Jim Leckband's Reviews > Lord Jim

Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
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Aug 04, 11

Read from July 26 to August 04, 2011

I first read this book over 20 years ago, I'm sure it is a different book to me now. You always bring what you've experienced to your understanding of the book. I think this is more true for this book than most in that it seems to me Conrad is questioning/reaffirming what is our moral basis for the way we live our life. He presents Jim as the distillation of living with our actions - and how we can live deliberately with the result afterwards.

As far as "lit-ra-chur" goes, this novel has it all. Themes, allegories, shifting narrative in time and space, the authorial presence. One critic has called it the first modern novel. There is so much going on in this book that if you aren't doing a report or dissertation on it, it might serve you well to focus on one aspect of it and compare and contrast things in the book as you get to them.

For me, this aspect was Conrad's notion of "romance" - not the supermarket Harlequin kind - but the medieval romances like King Arthur and Roland. Marlowe (Conrad's narrator) repeatedly brings up the romance of Jim's actions and attitude. It is like Jim is a knight-errant sent on a quest to atone for his guilt.

On my first reading, I remember feeling like Lord Jim was a thinly disguised Jesus - and it certainly isn't wrong to view him that way - it definitely is there, especially at the end. However, on this reading I think the Christ-like actions should be thought of arising from the notion of a hero in the Joseph Campbell sense - i.e. Lord Jim is all heroes not just Jesus, but Lancelot, Roland, Orlando etc. And Conrad leads me to this conclusion by his insistence on the mythic balladeer role of Marlowe. Marlowe is constructing a myth out of Jim, instead of Homer and Odysseus it is Marlowe and Jim. This is not farfetched when you remember that a lot of heroic myths come out of the oral tradition - i.e. the Song of Roland or the Iliad.

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Quotes Jim Liked

Joseph Conrad
“He existed for me, and after all it is only through me that he exists for you.”
Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

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