Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A flight from conscience, September 8, 2003
This review is from: Lord Jim (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Each one of us has a personal "ideal"...each different in its contours and each varying in its influence on our actions. For the most part, the ideal is hazy and evolving but there are elements which are distinct and rigid...and a compromise on these core principles strikes at the very root of a person's self concept. Most of us are fortunately flexible enough to "adjust" and carry on. For a few, however, the failure to adhere to one's own ideal is as good as a death sentence. Lord Jim is the extraordinary tale of one such extraordinary person.
For me the most interesting character of the novel is the narrator himself. Jim is the focal point, of course, and an exceptional character, but quite predictable. The drama of Jim's life after the incident on the Patna is really orchestrated by Marlowe who recognizes the inevitable doom of his friend even as he tries everything in his power to stall it. It is doubtful whether he really wanted to succeed - It is clear at many points in the narrative, that Marlowe was unable to sign off on Jim's character certificate, even in his conversations with others. He represents, in a way, the conscience of the "western world" - the conscience Jim betrays and attempts to flee from. Jim recognizes that and so does Marlowe...but he also loves Jim...so the dilemma is really his - should he allow his friend to redeem his honour in the only acceptable manner or should he prolong Jim's onerous journey through an unforgiving life by creating an illusion of redemption, which he probably knew Jim's stint in Patusan would. He is, therefore, equally a party to the betrayal and Jim's fatal purging is also, to an extent, his own.
A wonderful book and a subject equal to Conrad's literary class. The only thing that left a bad taste was the implied superiority of the Westerner's ethics and character. I guess it has to be judged in the context of a period when the "sun never set on the British Empire".
Vijay
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