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There is another time shift in the novel. It is after dinner, and Marlow sits on a verandah and tells the story of the Patna incident and how he met Jim. For days after the accident, anyone connected with the sea talks of nothing but the incident. Supposedly, four of the ship's officers deserted the sinking ship, leaving behind the crew and 800 Moslem pilgrims. Ironically, the ship does not sink, but is towed into Aden with all of the crew and passengers alive. As a result, there is an inquiry about the accident. Only Jim can testify, for the captain has disappeared and the engineers are in the hospital.
In a flashback, Marlow explains how he is standing one day in the shade by the steps of the harbor office when he notices four men walking towards him. One is the skipper of the Patna. He is very fat and reminds Marlow of a trained baby elephant walking on hind legs. He is wearing an outfit that has bright green and deep orange vertical stripes. With him, there is a young chap who looks unapproachable and makes no movement while he stares into the sunshine. Marlow is impressed with his demeanor and strong, handsome appearance. The lad seems a picture of confidence.
Some time later, Marlow goes to the hospital to visit a friend. While there, he sees two strangers and is told that the men have seen the Patna sink. He questions both of the men, who are the Patna's first and second engineers, but they can offer no explanation. One talks about the toads under his bed, and the other argues that the Patna, filled with reptiles, sank. As a result of this meeting, Marlow grows more interested in the inquiry, as if driven by a "guardian devil," and decides to attend. It is in the courtroom that his eyes meet Jim's for the first time.
The fifth chapter is the first one that is told from Marlow's point of view, and it quickly becomes clear that Jim has already provoked a strong emotional response in Marlow. The first time he sees the young man, he is extremely impressed with him. He feels that Jim's strong appearance and calm, self-confident demeanor inspire trust. He also says that Jim is "one of us." Marlow obviously feels some immediate kinship to the protagonist of the story; he also tries to relate Jim to the reader. Conrad wants the reader to compare how he would act in comparison to Jim if placed in similar circumstances.
Before the inquiry begins, Marlow has the opportunity to see the four officers of the Patna as they walk to the harbor office. He describes the fat and ugly captain in totally disgusting terms. He adds that the two engineers are not very impressive. In contrast, Jim clearly stands out as exceptional. Later, in the hospital, Marlow tries to gain some information about the accident from the two engineers, who are patients; neither is able to answer any questions, for they are in dazed states.
In an almost protective manner, Marlow chooses to still withhold information about Jim's deserting the ship. But from this chapter forward, Marlow will show how Jim is repeatedly treated like an outcast; others feel indignation over his actions and judge him as disgraceful. Marlow will also portray Jim's guilt complex, which dogs him until the end of his life. Like many humans, Jim is portrayed as weak and vulnerable. The resulting Mood is somber.