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Over dinner, Jim talks about the misery of his present life, which is "hell". He is broke and has no hope of obtaining another job on the sea since his papers have been revoked. In addition, he has shamed his father, who is a minister, and feels he will never be able to go home again. It is obvious that Jim is miserable and feels disgraced. He wants just one person to understand his actions, to believe he simply was not prepared to handle the tragedy of the Patna. Hoping to make Marlow understand, Jim asks him what he would have done in the same situation.
Jim starts telling his emotional story of the Patna disaster. He speaks soberly with a lot of self-control. When he realized that the ship was sinking, he wanted to alert everyone; but there were eight hundred people sleeping in the ship, and only seven lifeboats to take them out. The task was impossible. If he had alerted the pilgrims, they would have panicked and created a stampede. As a result, he decided to keep quiet. Jim claims he was not afraid of death, but the fact that he could not save eight hundred people troubled him immensely. After Jim is rescued and taken ashore, he learned that the Patna did not sink. He could not believe it, for he had personally inspected the ship and thought it would break in half at any moment. He was sure that nothing could save the pilgrims.
Marlow listens to the story intently. He is impressed that Jim makes no excuses; he does not attempt to justify his actions aboard the Patna. As a result, Marlow feels that he is a young man of distinction. Again he thinks that Jim is "the right sort; he is one of us."
This chapter gives a clearer insight into Jim. As he tells his story of the Patna, he does not seem like a coward. He deserted the ship because he felt helpless, because he could not handle a stampede, not because he was afraid of dying. Now Jim, the dreamer, realizes that he passed up a wonderful opportunity. If he had just stayed with the pilgrims on the Patna, he would have become a hero. He moans to Marlow, "Ah! What a chance missed!"
Marlow believes Jim's story and accepts that the young man is not afraid of death. Once again Marlow emphasizes that Jim is "one of us." Conrad is clearly pointing out, as he will do several times throughout the novel, that Jim is a representative common man, and that most people would have acted no differently than Jim.