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Lord Jim

Joseph Conrad

Chapters 39 - 42

Chapters 37 and 38

Chapters 43 -45

Summary

Dain Waris leads the initial attack against Gentleman Brown and his men. Unfortunately, he is not able to rally his people effectively enough to rout the pirate, and Jim, who could provide the inspiration and leadership needed, is away in the countryside. A council of war is held, at which everyone's personal motives get in the way of agreement; Doramin wishes to protect his son, and Rajah Allang, who is pretending to cooperate, is secretly working to form an alliance with Brown to bring Jim down. The Rajah's representative contacts Cornelius and arranges for him to serve as a go-between with Brown. Cornelius is a little too persuasive as to the friendliness of the Rajah, the charms of Patusan, and the ease with which he claims Jim can be defeated. Brown decides to stay and fight, not just for supplies and a chance to escape, but to try to seize the territory for himself. Meanwhile, Dain Waris has sent canoes downstream to seal Brown's avenue of escape and reinforcement. Brown dallies with Cornelius and the Rajah, buying time and always intending to double-cross them. One of Brown's men shoots a villager from a great distance. The pirate hopes that this will evoke fear among the people of Patusan, and that they will overestimate his strength. As night falls, one of Brown's men sneaks down to their beached boat to get some tobacco that has been left there. He is not cautious enough, however, and he is shot by a relative of the villager who was killed earlier in the day. Brown and his men have to listen to the dying moans of their comrade for several hours; it is not until the tide comes in, drowning him and carrying him off, that his screams cease.

Cornelius and Brown talk again. Drums begin to beat in the village, and fires are lit. Cornelius tells Brown that this is a sign that Jim has returned, and that Jim will surely come to talk to him face to face. He recommends that Brown have one of his men shoot Jim from a position of cover. This action, he says, will give Brown the psychological edge and enable him to defeat the Bugis. The next morning, Jim indeed approaches Brown's stronghold. He and Brown speak warily. Jim asks him what has brought him to Patusan; Brown replies simply, "Hunger," and redirects the question toward Jim. Jim is startled. Brown asks him to remember that they are both white men, and then requests that his men either be ambushed directly or allowed to leave, rather than left to starve and suffer like "rat[s] in a trap." He admits to Jim that his greatest fear is of prison, and that this fear is what has motivated him his entire life, even at this very moment. Marlow, listening to the story at Brown's deathbed, wonders how much of Brown's account is the truth. Jim, bothered by something, says little to Brown, but promises him "a clear road [out] or else a clear fight" and leaves. Cornelius rages at Brown for not shooting Jim when he had the chance.

Jim goes directly to Doramin to recommend that Brown be allowed to escape unharmed. Doramin is reluctant. Jim appeals to the people, reminding them that he has never led them wrong. Doramin still hesitates, and Jim declares that, if they are to fight, he will not lead. Dain Waris will have to command.

Commentary

Gentleman Brown does the one thing nearly every other character in this novel is afraid to do: he asks Jim what it was that he hoped to gain by coming to Patusan. Brown is honest about his own motives and fears, and Jim realizes that he has been living a lie. Brown speaks the truth about Jim; to have him killed would seem like just another attempt at deceit. In recommending that Brown be let go, Jim does what is honorable for his personal reputation, not what is best for Patusan. In part, Brown defeats Jim by speaking the "truth" about him; in part, Jim defeats himself by adhering to a false ideal. In offering to defer to Dain Waris, Jim is exercising the only option available to him that compromises neither himself nor Patusan. No heroic action is possible.

Marlow questions the veracity of Brown's account of his conversation with Jim. This is an implicit reminder to the reader to question Marlow's account, to remember that we are receiving the story just as Marlow does--in fragments. More obviously, however, Marlow is upset because Brown has appealed to Jim on the basis of being "one of us"; through their conversation runs "a vein of subtle reference to their common blood, an assumption of common experience; a sickening suggestion of common guilt. . ." This, of course, is exactly the foundation on which Marlow has premised his own identification with Jim. Now it seems to link Marlow, through Jim, to Brown.

Issues of racial dynamics also arise in this section. Dain Waris is unable to defeat Brown initially because he does not possess the mystique of the white man, according to the narrative. The people of Patusan seem to have a faith in Jim that is naïve in the extreme, based solely on his status as a white man. When Jim returns from the countryside, things immediately return to normal despite the continued presence of Brown and his men on the hilltop. On the other hand, it is Cornelius who behaves the most despicably in this section of the novel, and Doramin who will turn out to be right. Also, it is Brown who tells this part of the story, and therefore it is his opinions that we are receiving. Nevertheless, Jim is being asked to choose between the people of Patusan and a fellow white man, and the situation is certainly racially charged.

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