Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
This chapter returns to the court, which is half-empty. A tense Jim is waiting for his punishment. The plaintiff, a fat, chocolate- colored man with a shaved head and a bright yellow caste-mark above the bridge of his nose, sits with his eyes glittering and his nostrils dilated. Brierly also sits in his seat, looking excited. The pale magistrate begins to read aloud. There are many issues before the court. The first is to know whether the ship had been fit to take the voyage. The court does not think that it was. The next question is whether the ship had been navigated with proper care. The court felt that it had. The magistrate's voice then becomes loud and clear. He accuses the officers of abandoning the ship in time of danger, leaving people and property behind. Jim's seaman certificate is, therefore, canceled; he will never again be able to serve as a naval officer. Marlow looks at Jim, who soon gets up and starts to walk out.
Marlow catches Jim's arm, but the young sailor does not stop. A West Australian by the name of Chester asks Marlow whether he feels bad for Jim. Marlow replies that he does. Chester says Marlow should not sympathize with a criminal. He tells Marlow about his friend Holy-Terror Robinson, who survived a shipwreck. Seven people got ashore. Robinson stayed on in the ship until it nearly reached the shore; then he ran. People chased him, flinging stones. He fell down senseless, but recovered. Chester thinks that Jim will also be fine and tells Marlow he will give the young sailor a chance - a job as the overseer of forty coolies who are to bag bird guano (manure). Marlow declines for Jim, for he knows Jim deserves much better.
The final day of the inquiry is vividly described. The half-empty courtroom is somber, and Jim's sense of shame is in the air. When the magistrate reads the verdict and cancels Jim's certificate, the miserable young sailor quickly and quietly leaves the courtroom. Jim feels totally defeated; his dream of becoming a hero at sea is now crushed; his plan to spend the rest of his life as a naval officer is now impossible. He cannot bear the thought of his unknown future and refuses to even stop and talk to his friend Marlow on his way out.
The despicable Chester is introduced here. He stops Marlow and tells him not to sympathize with Jim. He tells the story of Robinson to make Marlow believe that Jim will recover from his shame on his own. When Chester offers a job for Jim, it is a ploy by which to take Jim into his dark powers and use him for his own evil purposes. Chester knows that the defeated Jim would take up any chance to atone for his sins, but Marlow will not permit it. He hates Chester for suggesting a degrading job for his friend in a time of weakness. The mean and detestable traits of Chester's character are in complete contrast to Jim and his good qualities. The contrast makes the reader sympathize more with Jim.