“Lord Jim” was originally published in the Blackwood’s Magazine beginning in October of 1899 and ending in November 1900. It was a written as a serial story.
In the book, Jim is a romantic dreamer. As a child he wanted to become a hero on the high seas after reading romances on the subject. But, every attempt at becoming a hero failed culminating into a mistake that cost him his career. He was first mate on a rust bucket ship. When it hit something in the water and seemed to be sinking, he and the crew abandoned ship, leaving the sleeping passengers to drown. But the ship did not sink and the crew were put on trial. Jim lost his rank. When the incident followed him and endangered his well being, Marlow, the narrator of the story, found him a position on a remote island. There Jim thrived after he was able to finally show his heroism.
Jim is happy on the island. He has the respect of the natives and has fallen in love. But, every garden has a snake and this one has two. The Rajah and Cornelius are both plotting against him. When Gentleman Brown, a dastardly pirate escapes the Spanish and lands on the island, Jim makes the ultimate mistake of allowing the pirate to leave peacefully. The two snakes in the grass make a deal with the pirate to kill Jim, but he instead kills Jim’s best friend. Then Jim turns himself over to his friend’s father and is killed in retribution.
Jim is working as a water-clerk. A powerfully built young man one or two inches under six feet, Jim is popular, cheerful and meticulously neat, dressed in all white. His job involves racing by sail, oar or steam to beat other water-clerks to ships about to anchor. He is the representative of a local merchant providing provisions for sale that the newly arrived ship might need to buy. He would greet the captain cheerfully and build up a rapport that he would cultivate by coming out to the ship every day to attend to the ship’s needs commercially.
This is not the kind of job Jim has always had. Jim was the son of an English country parson with dreams of going to the sea. He wanted the kind of adventures he read about in novels. He wanted to save lives, conquer savages, and be heroic. What he found when he finally left for the sea was different.
On board ship, Jim quickly rises up in the ranks. He works hard but still spends his free time reading romantic sea stories. After two years of training, Jim is promoted to the chief mate. He is still young and untried on the sea. The first encounter he has with rough weather finds him wounded by a falling spar. He spends the rest of the storm laying in bed instead of experiencing any acts of bravery. When the ship reaches the next port of call Jim is left on land so he can recover. Finally, with the return of his health, Jim signs onto the Patna. He finds himself chief mate of a decaying steamer carrying a load of Muslim pilgrims headed to Mecca. The skipper of the ship is a mad German.
When the voyage begins the seas are eerily calm. While on night watch, Jim is listening to the captain and the second engineer arguing. The captain, an extremely obese man in his pajamas, is accusing the second engineer of being drunk while on duty. The passengers are all sleeping. Suddenly a sudden impact shakes the ship. It knocks the captain to the floor. This is followed by silence that seems to have become more ominous. Then the faint sound of thunder comes from under the ship. It is more a vibration than a sound. As suddenly as is started the vibration stopped.
A month later Jim is sitting in a courtroom answering questions. He recounts that the captain sent him below decks to check for damage. The consensus was that they had hit a floating shipwreck under water. Jim saw the hold filling with water rapidly. As the story progresses Jim tells of meeting the second engineer who had sustained a broken arm. When Jim begins to add to the drama of his story he is reminded by the court to answer yes or no. As Jim looks over the assembly he notices man “with his face worn and clouded, but with quiet eyes that glanced straight, interested and clear.” We find out it is Marlow, the narrator of parts of the book.
Here the story shifts to Marlow. He is telling the story of Jim and the inquiry. The story has become notorious among the sailors and anyone interested in the actions in the maritime world. He was interested in the proceedings because he had seen the crew arrive in port and was taken by how Jim stood out among the ragtag bunch. They were all horrid and the captain was dressed in pajamas. He thought Jim was more like himself in his bearing.
The second engineer with the broken arm was sent to the hospital. Since Marlow was going to see an injured party of his own crew, he followed along in hopes of learning more what happened to the Patna. Meanwhile another member of the Patna’s crew was also in the hospital suffering from withdrawal. He was experiencing hallucinations and said that he saw the ship go down and he had pink toads under his bed. Marlow assured the staff of the hospital that the man’s testimony would not be necessary.
