Skip over navigation

Lord Jim

Joseph Conrad

Chapters 28 -33

Chapters 24- 27

Chapters 34 - 36

Summary

Following the defeat of Sherif Ali, Jim becomes the virtual ruler of Patusan. Marlow notes that there seems to be little that Jim cannot do. Marlow recounts an interview with Doramin and his wife, in which Doramin confesses to Marlow that he wishes to see his son, Dain Waris, ruler of Patusan. Doramin is also concerned that Jim's rise to power, while beneficial to the Bugis, will attract the attention of white men to Patusan. Doramin's wife, meanwhile, interrogates Marlow about Jim's past. She wants to know why he left the civilization with which he was familiar to come to a tiny backwater. Marlow can't really answer her, and Doramin is obviously concerned by this. Pondering "the unanswerable why of Jim's fate" brings Marlow to tell of Jim's "love." Jim has fallen in love, it seems, with the daughter of the Dutch-Malay woman. Until now, this daughter has eked out a meager existence in the home of her stepfather, Cornelius. Marlow describes her as beautiful, and, more importantly, as, like her mother, "lacking the saving dullness" necessary to accept her situation. Jim calls her Jewel. Marlow is struck by the atmosphere of both domestic happiness and high romance surrounding the pair. He recalls visiting a nearby region and encountering a corrupt colonial official, who has heard of Jim and Jewel and has misinterpreted what Jewel actually is. The official tells Marlow that he has heard of a white man who possesses an enormous emerald, which he keeps concealed on the body of a woman, young and pure, who stays with him at all times. The official asks Marlow to let Jim know that he has friends who would be interested in buying the emerald.

Marlow recalls that he has seen very little of Jewel, but that she seems unusually anxious about Jim. Tamb'Itam, too, seems to be overly protective. Marlow notes that Cornelius is always skulking about Jim rather ominously, and he reflects that Jim has been generous in giving the man his freedom, and perhaps rather reckless in not taking proper precautions to protect himself. Jim stayed with Cornelius upon his initial escape from Rajah Allang, and his mistreatment of Jewel has led Jim to be very careful toward the man, lest he inadvertently make her situation worse. Cornelius is apparently quite bitter at having married Jewel's mother and being sent to such a backwater. He considers it his right to abuse the girl and to steal from the stock of goods consigned to him by Stein. Soon after his escape from the Rajah, Jim begins to hear rumors that plans are being made to assassinate him. Cornelius offers to smuggle him out of the country for eighty dollars. Jewel offers her help as an advisor. Finally, things come to a head. Jim wakes up one night to find Jewel at his side, his revolver in her hand. She leads him to a shed in the yard, where he discovers men lying in wait for him. Pleased at finally encountering "real danger," he shoots one of them and forces the others to leap into the river. As he is telling Marlow the story of that night, Jim points out his own valor, then once again challenges Marlow's evaluation of his (Jim's) worthiness, noting that no one in Patusan would believe the story of the Patna. Jim speaks of his desire to remain always in Patusan.

Marlow leaves Jim and goes up through the dark courtyard to the house. He is confronted by Jewel, who seems to have something to say to him but is unable to speak. Finally, Marlow is made to understand that she thinks he has come to take Jim away. He tells her that this is not the case. She tells him that she does not want to "die weeping," as her mother did. Jewel recalls the night of her mother's death, the woman breathing her last while Jewel barred the door with her body against a raging Cornelius. She tells Marlow that Jim has sworn never to leave her, but that she is unable to believe him entirely, since her father and other men have made and broken the same promise. She demands that Marlow tell her what the thing is to which Jim often refers, the thing that made him afraid and that he can never forget. Searching for the proper phrase, Marlow finally tells her that it is the fact that he is "not good enough" that Jim can never forget. In a rage, Jewel calls Marlow a liar, informing him that Jim said the same thing. Marlow tries sheepishly to backtrack, saying that no one is good enough. She refuses to listen, though, and the conversation breaks off as footsteps approach.

Commentary

This section fills in the events that occur after Jim's defeat of Sherif Ali. More importantly, though, it offers the chance for Jim to develop himself as a romantic hero. Much of the action and almost all of the conversations in these chapters take place at night. The picturesque aspects of Patusan are emphasized: the full moon rising over the hills, the stars twinkling, torches burning in the dark. Patusan has clearly become something of a paradise for Jim. He wants to remain there forever, and he finally feels as if he has been freed from the taint of the Patna incident, through his own valor and noble intentions. He even tells Marlow that the people of Patusan wouldn't believe the story of the Patna, so convinced are they of his essential character. But, just as the darkness of the night hides some of the essential squalor of Patusan--the ramshackle buildings, the fetid mud--so too does the overlay of romance hide the fundamental problem with Jim. He may have the love of a remarkable woman and the trust of an entire people, but he still feels compelled to justify himself and confront Marlow over Marlow's faith in his character ("[Y]ou wouldn't like to have me aboard your own ship--hey?"). Marlow's presence in Patusan is contaminating in some way, since he can testify to Jim's previous failure, yet it is also essential, for Marlow is still the one who must preserve Jim's story. The narrative remains distant from Jim. Marlow gathers information through conversations with other people (Doramin, Jewel) and by making assumptions based on observations; why, for instance, is Tamb'Itam always lurking just outside Marlow's room? Jim is trapped in a horrible paradox. He is somehow "too good" for Patusan; therefore, his presence there must indicate a dark secret that makes it impossible for him to live in the outside world. Those closest to him suspect a problem, and demand answers of Marlow.

Once again, too, a problem arises concerning language and knowledge. Marlow notes that "three hundred miles beyond the end of telegraph cables and mail-boat lines, the haggard utilitarian lies of our civilization wither and die, to be replaced by pure exercises of imagination." Although he has become a man of public action, Jim is still an inscrutable figure. Those around him wonder about his past, while spectacular rumors circulate outside of Patusan. The corrupt official Marlow encounters has taken the name "Jewel" literally, assuming that Jim is in possession of a large gemstone rather than a loving companion. Again, as with the "cur" and "water" incidents much earlier in the text, language--a single word--is subjected to interpretation. The interpreter, in this case the official, makes the same mistake Jim has made previously: he projects his own interests and his own view of the world onto another's language, and in the process language preserves and asserts its own essential inscrutability. Separated from those who give it life, language becomes subject to "pure exercises of imagination." The narrative's distance from Jim, combined with increasingly frequent glimpses of Marlow retelling this story at a much later date, calls into question whether any "truth" lies behind this story. The claim that "[r]omance ha[s] singled Jim for its own" suggests that there is something fundamentally obscure and fictionalized about the account being given to us.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us