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Lord Jim (Penguin Classics)

4.1 out of 5 stars 210 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140180923
ISBN-10: 0140180923
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When Lord Jim first 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 in The Academy complained 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 narratives. But Lord Jim is also touching, elevating, and often funny. Here, for example, the narrator describes the ship's captain (proving that clothes do indeed make the man):

He made me think of a trained baby elephant walking on hind-legs. He was extravagantly gorgeous too--got up in a soiled sleeping suit, bright green and deep orange vertical stripes, with a pair of ragged straw slippers on his bare feet, and somebody's cast-off pith hat, very dirty and two sizes too small for him, tied up with a manilla rope-yarn on the top of his big head. You understand a man like that hasn't a ghost of a chance when it comes to borrowing clothes.
This is formidable prose by any standard. But when you consider that Conrad was working in his third language, the sublime after-dinner story that is Lord Jim seems even more astonishing an accomplishment. --Teri Kieffer

Review

Novel by Joseph Conrad, published in 1900. Originally intended as a short story, the work grew to a full-length novel as Conrad explored in great depth the perplexing, ambiguous problem of lost honor and guilt, expiation and heroism. The title character is a man haunted by guilt over an act of cowardice. He becomes an agent at an isolated East Indian trading post. There his feelings of inadequacy and responsibility are played out to their logical and inevitable end. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

''Lord Jim belongs to no era because it is timeless, novelistic art at its most sublime. . . Narrator Frederick Davidson is nothing short of perfection in his portrayal of Marlowe's complex persona. . . . '' --Library Journal --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (November 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140180923
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140180923
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (210 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,899,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jerry Clyde Phillips on May 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is one of those books that anybody who has been throughhigh school should have been exposed (or at least exposed to the CliffNotes on the novel). I remember being assigned this book as a junior or senior and bluffing my way through without really reading it. I even got a literature degree without reading it. Finally, after many years, I felt that I should give the novel its due, and picked up a copy.
The novel is the story of Jim, an overly romantic seaman, who during a moment of crisis loses his courage. He is first mate on a pilgrim ship bound for Mecca and after the ship collides with an unseen object and is in danger of sinking, he abandons ship leaving the human cargo to fend for its own. He is dogged by his guilt and spends years drifting around the East trying to find the right occasion by which he might redeem himself. Eventually he ends up in the forests of Malaysia where he becomes a god-like protector of the indigenous people and is given the title of "Lord." But no matter how successful Jim might appear to his followers, and to the omnipresent narrator of the novel, he still cannot forget his moment of weakness. Jim's self-centeredness prevents him from moving forward with his life and condemns him to a life of voluntary exile, all the time proclaiming that he is not good enough to live in the outside world. He is willing to risk all future happiness and fortune to be able to face his demons once again without losing his nerves. Ironically, it is his last "heroic" act that destroys all the good that Jim has painstakingly built up, essentially bringing chaos to his Eden like world.
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Format: Paperback
This is the fifth book I have read by Conrad, and through these readings I have come to deeply appreciate his literary power and the perfection of his stories. Conrad has the skill to border about several similar subjects, without repeating himself. "Lord Jim" is truly a Shakespearean tragedy, mainly because of the Shakespearean nature of the main character. Jim is a young naval officer with high hopes of heroism and moral superiority, but when he faces his first test of courage, he miserably fails. While 800 Muslim pilgrims are asleep aboard the ship "Patna", Jim discovers that the boat is about to sink. There are not sufficient lifeboats for everybody. Should he wake them up or not? He gets paralyzed with fear and then sudenly jumps into a boat being set up by the rest of the officers. He is taken to trial and disposessed of his working licence.
Ashamed and humiliated, Jim dedicates the rest of his life to two things: escape the memory of that fateful night, and redeem himself. This agonizing quest to recover his dignity in front of his own eyes leads him to hide in a very remote point in the Malayan peninsula, where he will become the hero, the strong man, the wise protector of underdeveloped, humble and ignorant people. Jim finds not only the love of his people, but also the love of a woman who admires him and fears the day when he might leave for good. The narrator, Captain Marlow (the same of "Heart of Darkness") talks to Jim for the last time in his remote refuge, and then Jim tells him that he has redeemed himself by becoming the people's protector. Oh, but these things are never easy and Jim will face again the specter of failure.
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Format: Paperback
From the vantage point of the 21st century, I often wonder about the life of a sailor in the 2nd half of the 19th century, when ports of call existed on every continent, and commercial trade conventions were long established, and far-off exotic locales were familiar places to the peripatetic seaman. How different is the local culture and life of the great seaports than those land locked communities in the heartlands, far from either river or railroad. How many wandering storytellers come to such communities with stories of extreme duress and moral complexity? What do such isolated communities know and understand of the complicated, difficult, and often imperfect ethical conundrums that confront the worldly wise and often, world weary in their wanderings across the seas.

Lord Jim is a fascinating, complex psychological character study of someone who bore on his back the burden of absolute, utter disgrace, yet who longed for an opportunity to demonstrate, at least to himself, if no one else, that his one great moral failure should not define the whole of his character. And thus he remained true to himself, to the bitter end. When all his colleagues ran off to avoid standing up and being held accountable, exposed to public scrutiny, public contempt, and public ridicule, Jim alone answered for his actions to the high maritime court. And when he had made that ill-fated bargain with a human devil incarnate, Gentleman Brown, that turned out SO badly, once again, he alone, stood up before the high judge and accepted his responsibility, and the final, inevitable decree. He could have fled, but instead, like Socrates, he saw nothing to flee to. He had acted thusly, he accepted his responsibility, and he held himself accountable to others whom had placed their faith and trust in him.
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