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Lord Jim- Joseph Conrad



Posted August 14, 2016 by

Lord Jim – Joseph Conrad – 1900

Reviewed by: Pete C.        Date: 1 July 2004

I think this is one of Conrad’s finest novels, on the same level as Nostromo (I should let it be known that, unlike most people, I found Nostromo and Lord Jim to be better than The Secret Agent and Heart of Darkness). Conrad created a very interesting, complicated character in “Lord” Jim, a man with intense inner struggles. It is compelling reading because while Jim suffers from feelings of regret and moral inferiority, he displays a convincingly strong external appearance. The reader learns that he is trying to make up for what he considers to be a past weakness; however, it becomes clear that he has blown his past “mistake” out of proportion and his everyday actions since then have gone far beyond making up for it. So, Jim’s character is fascinating in and of itself. Yet what also makes the novel an enjoyable read is the setting, an isolated tropical island inhabited by an indigenous tribe. The internal “politics” on the island interested me, as did the variety of unique personalities. Read this book; it’s not long, and it’s fun. A memorable quote:

“It’s extraordinary how we go through life with eyes half shut, with dull ears, with dormant thoughts. Perhaps it’s just as well; and it may be that it is this very dullness that makes life to the incalculable majority so supportable and so welcome. Nevertheless, there can be but few of us who had never known one of these rare moments of awakening when we see, hear, understand ever so much – everything – in a flash – before we fall back again into our agreeable somnolence.”

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Reviewed by: Guillermo Máynez Gil         Date: 26 May 2003

Joseph Conrad took the “novel of adventures” and elevated it to the highest form of literature, just like Melville had done before. Conrad likes to explore subjects centered around the moral quality of the human being. In “Heart of darkness”, we see what the Civilized Man becomes stripped of civilization, a controversial subject. Here, in “Lord Jim”, Conrad explores the theme of personal dignity, of failure and redemption.

Jim, an English seaman on board the “Patna”, is one night in charge of the ship, which carries 800 pilgrims to Mecca. Jim discovers the boat is about to sink and panicks horribly, doubting what to do. Together with other officers, he escapes in a lifeboat, leaving the pilgrims to perish in a clear act of cowardice.

Jim is tried in court and disposessed of his working licence, exposed to shame and humiliation. The rest of his life is dedicated to escape from news of the Patna incident, which seems to haunt him everywhere, but especially to regain dignity before his own eyes, by redeeming himself from guilt.

And so he arrives at a very remote commercial outpost in Malasia, where by intelligence and courage he wins the reverence and confidence of the local people. He becomes “Tuan” (Lord) Jim, the protector of the people, the man to consult and trust. It is in this condition that the narrator, Captain Marlow (the same as in “Heart of Darkness”) finds him in Patusan, his refuge. Jim believes he has finally killed the ghost of guilt by his actions. But he will face yet again the face of failure, with terrible consequences.

This book reminded me a lot of Shakespeare’s tragedies, and to me Jim has a definitely Shakespearean quality: the human being in search of moral redemption, within an unpredictable and cruel world full of miserable circumstances.

ReadLit Team


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