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2016 Book of the Month Reads > June: "Lord Jim" by Joseph Conrad

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Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
This thread is for discussing the June 2016 book of the month Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad.


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Posted by Jeffrey in Yahoo Cafe Libri:

Just opened the e-book and read the brief introduction. It opens with an ironic tone and then Conrad goes on to deny the book is morbid but rater displays an "acute consciousnesses of lost honor."

I would suppose that 'morbid' conveys approximately the same meaning as 'dark'.

If so I am not sure how an acute consciousness of lost honor could be described as anything but morbid. It seems to be a symptom of a disease of the soul, or if you prefer, of the mind.

Perhaps Conrad is still being ironic, not denying the book is morbid but just saying that is not the focus of the book. Or of us, his readers.

I was blown away by the last two sentences. Lord Jim is one of us. Just so. Lord Jim is Everyone and everyone is Lord Jim.


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Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
My response to Jeffrey:"

I had the same musings about the introduction and the word choice of "morbid." It bothered me that Conrad gendered the opinion and racialized it as well-- a woman of Italian, I believe, descent--and then he qualifies this by saying she was not from that particular country because people there would not find the book morbid.

I think he was being a bit defensive because of the criticisms he received of the book.

I really liked how he ended the introduction too. In general, I like many of the ways he writes ideas into such beautiful sentences and images. There was a particular point in chapter 2 where he describes sleep as being a brother of death. So stunning and apt. I remember feeling the same way about "Heart of Darkness." There is much I enjoy about Conrad's writing, but then much that offends me. It's a love/hate relationship at times.


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Posted by Jeffrey in Yahoo Cafe Libri:

In chapter 2, after an injury, Jim seems to have joined the slackers, taken an easy job rather then struggle to return home. He seems to have lost confidence in himself. He became an "unsubstantial shadow" of himself He traded the adventure of being a seaman for the comfort of "eternal peace of Eastern sky and sea." Conrad describes this eastern shore as being like a drug, offering "feastal sunshine," "holiday pageant," "eternal serenity." Can this dream really turn tragic?

My response to Jeffrey:

Oh for sure! I loved the way Jim's transformation is described in this chapter. One mishap where he did not perform as well as he expected in the middle of a crisis, and his whole outlook about himself, his profession, and his future life changes. I felt like this response was very gendered. I tried to think of female characters where this happens to in novels, and I could not come up with a name.


Renee (elenarenee) I am really surprised at my library. They do not have the book. I think they have overdone the thinning of the shelves. I am waiting for an inter library loan. I wil be joining late


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Mitsurugi (ChibaMitsurugi1979) | 3 comments Why not download the free ebook version Adri posted about. I did, though I had not started reading it yet.


Renee (elenarenee) My kindle stayed at Starbucks after I left. I miss it greatly.


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Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Renee wrote: "I am really surprised at my library. They do not have the book. I think they have overdone the thinning of the shelves. I am waiting for an inter library loan. I wil be joining late"

No worries, Renee. We are reading it through July too. Plenty of time to join in! I am reading slowly as I am reading a couple of books at one time. Did the Kindle get stolen at the Starbucks? No one turned it in? Do you have a computer? You can download the Kindle for PC program and read from there.


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Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Mitsurugi wrote: "Why not download the free ebook version Adri posted about. I did, though I had not started reading it yet."

You reading with us Mitsurugi?


Renee (elenarenee) Yes the kindle got stolen. I hadn't thought about using the comp. I was too busy being angry with myself for being careless.

But now the book is at the library. I just need time to read. We have family coming for the week of the fourth. I need to do major cleaning. But after all that I am looking forward to the book. I have always wanted to read Conrad.


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Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Renee wrote: "Yes the kindle got stolen. I hadn't thought about using the comp. I was too busy being angry with myself for being careless.

But now the book is at the library. I just need time to read. We have f..."


I am so sorry that someone stole your Kindle. That is terrible :( Do not beat yourself up about it too much. It can happen to the best of us!

I cannot wait to hear your thoughts about it! So far, I like Heart of Darkness better, but I am enjoying this title too. My reading slowed too because I have family coming in for the 4th. Happy early 4th of July! <3


Renee (elenarenee) Heart of Darkness is the only Conrad I have read. It haunted me. It made me think about things I had never really thought about


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Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Renee wrote: "Heart of Darkness is the only Conrad I have read. It haunted me. It made me think about things I had never really thought about"

I agree! Did you ever read A Bend in the River? It is like a re-telling of Heart of Darkness but even better, imho!


Renee (elenarenee) I will have to read that. I looked at Naipauls books. TMany sound very interesting. So many books so little time


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Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
I know, Renee!!!


