Faye's Reviews > Lord Jim

Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
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Jun 05, 12

bookshelves: british-literature
Read from May 31 to June 05, 2012

The tragic tale of a young sailor who could never forgive himself for a moment of weakness.

I'd read some of Conrad's shorter stories years ago, and I remember finding them really hard to follow. I found Lord Jim the same, until I realized what the problem was - every page is so densely packed with description, information, and dialogue, and the story bounces back and forth between past and present so often, that if my attention strayed for even a moment I would forget who was speaking or being spoken about, what was being described or explained, and when exactly the action was taking place. Since most of it was being narrated by one person, and that person kept narrating what other people had said, and most of the dialogue was lumped together into a single paragraph no matter how many people were speaking, it was pretty confusing for a while! Not badly written or poorly put together, just a lot different than what I'm used to reading. I would have to keep backtracking a few pages just to pick up the thread again once I'd lost it.

But once I realized that I could only read it while alone in a quiet room with no distractions whatsoever, I started to really enjoy it. I'm a sucker for a good tragedy, and even though at times I wanted Jim to snap out of it and forgive himself already, I could see that someone like him would feel defined for the rest of his life by one single cowardly act. He was young and proud and thought he was fearless. No matter how many brave deeds he committed afterwards, he would always have that one moment of cowardice in the face of impending death hanging over his head. It was in his mind forever, and no matter how hard he tried to run away from it, it would always catch up to him. It's heartbreaking when you think about it. And the ending, though it seemed a little contrived, felt right - maybe all the more right because of the feeling that it was contrived, like Jim was writing his own ending in the only way it would satisfy him and alleviate his guilt. It's a good story, and although it seemed a little far-fetched at times that an old sailor would use such profound and eloquent language, I managed to ignore that and just enjoy the prose for its beautiful imagery and emotion.
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