During the inquiry, Marlow meets Captain Brierly who is one of the judges. He agrees with Marlow that Jim is being treated unfairly and the two of them come up with the idea to give Jim some money to leave town. But, Brierly wants Marlow to make the offer to Jim. Although Brierly is a respected captain of one of the best ships in the fleet, and is well known for his many acts of heroism, he kills himself shortly after the inquiry. Marlow wonders if one of the reasons is because he identified with Jim and felt for the stain the man would carry on his name.
Marlow is finally able to confront Jim after the inquiry one evening. When he tries to get Jim’s attention a person yells at a dog and calls it a cur. The slander is often given to a coward and Jim thinks Marlow yelled it at him. He explains the mistake and afterward Marlow and Jim have dinner together. Jim wants to tell Marlow about what happened in hopes of unburdening himself to someone who will listen.
When Jim went below, he became convinced the ship was about to sink. He noticed that the bulkhead that was between the flooded compartment and the rest of the hold was bulging and about to give way. The officers, sure that the bulkhead was going to fail, abandoned ship and left everything behind on the ship to sink, including the passengers. A few days later they are rescued by another ship, only to discover the Patna did not sink. The crew had deserted a floating ship. Jim could easily remember the look of the sleeping passengers they left on the ship. There weren’t enough lifeboats for everyone. Jim is devastated that once again he missed his chance to be a hero.
Jim becomes more animated in his story trying to justify his actions by telling Marlow how he was abused by the rest of the crew to get in the lifeboats before the oncoming squall hit. In the excitement, the third engineer drops dead of a heart attack. While in a bit of shock, Jim makes it into the boat after tripping over the dead body of the engineer. At first the crew in the lifeboat think killed the engineer so he could take his place. One of the sights that haunts Jim is when one of the pilgrims grabbed his pant leg and said “water.” At the time he thought the man may have known about the water coming into the hold. But he just wanted some water for his sick child. Jim gave him his water bottle. Marlow asks him about the testimony given by the Malay steersmen at the trial. When they were asked what they thought about the crew abandoning ship, they just thought the crew might have had personal reasons. The next day the crew was taken onto the Avondale. The group had spent time getting their stories straight for the captain of the Avondale. Marlow later learns that at that same time, the Putna was being towed by a French gunboat. Marlow offers Jim the money to flee before the sentencing the next day. But Jim refuses.
The next day the verdict comes down that the Putna should not have taken sail since it was not seaworthy. Although they don’t know what caused the collision, they found the crew derelict and sentenced them to lose their certifications as officers. Marlow takes Jim back to his hotel room so he can recover and decide what to do next. Jim thinks he will still have the chance to become a hero. Marlow offers to write him a letter of recommendation for a job. Jim accepts.
Although Jim’s employers think he is a model employee, Jim switches jobs quite often. After Marlow encounters him as a water – clerk, Jim leaves that job also. He is confronted with reminders of his mistake in abandoning the Putna at every job and then moves on. At his first job, the second engineer of the Putna is hired and torments Jim. He left his job as a water-clerk because seeing a boat limp in to dock full of pilgrims and the Putna was brought to everyone’s minds. When Marlow suggests that Jim try America, he rejects the idea.
Marlow tries to help Jim by contacting his friend, Stein. Stein is a German who owns a large trading company. Stein has posts open in places off the beaten path. Stein takes an interest in Jim and offers a job at his trading post in Patusan. He sent a troublesome worker, Cornelius after that he married a Dutch – Malay woman. Stein made the man manager of the post. Since then the woman died and left him with her daughter to raise. Stein gives the job to Jim, but insists that Cornelius and his daughter be allowed to stay.
Two years later Marlow visits Jim at Patusan. Marlow was sent by Stein to offer Jim the house of the trading post and all the goods as a gift. Marlow stops at a fishing village and is told by the fishermen about the peace that Tuan Jim has brought to them. Tuan Jim means Lord Jim. When Jim was taken to the island it was by canoe. The main trading ships would not get closer to the island because of the hostile natives. His arrival came as a surprise to the natives as Jim had been the first white man they had seen in a while.