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Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Lord Jim Discussion Questions, Part 1:

LORD JIM QUESTIONS


1. This novel is about Jim, but the poor guy never really gets a chance to tell his own story. What is the effect of having Marlow (and others through Marlow) tell us Jim's story, instead of hearing it from the man himself?

2. Is Marlow a reliable narrator or not? Can we trust the information we get from him? Do the answers to these questions change how you read the story?

3. What do Jim's failure, and his inability to deal with that failure, tell us about him?

4. Why was Jim's disgrace such a big deal? What does it tell us about the culture Jim comes from?

5. Do you think Jim redeems himself at the end of the novel? Or is he the same old coward he always was?

6. What do characters' different reactions to Jim's Patna scandal tell us about those characters? For example, what does Stein's opinion of Jim tell us about Stein?

7. What do you think of Jewel? Is she a well-rounded female character or just a prop to move along the male characters' stories? Are there negative stereotypes in the way Conrad portrays her?

8. What role does Cornelius play in the novel? Is he just there to be obnoxious? Is he evil incarnate? Do you ever feel a little sorry for him?

9. Does Jim's time on Patusan change the way you think of our guy? Does his behavior there show a different side to Jim, or is he just playing the part of the hero to escape his past?

10. Lots of critics over the years have described the Patusan episode as weak. What do you think? Do you like it as an ending, or did it leave you saying, "huh?"

11. Do you feel sympathy for Jim? If so, how do you think Conrad evokes this feeling in you? If not, why not?

12. Stein describes Jim as a "romantic" (20.27). What do you think Stein means by this? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Or both?

13. We spend a fairly long time at the start of the novel wondering exactly what the heck Jim did. What's the effect of delaying Jim's confession for so long? Did it make you more curious? More frustrated?


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Lord Jim Discussion Questions: Part 2 (with commentary)

1. Is this Jim's story or Marlow's? In other words, is this a novel about actions, or a novel about storytelling? Which aspect of the text is privileged?

Marlow has an extraordinary amount of control over the text, which suggests that Conrad may be more interested in the act of storytelling than in Jim's actual deeds. Marlow also has the last word, which he uses to declare Jim "inscrutable," thereby seeming to deny any definite meaning to Jim's life. Yet the connection between the two, the idea that Jim, like Marlow, is "one of us," indicates that the two levels of the story are somehow inextricably linked. Jim's struggle to realize his fantasies of heroism is similar to Marlow's struggle to explain to himself his fascination with Jim, and to determine what the quality is that makes Jim "one of us." Both are concerned with forging an identity for themselves. The process by which they seek to accomplish this is the major difference between the two: Jim acts, while Marlow writes (or speaks). Both fail, however; Jim goes to his death, Marlow finally throws up his hands and calls the whole thing indecipherable. The sheer technical brilliance of Conrad's narrative structure, though, dwarfs any valor in Jim's acts. Additionally, Marlow's oral storytelling is intimately entangled with the act of writing and narrative construction, suggesting that Conrad, sitting at his desk writing this novel, may after all be more interested in Marlow's struggle to express himself verbally than he is in Jim's struggle to express himself actively.

2. Discuss the women in this novel. What role do they play symbolically? Literally? Why are there so few of them? Why do Jewel, her mother, and Gentleman Brown's late mistress have such similar stories?

Conrad's is a male world, one of sea-faring and economic conquest. Women represent domesticity--home--and as such represent the repository of basic cultural values. There aren't many women here because they're all back in Europe. The women who do appear in this story are natives, not white. Thus they could be considered outside the normal paradigm of gender relations, since men don't have to treat them like they would white women. This does not turn out to be the case, though. For one thing, Gentleman Brown's mistress is white. And her fate is quite similar to those of the native women. The Dutch-Malay woman and Gentleman Brown's late mistress both die as a direct or indirect result of their lovers' misbehavior. Jewel is also disappointed, but, like Marlow, she is left alive at the end of the story. While she is initially associated with romanticism (Marlow says that Jim's association with her is his first true encounter with the romantic), in the end she seems to stand for a principle of pragmatism. It is she, after all, who encourages Jim to fight for his life, and it is she who, like the other two women, suffers for his folly. The women represent "normality"--family and home--and it is this that is damaged by men playing hero. They are the implicit normative ideological grounding in this novel. The three women have such similar stories because most of the key male figures are variations on the same type--driven by fantasies and concerned mostly with their own identities rather than any collateral damage that may result from their actions.

3. Does Conrad offer a critique of colonialism in this novel? Is he in support of it? Or does it just provide a setting? How does the history of colonialism affect the plot of this novel?

