Karl H.'s Reviews > Lord Jim

Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
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M 50x66
's review
Apr 09, 2011

really liked it
Read in April, 2011

** spoiler alert ** Lord Jim is a story of cowardice I think, of what happens to a person when they are put into an unwinnable bind. Jim abandons his post on a overcrowded ship because it appears as though it will sink. It does not, and Jim is tormented with guilt. At the same time, Jim is not a coward. He has multiple factors working against him: the situation is completely unexpected, Jim is a complete novice in seafaring, and he lacked any moral example to follow in the heat of the crisis. But what is interesting about the affair is that Jim serves as a symbol- he could be any callow youth who, with the best intentions and the loftiest of daydreams, sets out only to discover in the heat of battle that he's not up to the task. He's almost a blank slate, Marlow comments, like so many of the little so-and-so's he's captained over his long career.

The question is not "can Jim be forgiven for his betrayal?" People for the most part don't care about it. It's if he can forgive himself whether a person can survive the discovery that they are not who they wanted to be or thought they were. In so doing, we wonder about duty and the nature of courage as a whole. Why does Jim bend one time, and not the other? What composes the element we call courage? Is it possible to be a coward simply because of circumstance? And when Jim finally answers the call, is that being brave or also cowardly in a different way, for abandoning the person he cares about? What bravery is anyway? Does it matter in the long run?

I think Conrad does a good job of exploring these issues, but there were some stylistic niggling issues. I got a little sick of Marlow calling everything inscrutable though. There are also political issues going on with Conrad. His treatment of women and those of other ethnicities is questionable. Occasionally things can lag. Ultimately I give this four stars.

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