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Lord Jim

Joseph Conrad

Chapters 24- 27

Chapters 19 - 23

Chapters 28 -33

Summary

Marlow visits Jim in Patusan two years after Jim's arrival there. He has come to offer Jim the trading post house and the stock of goods as a gift, on behalf of Stein. He finds a village of fishermen on the coast who tell him of the peace that Jim has brought to the area. Marlow's informant refers to Jim as "Tuan Jim," or Lord Jim, and tells him that he brought Jim up the river in a canoe two years ago (when trading ships were still refusing to enter the river because of the hostile natives). Marlow is astounded that Jim's prediction--that he would hear of him--is being fulfilled. He notes that Jim's arrival was a major disruption to the area, since the natives had forgotten what white men were. Jim's unheralded appearance, Marlow's unloaded revolver cradled in his lap, created an opportunity of which Jim was quick to take advantage. The fishermen deliver Jim straight to Rajah Allang. Jim's revolver is unloaded, so he has no way of defending himself, and he agrees to see the Rajah. The Rajah imprisons Jim in a stockade for several days.

Jim takes Marlow to see the Rajah, pointing out where he was imprisoned. He pauses to settle a dispute between the Rajah and some villagers, then continues with his story: While he is a prisoner of Allang's, he is subjected to absurd treatment--asked to fix a broken New England clock, interrogated about Dutch colonial strategy, questioned as to his motives. He manages to escape the stockade fairly easily by leaping over the wall and struggling up a muddy slope after jumping a creek. Upon his escape, Jim rushes to Doramin's compound and presents Stein's silver ring. He is received with warmth, and Doramin's people prepare to repel the Rajah. Doramin, Marlow relates, is the leader of one of the most powerful factions in Patusan, a group of merchants called the Bugis, who had emigrated from Celebes many years ago. Most of the conflict in Patusan stems from Rajah Allang's attempts to enforce a trading monopoly and Doramin's insistence on violating Allang's proclamation. Jim finds the Bugis arguing over the wisdom of allying themselves with Sherif Ali, an Arab religious zealot who, along with his band of tribesmen from the interior, has been decimating the countryside around Patusan. Some of the Bugis want to join with Ali to overthrow Allang.

Jim meets Dain Waris, Doramin's son, who is to become his best friend. It soon occurs to Jim that he has an opportunity to make peace in Patusan and thus make a name for himself. Jim proposes that the Bugis organize an attack on Ali. Dain Waris is immediately enthusiastic, and the plan moves forward. Jim oversees the transfer of Doramin's meager artillery to a hilltop, from which the attack is launched and Ali defeated. Marlow remarks at the trust the Bugis placed in Jim in following him into battle. An old man tells Marlow that many think Jim possesses supernatural powers. Jim seems even more "symbolic" to Marlow than ever. In recounting the attack, Jim mentions the valor of his servant, Tamb'Itam, a refugee from Allang who has devoted himself to Jim. In triumphing over Sherif Ali, Jim has finally become a hero, and the people of Patusan await his command.

Commentary

It is appropriate that Marlow remarks on how "symbolic" Jim seems to him at this moment. From this point onward, Jim begins to recede from the text. The temporal progression of the narrative becomes ever more convoluted, as Marlow has to work harder and harder to piece together the story. Jim no longer spends entire chapters struggling to express his inner anguish. Instead, the narrative is composed of his polished--if somewhat slangy--accounts of his actions, interspersed with small set-piece landscapes. It appears that Jim's hubris has been enabling, not fatal. Marlow feels distant from Jim; if Jim was once "one of us," Marlow has no claim to being "one of them," a person like the new Jim. Marlow suggests that nothing can touch Jim now, since he has escaped from the shadow of the Patna incident. Jim's legend is beginning to bloat, though, as he revels in the unlimited trust of his people and whispers of his supernatural abilities spread. He seems to be in peril even while on top of his world.

Conrad uses the two new relationships described in this section to scrutinize some of the tropes of colonial literature. Tamb'Itam is the quintessential loyal servant, and Dain Waris is the ultimate "other" onto which a nearly homoerotic racial essentialism is projected. His relationship with Jim is described as "one of those strange, profound, rare friendships between brown and white in which the very difference of race seems to draw two human beings closer by some mystic element of sympathy." This is Conrad at his most disingenuous. Patusan seems to be populated by two kinds of individuals: "noble savages," like Dain Waris, whose astounding abilities and moral character lead to him being called a "white man" by his own people; and dissolute, dirty, scheming representatives of a decaying humanity, like Allang. The extremes in these two caricatures, especially when compared with the subtle meditations on character and the wide variety of people "like us" in the first section of the book, seem to function as a subtle critique of representations of colonial subjects. At times, Conrad can be too subtle, though; he has occasionally been accused of racist discourse himself. The juxtaposition of extremes and the replay of stereotypes suggest, however, that Conrad is fully knowledgeable of his literary actions and means to be subversive.

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