Jim tells Marlow about his arrival on the island. At first he was imprisoned by the Rajah. While a prisoner Jim was interrogated about Dutch colonial strategy, of which he knew nothing and tasked with repairing an English clock. He escaped the stockade and made his way to Doramin, who he was tasked by Stein into delivering a silver ring to prove his identity. Doramin is the leader of the Bugis who are a group of powerful merchants. Dain Waris, who will become Jim’s best friend is Doramin’s beloved son. Jim discovers a dispute going on between two major factions over trade monopoly. Rajah wants the monopoly, while the Bugis are against it. Meanwhile Sherif Ali has been attacking the neighboring villages. He was able to convince the two factions to join forces against Sherif Ali. Ali was an Arab religious zealot. Jim organized the battle and led the attack. They move the small amount of artillery Doramin has to the hilltop and they launch an offensive. Ali and his men die. Jim was finally able to be a hero. The people of Patusan follow his command.
Marlow discovers that Jim has fallen in love with Jewel, the stepdaughter of Cornelius. She is Dutch – Malay and quite beautiful. Marlow discovers that Jewel and Jim’s servant, Tamb’ltam are anxious about Jim’s safety. Cornelius skulks about Jim ominously. Marlow thinks Jim should deal with Cornelius soon. Especially after he learns Cornelius has been abusive to Jewel out of anger at being placed in such an out of the way place because of her mother. He has also been stealing from the trading post.
Jewel thinks Marlow is there to take Jim away. When he assures her he isn’t there for that reason, she asks if he will tell her Jim’s secret that torments him. Marlow refuses and tries to come up with something else to explain why Jim thinks he isn’t good enough for her. Later while standing at the grave of Jewel’s mother, Marlow is confronted by Cornelius. The man rages about Jim and wants Marlow to arrange for him to receive extra pay for taking care of Jewel when Jim leaves. When Marlow informs him Jim isn’t leaving, Cornelius becomes livid.
Two years later a friend of Marlow’s receives a packet. Inside are letters from Jim and a manuscript by Marlow of Jim’s story. Marlow has found out the rest of the story.
Months earlier Marlow had arrived at Stein’s house. There he was surprised to find Tamb’ltam. When he asks about Jim, Marlow is taken in to see Jewel. She tells Marlow what happened to Jim and that he left her just as she knew he would, but Marlow does not share Jim’s fate with the reader, yet. Instead Marlow begins the story of Jim’s fate by telling about Gentleman Brown, a pirate. Gentleman Brown is dying and is being sheltered by a wayward old white man from Bangkok who romanticizes him. After being captured by a Spanish patrol boat, he was able to escape with a bribe. Then Gentleman Brown stole another boat and made his escape. But the boat was disabled on purpose by the Spaniards who had captured him. There was very little provisions on board the stolen boat and the pirate and his crew didn’t want to stop at a reputable port. So when he remembered Patusan, Gentleman Brown headed that way. But the fishermen knew of their arrival and attacked. They were forced to retreat to a hilltop.
When the pirates attack, Jim is away in the countryside. His best friend, Dain Waris tries to bring the natives together against the pirate. He leader of the natives, Rajah Alang tells him he agrees while secretly making a deal with Cornelius to take Jim down. Cornelius is to go to Brown and offer him a deal if he kills Jim. He tells the pirate about how charming Patusan is and how easy Jim will be to stop. Brown likes what he hears and plans to take over the island for himself. Cornelius tells Brown that Jim will come to see him the next morning and it is the perfect time to kill him.
The next morning Jim meets with Brown. Brown tells him that his reason for being there is hunger. Jim offers to let him leave or they can fight. His choice. Jim persuades the people to allow Brown to leave. He sends Tamb’ltam to Dain who has set up a trap to ambush the pirates. He sends the silver ring given to him by Stein to prove the message is from him. But Cornelius leads Brown and his men on an alternate path that comes up behind Dain’s men and allows them to open fire on the unsuspecting natives. Tamb’ltam manages to escape back to Jim and comes across Cornelius trying to escape. They fight and Cornelius is killed.
With the attack and the death of the leaders only son, Jim’s life is in danger. Tamb’ltam and Jewel beg him to defend himself. But he is in shock due to the death of his best friend, Dain Waris who was shot by the pirates, and the change in his status among the natives. Jewel begs Jim not to leave her, but he tells her that the only way he can be worthy of her is if he goes. Jim goes to Dain’s father to offer his sincere condolences. Dain’s father rolls the silver ring out to Jim proving that he is involved in Dain’s death. Jim is unarmed and is shot dead because he blames Jim for his son’s death.
