|
Movies Books Music Food Tv Shows Technology Politics Video Games Parenting Fashion Green Living more >

Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Lord Jim » User review

Lord Jim

A book by Joseph Conrad

< read all 5 reviews

Of Heroes And Zeroes

  • Aug 22, 2005
Rating:
+5
Young Jim was probably never meant for the sea. As described by Joseph Conrad, the title character of "Lord Jim" had no real love for ocean voyage or relish for adventure except when it was inside his own head. His "dreams and the success of his imaginary achievements" were "the best parts of life, its secret truth, its hidden reality." His passage to the Far East was destined to prove a ticket to failure, and so it was, when he abandoned a foundering vessel filled with pilgrims to save himself.

Now his shame is the stuff of conversation in every roadstead and harbor between India and Australia. Can the chastened dreamer manage to recover his lost sense of honor in a distant land where no white man will come to tell of his past mistake?

"Lord Jim" may be set in the Pacific, but its ideas are universal, as Conrad takes on the contradictions behind the Western concepts of honor and bravery. Published in 1900, the novel feels like the start of the modern literary era in both its loose, ambling structure and its questioning of the base convictions of right and wrong still girding society today. "Lord Jim" hasn't lost much of anything in the 105 years since it was published. If anything, it's more relevant than ever.

Who is Jim? Is he a hero, a coward, or a victim? Is he all three? Part of the problem pegging him is the fact the fellow doing most of the talking about him, cagey Marlow the narrator, doesn't seem too sure himself. That ambiguity is another way in which the novel is modern. At one point Marlow even seems to suggest Jim is no more than a figment of his imagination.

"He existed for me, and after all it is only through me that he exists for you," he tells his anonymous group of listeners at one point. It's interesting Marlow is only identified by his last name and Jim by his first. Are they two halves of the same person?

While playing with the metaphysics of identity and of right and wrong make "Lord Jim" vital and important, Conrad's deep engagement in humanity's many odd and nasty facets makes it fun. He creates a myriad of secondary characters inhabiting the backwaters of the West Indies, of varying moral shadings, finding amusement in even the cruelest.

One singular nogoodnik tells Marlow he wants the disgraced Jim to work for him on a barren island harvesting guano. It's not much of an offer, he knows, but there is one benefit: "Anyhow, I could guarantee the island wouldn't sink under him - and I believe he is a bit particular on that point."

"Lord Jim" is a great book not for its message so much as its lived-in depth, a sense we are really there on Marlow's steamy veranduh amid casuarina trees or aboard a creaking brigantine sailing placid under a crepuscular sky. Conrad really engages you as a reader, and while he plays with the narrative structure, and allows the story to drift quite a bit, often frustrating me and other readers at least the first time through, the book remains engaging and illustrative about both its theme and subject.

Dark? Yes, but not oppressively so. In a way, Conrad is taking a humanistic approach to a nihilistic question, asking what good notions of honor and glory really do mankind when most of us aren't fated to join life's immortals. Do we have the right to expect more of ourselves than life itself allows?

At one point, when a minor character obsessed with his sense of honor kills himself, Conrad asks a burning question worth keeping in mind: "Who can tell what flattering he had induced himself to take of his own suicide?"

What did you think of this review?

Helpful
3
Thought-Provoking
3
Fun to Read
3
Well-Organized
3
Post a Comment
More Lord Jim reviews
review by . September 19, 2012
On Bob Dylan's latest album, the title track "Tempest" is a relentless narrative of the sinking of the Titanic, the title itself repeating the title of Shakespeare's account of a shipwreck on a deserted island far from land, believed to be based on the real-life shipwreck of the Sea Venture on the islands of Bermuda at the turn of the 17th century.  These are seas Conrad sailed aboard ship and on paper as one of the great writers of his century, perhaps best known for this …
review by . November 22, 2008
A Grand Ungodly Godlike Narrator, November 22, 2008  By Giordano Bruno (Wherever I am, I am.) - See all my reviews     That title is a knock-off of Ishmael's description of Captain Ahab in Melville's Moby Dick. My guess is that Joseph Conrad never read Moby Dick. His writing career unfolded during the decades before the rediscovery of Melville. I have no doubt that Conrad would have burst with appreciation if he'd encountered the other "greatest" writer of sea tales …
review by . November 22, 2008
By Giordano Bruno (Wherever I am, I am.) - See all my reviews     That title is a knock-off of Ishmael's description of Captain Ahab in Melville's Moby Dick. My guess is that Joseph Conrad never read Moby Dick. His writing career unfolded during the decades before the rediscovery of Melville. I have no doubt that Conrad would have burst with appreciation if he'd encountered the other "greatest" writer of sea tales in English or any language. Lord Jim begins to remind me of Moby …
review by . November 22, 2008
That title is a knock-off of Ishmael's description of Captain Ahab in Melville's Moby Dick. My guess is that Joseph Conrad never read Moby Dick. His writing career unfolded during the decades before the rediscovery of Melville. I have no doubt that Conrad would have burst with appreciation if he'd encountered the other "greatest" writer of sea tales in English or any language. Lord Jim begins to remind me of Moby Dick in chapter four, when the straightforward 3rd person narrative suddenly shifts …
About the reviewer
Bill Slocum ()
Ranked #301
Reading is my way of eavesdropping on a thousand conversations, meeting hundreds of new and fascinating people, and discovering what it is about the world I enjoy most. Only after a while, I lose track … more
Consider the Source

Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.

You
Bill_Slocum
Your ratings:
rate more to improve this
About this book

Wiki

WhenLord Jimfirst appeared in 1900, many took Joseph Conrad to task for couching an entire novel in the form of an extended conversation--a ripping good yarn, if you like. (One critic inThe Academycomplained that the narrator "was telling that after-dinner story to his companions for eleven solid hours.") Conrad defended his method, insisting that people really do talk for that long, and listen as well. In fact his chatty masterwork requires no defense--it offers up not only linguistic pleasures but a timeless exploration of morality.

The eponymous Jim is a young, good-looking, genial, and naive water-clerk on the Patna, a cargo ship plying Asian waters. He is, we are told, "the kind of fellow you would, on the strength of his looks, leave in charge of the deck." He also harbors romantic fantasies of adventure and heroism--which are promptly scuttled one night when the ship collides with an obstacle and begins to sink. Acting on impulse, Jim jumps overboard and lands in a lifeboat, which happens to be bearing the unscrupulous captain and his cohorts away from the disaster. The Patna, however, manages to stay afloat. The foundering vessel is towed into port--and since the officers have strategically vanished, Jim is left to stand trial for abandoning the ship and its 800 passengers.

Stripped of his seaman's license, convinced of his own cowardice, Jim sets out on a tragic and transcendent search for redemption. This may sound like the bleakest of ...

view wiki

Details

ISBN-10: 0451527674
ISBN-13: 978-0451527677
Author: Joseph Conrad
Publisher: Signet Classics

First to Review

"Of Heroes And Zeroes"
© 2014 Lunch.com, LLC All Rights Reserved
Lunch.com - Relevant reviews by real people.
()
This is you!
Ranked #
Last login
Member since
reviews
comments
ratings
questions
compliments
lists