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The major theme is that guilt is a very destructive force. Lord Jim centers around the decision of Jim to jump out of the Patna. His guilt over the incident prevents him from having a settled life. His weakness chases him throughout the novel, and he suffers from an obsession to regain his lost honor. It is a story of guilt, punishment, and final redemption. The novel is developed around these ideas.
A person needs to be realistic about himself/herself. Humans are weak and may fail at certain points in their life. It is important to accept the failures and go forward. In the novel, Jim is a romantic, longing, to the point of total distraction, to re-establish his honor. He needs to think in a balanced way and not get carried away. Jim's constant feelings of guilt give him no peace. Excessive imagination keeps Jim at war with himself. Jim is in spiritual agony and finally atones for his guilt by his death. If he had been more realistic about his shortcomings, the tragedy might have been prevented.
The Mood of the novel in the first half is one of gloom. The stories of the Patna, Jim's guilt, the trial, the storm, and the darkness create a sinister atmosphere. In the second half of the book, the Mood in Patusan becomes cheerful, as Jim defeats Sherif Ali, becomes the Bugi leader, and falls in love with Jewel. In the final chapters, the Mood changes again to one of darkness and gloom as Conrad introduces Brown and leads up to the impending and final tragedy.