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MonkeyNotes-Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
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Chapter 20

Summary

Marlow goes to meet Stein in the evening. They first talk about Stein's hobby, and he tells Marlow about how he came to capture his prize butterfly specimen that is proudly displayed. One day, while living at one of his outposts, he was ambushed. He succeeded in killing three soldiers and scaring the others away. As he looked at one of the dead men, a butterfly flew over the face of the corpse. It was a rare butterfly, one that Stein had searched for his whole life. He managed to capture it with his hat. At that moment, he felt his life was perfection. He had conquered his enemies, had captured his perfect butterfly, and had a beautiful wife and daughter waiting for him. That butterfly is the one he so proudly displays in his glass case.

Marlow then tells Stein all about Jim. Stein listens patiently and remarks that the young man is obviously a romantic. Marlow asks how he can be cured. Stein responds that a romantic is never cured; instead, he must learn to live with his romanticism. Stein, who seems to understand Jim and his problems, says his best advice to a romantic is "to the destructive element submit yourself." To Stein, reality is only a dream that should be held at a distance, for in the end it does not matter. He adds that Jim's problem is that he takes matters "too much to heart."

Stein wants time to thinks about how he can help Jim. He convinces Marlow that he should spend the night. In the morning Stein promises to find a practical solution. He leads Marlow to his room and bids him goodnight.


Notes

More detail is given about Stein in this chapter. He had lost his wife and daughter within three days of each other. When the loss became unbearable, he left the country for awhile. Then he became very involved in his hobby of catching and collecting beetles and butterflies, many of which are displayed in glass cases in his home. He tells Marlow that a butterfly is a masterpiece of nature, unlike man. He also tells of catching his perfect butterfly specimen. The story shows that Stein is a total romantic.

It is clear that Stein has learned from his past experiences and knows how to handle people. He identifies with the story of Jim, for, like him, he has had bad experiences and lost opportunities. He also understands romantics, like Jim, since he is one himself. He knows that Jim must learn to live with his romanticism and not take matters too seriously.

It is important to note that this chapter serves as the transition between the first and second parts of the novel. Jim's new life is about to begin, with the help of Stein.

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