Lord Jim

Lord Jim Summary and Analysis of Chapters 23-27

On his way to Patusan, Jim carries a letter from Mr. Stein to Cornelius, together with a silver ring common among natives as his introduction to Doramin, Mr. Stein's "war-comrades" friend. Doramin gave him the ring as a parting gift and promise of eternal friendship. Stein had saved Doramin's life at one point. Now Jim keeps the ring around his neck.

Set to leave, Marlow notices three books tumble out of Jim's valise: the complete Shakespeare. Marlow is struck by this choice of Jim's. He is also struck when Jim, taking the revolver Marlow has offered him, forgets the two small boxes of cartridges. Jim calls to Marlow: "You - shall - hear - of - me" (182).

Marlow visits Patusan two years later, and at the mouth of the river, the elderly headman of the fisher-folk village comes to board Stein's schooner and tells Marlow about a certain "Tuan Jim," the first white man he ever saw. As he goes down the river, he can see Jim going down the river for the first time, and the narrative subtly shifts to Jim's perspective: Jim is describing how he felt seeing the first houses, how the boat came onto the bank. A boat full of armed men behind him, people coming out of the gate straight at him, his revolver empty, he just stood there. He asked them what was the matter, and it stunned them. Kassim, the Rajah's counselor, announced that the Rajah wanted to see him.

The Rajah kept him prisoner for three days. He was a fearful soul who hated Doramin and was deeply afraid of Jim. Jim was held by the north front of the stockade which, on his third day in Patusan, he leaped over. His leap of escape was a flying one over the mouth of a muddy creek. Traveling by foot, he reached Doramin, as the women screamed and children cried. He produced the ring.

Doramin and his motherly wife were of the merchant class and were viewed with great respect and dignity. They were involved in a deep, factional fight regarding trade, since the Rajah had been pretending he was the only trader in the country. Doramin, fat, imposing, monumental, and motionless, was growing old, and the area was fraught with insecurity. The couple had had a son late in life, named Dain Waris. Dain Waris was very distinguished and about twenty-four or twenty-five. He was adored by his parents, and he would become Jim's best friend. Dain Waris understands Jim very well.

Jim next describes to Marlow the extent to which he has become a legend. Like a judge, he feels a keen responsibility for the social order. Many believe he has supernatural powers. An old man from a faraway village even came to ask Jim if he should divorce his wife. A key victory in war settled his stature and respect, having concluded a quarrel with the Rajah. A stockade that had already been knocked to pieces caused the story to circulate that Jim had thrown it down with the touch of a finger. Dain Waris had saved Jim's life at that time. There had been a hot five minutes in the stockade, and then all was clear. Jim cries that it was "Immense!" (204). As a result of the battle, Tamb' Itam, a stranger to Patusan who had been detained by the Rajah, bolted from him in order to become Jim's devoted servant. He was inseparable from Jim, like a "morose shadow" (204).


The narrative scatters chronologically. The reader gets a brief view of Jim's success in Patusan, and we learn that Marlow visits him there. The narrative then returns to Jim's perspective, as he first learns about the opportunity Stein is giving him. The silver ring is a traditional symbol of the romantic quest, of which Jim's journey is an example: it takes him into the heart of an unknown place, where the ring will help him inherit the cultural and other ties that Stein made in those parts long ago. He has the opportunity to prove himself, while Stein plays the part of providing luck or chance. From then on, Jim is on his own.

The prospect of anonymity is, for Jim, a possible freedom. He discovers that he is not so bad after all, something Marlow had sensed from the beginning. Thrown into a whirlwind of self-confusion, Jim now proves his worth. It is not certain, however, that this success will help him reconcile with his previous failure, since his personality remains obsessed with a particular, fixed aspect of the past. While people can change generally, the past cannot. Hence, the question of Jim's fate ultimately turns on how he learns to live with his past.

When Marlow notes Jim's copy of Shakespeare, the scene resonates against the recent scene with Stein, who made reference to the poet's Hamlet. This detail provides a further sense of connection between the romantics, Jim and Stein, regarding the question of how one is to live. The search into literature for answers is Conrad's subtle hint, being an author himself, that his literary work endeavors to answer the complex questions of how to be and how to live.

From the moment Jim arrives in Patusan, he exhibits courage. His judgment is flawless, and he makes the correct leap from his imprisonment when he needs to. This contrasts with his leap from the Patna and with his earlier failure to leap at the best time. These successful leaps in Patusan, moreover, provide the seeds of the mythmaking that envelops Jim, who comes to be known as "Tuan Jim" or "Lord Jim." This romanticized "Jim" can fly. He cannot die. The story even trickles down to a faraway place where Marlow will hear that the legend has discovered a giant emerald.

When Marlow once again encounters Jim, he feels the pride of a father. He is glad that Jim has successfully made use of the opportunity he received. Something of the stammering, young, ineloquent man remains, but Marlow notes: "Now and then, though, a word, a sentence, would escape him that showed how deeply, how solemnly, he felt about that work which had given him the certitude of rehabilitation. That is why he seemed to love the land and the people with a sort of fierce egoism, with a contemptuous tenderness" (188). While Jim looks upon the land with one eye on possession, Marlow still concludes that "all his conquests, the trust, the fame, the friendships, the love--all these things that made him master had made him captive, too" (187). Marlow is coming to understand Jim very well. This understanding is reiterated: "Jim the leader was a captive in every sense. The land, the people, the friendship, the love, were like the jealous guardians of his body. Every day added a link to the fetters of that strange freedom" (198). In other words, the freedom he had sought, the freedom that comes with honor and power generally, must be held accountable to others. Binding oneself to others is constraining: you can't leap or run away. The responsibility is severe. Jim has inserted himself as a necessary and important part of the social fabric in Patusan, and, in this way, the community is not unlike that of a ship on the sea.

Thus while Jim is exiled from the sea, this new oceanic wilderness is isolating in a new way. He has assumed a position not unlike the one he had held on board the Patna as first mate. In Patusan, a name that resonates with the sound of "Patna," Jim is isolated even while he is in position to guide the community.

An important point to keep in mind in thinking about the communities on board the Patna and in Patusan is their "otherness"; both sets of people for whom Jim is responsible differ considerably from the Western figures who dominate the novel. The ship had been filled with Muslim pilgrims heading for Mecca, and Patusan is filled with a community of Southeast Asian islanders. Stein, also, had been intimately involved with a Malay community. In all these cases, though Jim and Stein had been relatively isolated insofar as they were white men, the white men achieved dominance and held a high stature among the population. This white ascendancy has been critiqued as problematic in much of Conrad's work, gaining some energy from being set in "exotic" locations. Note that Dain Waris "knew how to fight like a white man ... he had also a European mind"--which, from the perspective of the speaker, suggests the superiority of the Western presence in that part of the world, as well as the superiority of a native man who is like a white man (197). Though colonialism was a fact of the time, critics have argued that Conrad fails to render the native characters in his work with the subtlety and generosity he affords his white characters.