Monday, November 20, 2017

Book Review: Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

We are introduced to Jim (later, Lord Jim) at a time when he was working as a water-clerk for a ship-chandler firm in the Far East. It was menial work, but Jim seemed fairly happy, and everyone liked him. They knew him simply as "Jim." Yet, as the plot unfolds, with Conrad's skillful analysis of Jim's character, we gradually realize that Jim was not "merely" Jim; he was "one of us."  Indeed, the author make a point of letting the reader know that what Jim does in his moment of weakness, could happen to any of us. The question, is how many of us have the strength and courage to fight for redemption?

Later, after Jim earned the rank of Ship’s Mate, on a dark night in the Arabian Sea, Jim’s ship ran over some floating wreckage and was badly damaged. Jim discovered the damage and saw that the sea was pressing in on a bulkhead, which walled in the hold, where several hundred Asian passengers were asleep. The bulkhead bulged. It could not possibly withstand the pressure. Jim was convinced that within minutes the sea would rush in and the passengers would all be killed. With too few lifeboats and no time, there was no possible salvation for everybody on board.

The captain and crew abandoned the ship, leaving the passengers to drown. In a moment of confusion, Jim leaps into the lifeboat to save his own life, rather than stay to help the passengers. That one act of cowardliness begins a journey of shame and redemption, and also a story of true friendship with the one person in the world who believes in Jim’s character, Marlow, the story’s narrator.

One of the more interesting aspects of this classic, is that it’s not only Jim’s shame and redemption we are reading about, but also the shame of the white race for how they mistreated Asians, and the feeble attempts at redemption by some.

The story has a slow tempo and an overly descriptive, in-depth narration that is more often beautiful than tedious, but the story line ultimately delivers in the end.

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