Lord Jim

Lord Jim Summary and Analysis of Chapters 34-36

Chapter 34 begins with Marlow leaning against the balustrade amid the cane-chairs, his audience listening attentively. He continues with his story, describing the new vision he had of Jim: enterprising, energetic, and enthusiastic. Marlow felt sentimental and solitary. He now tells his audience that "He is one of us," and then describes how he had conceived of Cornelius as a dangerous element (244), while Jim thought Cornelius was too insignificant to be dangerous. Cornelius said to Marlow that Jim was "no more than a child" to Marlow (245), and Marlow responded that Jim would never leave Patusan.

Then Marlow forms a kind of collage of the characters of the story in Patusan, as if "an enchanter's wand" had immobilized them all except for Jim. Marlow states again, "He is one of us" (248). Jim's story continues. He says good-bye to Marlow, vowing, "I shall be faithful" (251). Marlow is struck by the romance of this statement, and he tells Jim that he should be heading home in about a year. Jim says to that, "Tell them ..." (252). He ends this parting word, however, with "No- nothing." As Marlow's ship pulls away from the shore, he watches Jim, wreathed head to foot in a kind of white veil. "And, suddenly, I lost him..." (252).

The narrative is at an end, yet Marlow's audience does not comment. The story is incomplete. How does the story end? Only one man among the listeners shows any interest in knowing Jim's fate. He is a "privileged man," living in a city, in the highest flat of a very lofty building.

He receives a packet in the mail from Marlow containing three enclosures. One is a letter from Marlow that informs him of how the story reached its conclusion. Something Jim had begun writing was also included; its heading reads, "The Fort, Patusan." Marlow highlights "the commonplace hand" and wonders: "impossible to say whom he had in mind when he seized the pen: Stein--myself--the world at large--or was this only the aimless startled cry of a solitary man confronted by his fate?" (255). There is also an old letter from Jim's father, received just a few days before Jim joined the Patna, beginning "Dear James" and containing news of home. The last enclosure is Marlow's story of the final events. Marlow has written it into a narrative, and he comments on its "profound and terrifying logic" (257). Marlow states that the "information is fragmentary," but that he has pieced it together to make "an intelligible picture" (257).


As Marlow brings the story of Jim to a close, he tells the audience gathered around him on the verandah: "It is not Justice the servant of men, but accident, hazard, Fortune--the ally of patient time--that holds an even and scrupulous balance" (240). This rings true in life and in the world Conrad presents. Those deserving a favorable opportunity are not always offered it; rather, opportunities seem to arrive by chance. When they do appear, they must be seized. In the end, Jim was offered an opportunity by Marlow and Stein, and he seized it. He says to Marlow, in parting despite his other ties, "I shall be faithful" (251). He hints that he will live to fulfill their hopes in him of the romantic ideal, still being watched by Marlow. As they part in twilight on the beach, "the sea at his feet, the opportunity by his side--still veiled" (252), the romantic opportunity has yet to be fully identified and grasped. The image recalls the "Eastern bride" of opportunity, Jewel in particular, and the unsure possibility that a full life can be lived to its end in that romantic place. Still, the statement "I shall be faithful" has an acutely romantic resonance and, as Jim lives to be faithful and to accept his fate, Marlow will be faithful in return. Upon learning of Jim's fate, Marlow finishes the story.

But, for the time being, the story is incomplete. Marlow ends his story for his audience on the verandah without their knowing what is to come to be in Patusan. Marlow forms a collage of Patusan and all its characters, frozen as if by "an enchanter's wand." Jim, however, according to Marlow, cannot be frozen like the rest: "I am not certain of him. No magician's wand can immobilize him under my eyes. He is one of us" (248), in a sense uncapturable. This characterization of their relationship reinforces Marlow's storytelling role, and behind the guise of Marlow, Conrad himself figures as a kind of god who constructs the story, or at least a detective piecing together a complex account of the human condition. Jim is an exception because, for all his depth and subtlety, his acute awareness of his own shortcomings, and his desire to make something more of himself, he is Marlow's equal, on a level with the storyteller himself. They are of the same material. Jim, being the subject of this story, is the one studied to understand the man's inner life and contradictions. This has been an inquiry into his soul, as overseen by Marlow. But the audience has no comment. The story is incomplete. No judgment can be given, it seems, until the whole of the man's life has passed. Will Jim finally come to terms with his past?

The narrative then skips ahead in time, and the reader learns that there was one man who had expressed interest in Jim's fate, far after Marlow's telling of the story. Marlow now addresses him in a letter, and the boundary of Jim's story is again revealed. This time, however, Marlow has moved on from oral storytelling to the written word. First, he presents pieces of written evidence, and then, using the testimonies of others, he pieces together the story into a written narrative for this "privileged man," the "privileged reader." This unnamed reader, we learn, had not summarily approved of Jim, and in fact the reader had "prophesied for him the disaster of weariness and disgust with acquired honour," also commenting that he would regret having given himself up to "them" (meaning the natives). Marlow presents the completion of Jim's story by way of counterargument: actually "the question is whether at the last he had not confessed to a faith mightier than the laws of order and progress" (254).