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MonkeyNotes-Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
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Chapter 8

Summary

In this chapter, Marlow continues telling Jim's story of what happened on the Patna, giving some of the details that he had learned from the young sailor. After he realized that the ship would surely sink, Jim stood on deck not knowing what to do. He was not afraid of death, but he did not want to die alone and unknown amongst 800 foreign pilgrims. Suddenly it struck him that if he could free the seven lifeboats, some people could be saved in them. Stepping over sleeping pilgrims, he quickly ran towards where the boats were kept in the hope of loosening them. On the way, someone caught him by his coat and shouted, "Water, Water!" Jim struck him before realizing that he only wanted water for his baby. Jim then threw his water bottle at the man and ran on as the boat swayed dangerously. He soon approached the lifeboats and saw the captain trying to loosen one of them. Then one of the engineers ran up to Jim and asked him for help in freeing a lifeboat for his escape, but Jim refused him. When the officer called Jim a coward for not wanting to save himself, he slugged the engineer. He then heard the captain say that he was ready to "clear out". Jim bemoaned the fact that he felt that he was tricked by the officers, the boat, and the sea; he then laughed loudly and bitterly at the memories.


Notes

The narrator probes deeper into the psyche of Jim, hoping the reader will identify with the young sailor. When Jim was stopped by one of the pilgrims and struck him, it clearly revealed the depth of the panic that Jim himself was feeling. When he learned that the captain and engineer were going to leave in the lifeboats, deserting the Patna and the pilgrims, Jim was confused and horrified. He was too shocked to try and stop them. He then obviously panicked himself and jumped overboard, not fully realizing what he was doing.

Jim told Marlow his story because he wanted an ally, someone who could understand him. As he gave the details of the horrid night on the Patna, he kept asking Marlow what he would have done had he been there. Marlow is obviously not certain of what his reaction would have been, for he knows that he is only human. As a result, Marlow seems to fully sympathize with Jim, again calling him "one of us."

It is important to realize that Jim's story has not been clearly told in a chronological fashion. There has been much talking about the Patna incident, but the reader has still been expected to fill in some of the details and piece the tale together. By the end of this chapter, the whole story of that fateful night should be obvious to the reader, who now can understand why Jim was on trial in a courtroom.

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