Friday, June 19, 2009

105. Lord Jim – Joseph Conrad

November 2007.
History: This book was originally published in Blackwood's Magazine from October 1899 to November 1900.
Plot: Jim, a young British seaman, becomes first mate on the Patna, a ship full of pilgrims traveling to Mecca for the hajj. In a momentary lapse (whether from courage, judgment, instinct or other) during an accident, Jim joins his captain and other crew members in abandoning the ship and its passengers. A few days later, they are picked up by a British ship. However, the Patna and its passengers are later also saved, and the reprehensible actions of the crew are exposed. The other miscreants evade justice, leaving Jim to face a court of inquiry alone. The court strips him of his navigation command certificate for his dereliction of duty. Jim is angry with himself, both for his moment of weakness, and for missing an opportunity to be a 'hero'.
At the trial, he meets Marlow, a sea captain, who in spite of his initial misgivings over what he sees as Jim's moral unsoundness, comes to befriend him, for he is "one of us." Marlow later finds Jim work as a ship chandler's clerk. Jim tries to remain incognito, but whenever the opprobrium of the Patna incident catches up with him, he abandons his place and moves further east.
At length, Marlow's friend Stein suggests placing Jim as his factor in a remote inland settlement with a mixed Malay and Bugis population, where Jim's past can remain hidden. Here, Jim wins the respect of the people and becomes their leader by relieving them from the predations of the bandit Sherif Ali and protecting them from the corrupt local Malay chief. Jim wins the love of Jewel, a woman of mixed race, and is "satisfied... nearly." The end comes a few years later, when the town is attacked by the marauder "Gentleman" Brown. Although Brown and his gang are driven off, Dain Waris, the son of the leader of the Bugis community, is slain. Jim continues the conflict and ultimately fulfills his heroic destiny by suffering a fatal bullet in the heart, fired by Dain Waris's father Doramin as savage retribution for the death of his son.
Review: This is an adventure story in which a man’s cowardice was able to be redeemed, however his past does eventually catch up with him. I found it to be tedious to read, however I do think the story is a good one, Conrad’s writing is lengthy and dull.
Opening Line: “He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare that made you think of a charging bull.”
Closing Line: “He feels it himself, and says often that he is ‘preparing to leave all this; preparing to leave…’ while he waves his hand sadly at his butterflies.”
Quotes: "Vanity plays lurid tricks with our memory . . . "
"There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery."
Rating: Poor.

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