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Lord Jim, A Tale
Joseph Conrad
Published by Joseph Conrad
Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002


Conrad takes us into another journey into the heart of darkness, this time into the darkness of Jim's heart. Jim is promoted to the command of his ship when the captain dies. Later in the journey the ship becomes in imminent danger of sinking, and while supervising the lifeboats Jim falls or is pushed overboard and ends up in the lifeboat. He is later rescued, but the ship that he abandoned is also rescued and towed into port. After his trial he leaves the country in disgrace never to return again. Everywhere he goes the specter of his miscalculation follows him. Until his friend Marlowe, the narrator of this tale, connects him with a wealthy trader who hires him to run a trading post on an inland river of an isolated island. He walks into multiple political intrigues on the island and manages to prevail over all his antagonists. His shrewdness and resourcefulness gain him the respect of the natives and their rulers as he begins to forge a new life for himself. Tuan (Lord) Jim becomes the de facto ruler of the island.

The entire story of Jim is told by Marlowe during a dinner with some of his friends. The format works well, with the reader mostly forgetting that it is Marlowe's voice telling a story until just before the climax of the story when Marlowe completes his personal reminiscences. The last portion is told by Marlowe who relates a story told him by Brown, the nefarious pirate who stole a ship and sought shelter on Jim's island. Once more the natives fire on the ship as it heads upriver, just as in Conrad's earlier book, "Heart of Darkness."

What happens when Jim confronts the evil Brown is the crux of the story. Brown represents Jim's sordid past returned from the civilized world. The confrontation in the middle of the creek illustrates how Jim has already died inside and thus has no more fear of death. One can only guess what will become of Jim if he once more fails to protect those in his charge.

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