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MonkeyNotes-Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
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Chapter 11

Summary

In this chapter, Marlow reminds the reader that he and Jim are on the verandah. As Jim continues his tale, Marlow notices that mist is rising around them and sees the candle flicker. He comments that truth and illusion are often alike and that it is difficult to know what is right. It is obvious that once again he is sympathizing with Jim's story.

Jim now tries to justify his desertion. He tells Marlow that he would never have jumped if the crew in the lifeboat had not called to him. He also admits that he had been miserable about the jump and had considered suicide several times while in the lifeboat. Jim is trying to be completely truthful so that Marlow will believe every word of what he says. He then turns to Marlow and asks him whether or not he believes him to be guilty. Marlow is so surprised over Jim's question that he cannot answer it.


Notes

Light from the candle mingles with the darkness of the night as Jim speaks. The light and dark blend together in the mist, much like Jim's truth and illusion and much like his dark side and bright side. In the changing pattern of light and dark, Jim sometimes looks boyish and sometimes mature to Marlow. In truth, Jim vacillates between youth and maturity in his approach to life.

The symbolic nature of Jim's jump into evil is emphasized in this chapter. Jim has already lost his peace of mind. He is trying to convince Marlow that he should not be judged harshly over jumping, for he was "forced" into it by the calls of the crewmen in the lifeboat. He also explains that had he stayed on board and gone down with the ship, he would have grabbed on to the first thing floating past in order to save himself. He sees no difference in either action, for both are natural instincts towards self- preservation. In trying to convince Marlow of his innocence, Jim is indirectly trying to atone for his "sin". He implies that he will dedicate the rest of his life to the performance of heroic deeds so that the memory of his failure may be wiped out forever; he is just waiting for a chance to prove himself. Jim is definitely showing his romantic side once again.

It is obvious that Jim is a character filled with conflict. This device of choosing a hero who has done something wrong, but who is, at least, better than most, is common in Conrad's writing. He does a similar thing with Kurtz in Heart of Darkness.

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