I was no sooner certain of this than I began to feel sick, faint, and terrified. The hot blood was running over my back and chest. The dirk, where it had pinned my shoulder to the mast, seemed to burn like a hot iron; yet it was not so much these real sufferings that distressed me ... it was the horror I had upon my mind of falling from the cross-trees into that still green water beside the body of the coxswain. I clung with both hands till my nails ached, and I shut my eyes as if to cover up the peril. Gradually my mind came back again, my pulses quieted down to a more natural time, and I was once more in possession of myself.

Jim has these thoughts at the beginning of Chapter XXVII, when he realizes that he has killed Israel Hands, the pirate who has wounded Jim with his dagger. This passage reveals Jim’s maturity and his developing sense of self. The pirates are always drunken, rowdy, and impetuous, and demonstrate little or no ability to manage the situations or circumstances that surround them. Jim, conversely, almost immediately after the fight is over, Jim shows his developing ability to emerge from a state of passionate agitation to a state of control. Jim takes possession of himself in a mature and responsible fashion, and then takes control of the ship and names himself captain. The difference between Jim and Israel Hands represents the difference between those who can take care of themselves and those who cannot. Israel is still drunk when he dies, while Jim is in full possession of his mind and senses.

The passage also shows the importance of Jim’s newfound sense of personal identity. The physical suffering Jim experiences is not as troubling as the prospect of being next to Israel Hands in the water. Jim cannot bear the thought of being associated with a pirate, a person who is not in control of his own body and mind. Jim clearly defines himself as separate from a pirate or criminal—he identifies himself as an honest young man. Jim’s identity matters more to him than even physical pain, suggesting that he is developing a sense of identity, confidence, and maturity.