Jim – Jim grew up in a small town dreaming of adventure. He read romantic books about brave sea captains and desired to become one. So he left home and went to sea. On his first chance at becoming a hero he missed the boat. On the second chance he hurt his foot, on the third chance he did something even worse. He abandoned ship, leaving the passengers to go down with the ship. But the ship didn’t go down. Jim faces a tribunal and is stripped of his rank. His shame follows him through a few jobs until he lands a job on a remote island. There he is finally able to become a hero. He brings peace to the island by leading a group of natives against a terrorist.
The Islanders give him the name, Tuan Jim, or Lord Jim. They revere him and go to him with their disputes. Meanwhile, the Rajah of the island becomes jealous of him, as does the other man who is sent by the company Jim works for. Especially when Jim falls in love with the man’s stepdaughter and objects to her abuse. The two men plot against him.
Doramin is the actual tribal leader. He and Jim have a mutual respect for each other. Also, his son, Dain Waris and Jim are best friends. So Jim is very happy on the island and wants to spend his life there until Gentleman Brown, a pirate arrives at the island after escaping a Spanish ship.
Jim makes the mistake of trusting the pirate to leave the island peacefully. But, the two men that are plotting against Jim make a deal with the pirate. While Jim is making arrangements for Dain Waris to allow the pirate to pass by the ambush he had arranged, the pirate sneaks up behind him and kills the group, including Dain Waris. Devastated at the mistake and the death of his friend, Jim turns himself over to Doramin and is shot and killed.
Marlow – Marlow is the narrator of the story. He first meets Jim when he is being questioned at the inquest. He recognizes the romantic side of Jim and sees he and his friends in him. Marlow helps Jim by finding jobs for him, including the meeting of Stein who gives him the position on the island.
Cornelius – a cruel man who works for Stein on the island. He was married to a Dutch – Malay woman who was a friend of Stein. As a favor to her Stein gave her husband the job. But, Cornelius was cruel to her and she died probably due to abuse by him. He hates Jim and is very jealous. He tries to extort money from Jim for his stepdaughter, and makes a deal with the pirate to kill Jim.
Jewel – Cornelius’ stepdaughter. She and Jim fall in love. Her main fear is being left behind. She makes Jim promise not to leave her, and then when he dies she is devastated.
Joseph Conrad Biography
Joseph Conrad was born on December 3rd 1857 in Kiev, Russia. The son of a man who was all at once a writer, political activist and translator, Conrad had a lot to live up to from the start. Conrad’s father belonged to the “Red” party whose goal was to bring back the past partitions of the boundaries of Poland as well as land reform and the abolition of serfdom. Because of his father’s political activism, as a child Conrad’s family moved repeatedly. In 1861, they were exiled to Vologda, 300 miles north of Moscow but two years later Conrad’s father’s sentence was commuted and the family was sent to Chernihiv in the Ukraine.
In April of 1865, Conrad’s mother Ewa died of tuberculosis. Conrad’s father attempted to home school him but died in 1869, leaving Conrad in the care of Ewa’s brother, Tadeusz. As a child, Conrad was a poor student and eventually his uncle sent him away to a cousin who ran a boarding house for orphan boys. At the age of 16, Conrad was sent away to France to begin a career as a sailor. Though he had no finished school, he was a very intelligent boy who already spoke several languages and was well read in the literature of his time.
In the 1870’s, Conrad worked as a merchant marine in France and eventually became a captain. He spent 19 years as a sailor and most of his stories and characters was derived from this time. Conrad retired from his sea-faring life in 1893 at the age of 35, part of the reason being that he wished to pursue a career in writing.
His first novel, “Almayer’s Folly” was published two years later in 1895 and was quickly followed by a string of more successful books going into the 20th century until, at the end of his life, Conrad had published 20 novels in all, as well as more short stories and essays.
In March of 1896, Conrad married a woman by the name of Jessie George, and the couple had two boys, Borys and John. The family lived in many different countries, such as France, England, and the United States throughout the early 1900’s. In August of 1924, Conrad died of a heart attack at his home in Kent, England. His funeral was attended by a large crowd, and he was interred at Canterbury Cemetery, Canterbury.