not good enough" for the world (Chapter Thirty-three), her reply was, "You lie!" Jewel knows only that she's being abandoned as her mother was abandoned- that something is more important to Jim than she is- and she refuses to forgive him.

Tamb' Itam accompanies Jim to Doramin's quarter. The courtyard is crowded with armed Bugis and other villagers. Many are surprised that Jim has come. Doramin sits with the silver ring and the big pair of pistols, Stein's gift, on his lap. His wife is crouched at the head of their son's body.

Jim repeats the pledge he made at the end of Chapter Forty-two: He accepts responsibility for the deaths. "Upon my head," as he puts it. Doramin rises with the help of his retainers and the silver ring, Jim's token, falls from his lap and rolls against Jim's foot. Taking Jim at his word (which, technically, is his right), he raises one of the pistols and shoots him through the chest. Jim looks left and right at the crowd with "a proud and unflinching glance" before he falls dead.

Marlow adds that Jim "passes away under a cloud" (a clouded reputation, in the eyes of the wide world and of Patusan), "inscrutable at heart" (a lament Marlow has made from the beginning), "forgotten" (by most of the world that condemned him), "unforgiven" (by those few who do remember, especially Jewel), "and excessively romantic." Jim's romantic striving is nowhere more evident than in his last act- an attempt to live up to an ideal of himself even at the cost of his life. Employing a recurring image (it makes its first appearance in Chapter Twenty-four), Marlow wonders whether Jim hadn't at last "beheld the face of that opportunity which, like an Eastern bride, had come veiled to his side." What could that opportunity possibly have been? If someone stated that it was the opportunity to face death with "a proud and unflinching glance," what would your reaction be?

The novel ends on a decidedly melancholy note. Jewel is still at Stein's home, silent and stunned with grief. As for Stein himself- probably the figure in the novel whom Marlow most admire- he's aged greatly. Stein often hints that he's preparing for death, "while he waves his hand sadly at his butterflies"- a last symbolic reminder of what Jim aspired to, and couldn't be: perfect.


THE STORY, continued

ECC [Lord Jim Contents] []

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