Colonialism is a problematic subject in this novel. Patusan is not actually a colonial possession; it is a territory that has been raided for material goods and then forgotten. It is significant, though, that, as a place populated by non-Europeans and not subject to the white man's law because it's not actually a colony, Patusan serves as a dumping ground for white society's rejects. Cornelius and the Dutch-Malay woman are sent there in ignominy, and Jim too is dispatched there to escape the reputation he has received among Europeans. The natives of Patusan are all too aware that the entry of white men can mean only one of two things: either they are about to be colonized, or the white man has something fatally wrong with him. This is why Doramin's wife, Jewel, and others keep approaching Marlow with questions about Jim's past.
Conrad plays with stereotypes of the colonial subject, too. Many of those around Jim in Patusan approach caricature in their extreme traits: the taciturn yet loyal Tamb'Itam, the beautiful and amorous Jewel, the noble Doramin, the blood brother Dain Waris. Some of these figures are meant to contrast with Jim. Dain Waris, for example, is a better leader, who displays more common sense and doesn't need to rely on a mystical reputation. In general, though, the setting is meant to obscure the ideals under questioning in this novel. What does it mean to be a hero among "savages" rather than Europeans, for example? Why does it matter if Jim fails to save Dain Waris from Brown? Ideals are inseparable from societal norms, and it is difficult to ascertain what one's ideals should be when one is not at home.

4. What does Marlow mean when he says that Jim is "one of us"? Why does he take such an interest in Jim?

5. What kind of hero is Jim? A Romantic hero? A modern hero? A moral hero? An anti-hero? What are the ideals that he upholds or fails to uphold?

6. What is the relationship between the episode of the Patna and the episode in Patusan? Wouldn't it have been enough to have Jim go through one or the other?

7. This is a novel that is, to a certain extent, about colonialism. Is national identity important? Does it matter that Jim is British? Or is one's identity as a member of the maritime community more important?

8. Why does Jim let Gentleman Brown go? After what happened on the Patna, does he have any choice?

9. What kind of language does Conrad use? What kinds of imagery? Does he use metaphor? Allegory? Symbolism? What kinds of things does he describe in most detail? In least detail? Why?

10. What is the meaning of honor, or ideals, in this novel? Where do these ideas come from?


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Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Lots of discussion happening in the Yahoo Cafe Libri Group on this book. People are bringing up the film with Peter O' Toole and other topics.

Jeffrey posted this comment from Chapter 14:

I like Conrad's social definition of justice in Chapter 14:

"The real significance of crime is in it being a breach of faith with the community of mankind."

This was the narrator speaking but I suspect he was speaking with the voice of Conrad.

Makes me think of The Racial Contract by Charles Mills.


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Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Jeffrey posted this comment in Yahoo Cafe Libri Group:

I am no longer certain that there is a sharp distinction between the world view we accept and the facts we accept. There is a sort of relationship between the two rather than a difference. If I accept the idea that duty is a primary obligation and that anyone who becomes an officer on a ship accepts the responsibilities and duties of an officer (that duty is universalizeable), then Jim was guilty of abandonment of his responsibilities no matter than no one was injured. Otherwise we might say that all Jim did was jump ship. He did not have an intention to abandon ship, he did not rationalize his actions. He just jumped when the other officers were leaving in a situation when there was nothing he could do.

If we are committed to duty as a high obligation, then all else is irrelevant. When the ship was towed into port, it was also believed by the first responders to be so close to sinking that two lines were attached to the ship with a man standing by each line to cut it if the ship began to go down. An officer was placed aboard to signal that the lines should be cut. He knew when we went of board, if that happened, his life would be lost. He went on board knowing this. What else does that say?

If we are less committed to the obligations of duty then we might well see mitigating circumstances since no one was hurt by the abandonment, there was no intention abandon by Jim and there was little he could accomplish after he had cut away the restraints on the remaining life boats.


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Another comment from Jeffrey:

It may be said that what we have is only formal justice, it follows the rules of procedure and evidence while not being fully concerned the the outcomes. A recent CBS report stated that in America today an average of 10 convictions per month are overturned. Once case concerned a man in Alabama convicted of three killings who spent 30 years on death row. The Supermen Court overturned his conviction 9-0, sent the case for retrial and he was found to be innocent. The case turned on a ballistics test which turned out to be incorrect if not entirely false. The fellow was a black man, convicted by a white judge, prosecuted by a white attorney and convicted by an all white jury. Of course, courts of appeal are part of the formal judicial process intended to correct and prevent violations of procedure but when there are so many violations it would seem to call the process itself into question.


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