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This chapter shifts its emphasis to the rescue of the Patna by a French gunboat. Marlow met the French lieutenant in charge of the gunboat three years after the incident and learned the details of the rescue. The lieutenant had boarded the Patna and stayed to oversee the towing procedure, which lasted thirty hours. Throughout the ordeal, he was aware that the ship could sink at any moment, and he would have been forced to go down with it and the 800 pilgrims. Fortunately, the Patna was towed to shore without incident.
Surprisingly, the French lieutenant does not condemn Jim for his desertion. He says that even the bravest of men have some element of fear, for "all men are weak." Marlow thinks about Bob Stanton, a small man he once knew. Even though he performed menial labor, he died a hero. He once tried to rescue a woman who refused to vacate a drowning ship. Bob tried to pull her off, but the large woman refused to budge. Finally when the boat went down, both Bob and the woman went down with it.
Marlow then returns to the story of Jim and tells of the night before Jim is sentenced. Marlow offers to loan the young sailor some money and give him a letter of recommendation so that he can escape. Jim refuses the offer; he will not "clear out." Although he jumped from the Patna, he will not run away from the trial. He already feels tortured by abandoning the 800 pilgrims; he must fact the inquiry and sentencing in order to restore some faith in himself. Jim then departs, and Marlow is amazed once again at the young sailor's romanticism. He thinks if he were in Jim's shoes he probably would have taken the money and left.
This chapter is one of the more difficult ones to follow in the book, for Marlow jumps around in time and place. It also introduces several new characters. Three years after Jim's desertion, the French lieutenant tells Marlow about rescuing the Patna. For thirty hours he stayed on board the broken ship that was being towed, fearing it might sink at any moment. In spite of what he himself did to save the pilgrims, the lieutenant does not condemn Jim, for he knows that all men are fearful and weak. This philosophy voiced by the lieutenant presents a basic theme of the novel. Bob Stanton is also introduced in the chapter and presented as a stark contrast to Jim. Stanton's heroism in going down with one stubborn lady is contrasted with the cowardice of Jim, who left 800 pilgrims to die on the Patna. Jim, however, redeems himself to some degree by the end of the chapter. When Marlow offers him a means of escape, the young, idealistic sailor refuses. He knows that he must not run away from the inquiry like he ran away from the pilgrims. Jim is determined to regain some sense of self-worth.
It is important to notice that when Jim tells Marlow his story, he is always nervous and uncomfortable. He does not like to face up to his weaknesses. Since he is portrayed as 'every man' throughout the novel, Jim's discomfort highlights the fact that every individual tries to shy away from her/his own negative deeds or traits; mankind finds it uncomfortable to face the truth.