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MonkeyNotes-Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
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Chapter 4

Summary

A month or so later Jim stands in the witness-box and painfully answers questions about the wreck of the Patna and the subsequent events. He is attending an official inquiry in the police court of an Eastern Port about the accident. Outside the court the sun shines brightly; inside the packed room, the intense and attentive eyes of the onlookers peer at him, making Jim feel hot and uncomfortable. In spite of his discomfort, he is determined to tell the truth about what has happened. He honestly explains how the ship had been moving as easily over the waters as a snake moves over a stick. As the presiding magistrate stares at him, the questions continue. "You were ordered by your Captain to go and find out the extent of the damage after the ship had collided with something floating," one of the assessors says to Jim. "I did not," replies Jim, "I was told to call no one for fear of creating panic. I thought the precaution reasonable. So I took the lamp, lowered it and saw the forepeak was more than half full of water already. I knew that there must be a big hole below the water-line." Jim goes on to explain how he saw the second engineer, dazed and feeling that in no time the whole ship would go down like lead. The Captain was also worried and kept moving here and there on the bridge, mumbling to himself. He ordered the second engineer to go and stop the engines before the icy water damaged them.

Jim is then made to answer the most critical question about whether he jumped ship. He says honestly and miserably, "Yes, I did." The words make his mouth feel dry. He wipes his damp forehead, passes his tongue over his parched lips, and feels a shiver run down his back. He looks around the court and sees a white man sitting apart from the others in the audience. As the man looks at Jim, there is something different about his glance, as if he understands Jim's difficulties. Jim feels that he has seen him somewhere, but is sure he has never spoken to him. He looks away from the man, whose name is Marlow.


Notes

This chapter leaves the sea and takes the reader to an official inquiry in the police court. The scene is carefully described, and Jim is pictured with "burning cheeks in a cool lofty room." At first, the reader does not know why Jim is present or that the ship has been in a collision; but as Jim is questioned, the details of the accident are given and Jim's shame is revealed. The others in the inquiry try to save themselves, but Jim's only wish is to tell the truth. His total honesty is clearly displayed, but no one is ready to listen to him, which makes him feel helpless.

The fourth chapter introduces Marlow, who becomes Jim's good friend and the second narrator of the novel. From this chapter forward, the story is told from Marlow's point of view. As a result, the reader is introduced to many new facets of Jim's character, but in a subjective manner. Introduction of a narrator, like Marlow, in the midst of a story is an original and effective Conrad device.

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