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Conrad successfully explores the concepts of bravery, cowardice,guilt and the alternative destinies that an individual may be driven to by these qualities.
The narrative can be a bit confusing at times as Marlowe relates the tale by recalling his encounters with Jim. The book reminded very much of Somerset Maugham's THE RAZOR"S EDGE" in style. However I believe that Maugham did a much better job of incorporating the narrator into the flow of the story. Overall LORD JIM is a wonderful classic novel that I highly recommend.
Ashamed and humiliated, Jim dedicates the rest of his life to two things: escape the memory of that fateful night, and redeem himself. This agonizing quest to recover his dignity in front of his own eyes leads him to hide in a very remote point in the Malayan peninsula, where he will become the hero, the strong man, the wise protector of underdeveloped, humble and ignorant people. Jim finds not only the love of his people, but also the love of a woman who admires him and fears the day when he might leave for good. The narrator, Captain Marlow (the same of "Heart of Darkness") talks to Jim for the last time in his remote refuge, and then Jim tells him that he has redeemed himself by becoming the people's protector. Oh, but these things are never easy and Jim will face again the specter of failure.
Conrad has achieved a great thing by transforming the "novel of adventures" into the setting for profound and interesting reflections on the moral stature of Man, on courage, guilt, responsibility, and redemption.
Just as in "Heart of Darkness" the question is what kinds of beings we are stripped of cultural, moral and religious conventions; just as in "Nostromo" the trustworthiness of a supposedly honest man is tested by temptation, in "Lord Jim" the central subject is dignity and redemption after failure.
A great book by one of the best writers.
Lord Jim is my least favorite of the the four books I have read by Conrad. The story is rather scattered: a righteous young man does something wrong that he holds himself far too accountable for and the public shame the action brought him exaggerates the reality of his failure and makes him believe the rumors swirling around about his so-called cowardice. He spends the remainder of his life trying to reclaim his self-regard, mostly exaggerating his own importance in matters he hardly understands. His goal is to liberate the primitive people of the jungle paradise he inadvertantly finds himself in (due to an effort to escape every particle of the world he once inhabited) and his once high-minded ideals and regard for himself lead him to allow those people to consider him almost a God.
Jim likes being a God and considers himself a just and fair one. He treats everyone equally and gives to his people the knowledge of modern science and medicine as well as the everyday archetecture and understanding of trade that those primitive folks would otherwise be years from comprehending.
Of course everything ends in failure and misery and of course Jim's restored name will be returned to its demonic status, but the whole point of the novel seems to me that one can not escape their past. Jim, for all his courage in the line of fire has tried to avoid all memory of the once shameful act of his former life and by doing so becomes destined to repeat his mistakes.
Lord Jim is far more expansive than the story it sets out to tell, ultimately giving a warning on the nature of history and general humanity that only a writer of Conrad's statue could hope to help us understand.
If there is a flaw it is not one to be taken literally. Conrad was a master of structural experimentation and with Lord Jim he starts with a standard third person narrative to relate the background and personalities of his characters and then somehow merges this into a second person narrative of a man, years from the events he is relating, telling of the legend of Jim. It is a brilliant innovation that starts off a little awkward and might lead to confusion in spots as the story verges into its most important parts under the uncertain guidence of a narrator who, for all his insight into others, seems unwilling to relate his personal relevence to the story he is relating.
Nevertheless (with a heartfelt refrain), one of the best books I have ever read.
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