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Lord Jim or Tuan Jim, as the Malays called him, is the chief character of the novel. He is an inch or two under six feet and is powerfully built. He has a deep voice and a charming and fascinating personality. He is well-mannered, cultured, and refined. Jim has not only the imagination of a romantic, but also the exquisite sensibility of a romantic. He is emotional, proud, and touchy. Like all romantic dreamers and idealists, Jim is egocentric and selfish, although he does not acknowledge this trait. The prime example of his selfishness is his act of abandoning eight hundred pilgrims on board the Patna, even though he claims he did not jump to save his own life. Throughout the first part of the novel, he cannot escape from this act of cowardice.
Jim suffers acutely because society shuns him after the unfortunate Patna incident, and he is also excessively severe on himself because of his romantic nature. He accepts the Patusan challenge, hoping to overcome the guilt and shame that he feels. In Patusan, his true nature comes forth and he proves, as Marlow has always known, that he is worthy of being "one of us." He proves himself to be brave, loyal, compassionate, honest, and noble. The Bugis, who completely trust and love him, make him their leader and call him Tuan Jim (Lord Jim). They look to him to provide them with the "truth".
On Patusan, Jim repeatedly shows he is not a coward. He comes up with a successful plan to defeat Sherif Ali by carrying cannons up the mountain and destroying the enemy stronghold. After the fighting, Jim is one of the first ones to go into Ali's ruins, risking his life. After he becomes leader, he drinks coffee on a regular basis with Raja Allang, fully aware that he could be poisoned at any moment. At the end of the book, he walks, with total consciousness, into the lap of death and feels happy that he can give his life for his principles, finally overcoming his shame and guilt.
Marlow serves as the narrator of the novel. He is a retired sea captain with years of experience behind him and is twenty years older than Jim. He is introduced for the first time at the trial of Jim. At the trial, Marlow, with his perceptive nature, realizes the anguish that Jim is going through, but sees him as "one of us." Being a kind and helpful man, he immediately decides to assist Jim. He becomes Jim's friend, teacher, guide, and confessor. Marlow goes to his friend Stein and explains Jim's situation. Stein, in turn, offers Jim the position in Patusan, which Marlow successfully convinces him to take. After Jim has been in Patusan for a number of years, Marlow goes to visit him in order to assess Jim's success. He is delighted that his friend is loved and trusted by the Bugis and has become their leader.
Throughout the book, Marlow is the reader's bridge to Jim. Through him the reader is able to reach the mind of Jim and observe him from all angles. In fact, Marlow serves as Conrad's alter ego.Stein
Stein is Marlow's personal friend and a wealthy and respectable merchant who has a large trading business that extends into many parts of the world. He is intelligent, kind, and sympathetic. He is also a lover of nature and eagerly collects beetles and butterflies, which he proudly displays in glass cases in his home. Like Jim, Stein is a romantic; as a result, he immediately understands Jim's nature and plight and wants to help him. He offers the young sailor a fresh start in Patusan and sends him off with a silver ring that will help him be acknowledged and accepted on the island. Stein is wise and far-sighted enough to believe that Jim can succeed in Patusan and redeem his self-esteem.