Lord Jim By Joseph Conrad Summary and Analysis Chapters 28-30

Summary

After Sherif Ali was routed, there was no further trouble from Rajah Allang. He immediately flung himself face down on his bamboo floor and moaned in fear for hours on end. Meanwhile, Jim conferred with Dain Waris, and they appointed new head — men for the villages; Jim had taken control of the area.

Old Doramin took great pride in the peace that Jim brought to Patusan, and he dreamed of someday seeing his son, Dain Waris, as the ultimate ruler of Patusan. This was his secret ambition, his single most secret obsession, in fact, and he had unbounded confidence in Jim's role, regarding Dain Waris' fate.

Marlow tried to assure Doramin and his wife that Jim would stay on in Patusan, but they could not believe that he would do so. They wanted to know why Jim would want to stay; no other white man had ever done so. Surely, said Doramin's wife, Jim had a home and kinsmen — a mother, perhaps? Marlow was unsuccessful in trying to convince them of Jim's decision to stay at Patusan forever.

Marlow then turns to the story of Jim's beloved Jewel, a young woman who is three-quarters white. Jewel had lived all her life at Patusan. Her stepfather was a white man, a Portuguese named Cornelius, and he was Jim's predecessor in the trading post. He was the most slinking, slimy, amoral man in the entire settlement. He was without any honor or character.

Jim placed great value on Jewel; he married her in a native ceremony, and we hear how they walked "side by side, openly, he holding her arm under his — pressed to his side — thus — in a most extraordinary way."

Cornelius was not happy that Jim had come to Patusan. He began to creep around, continually "slinking in the neighbourhood with that peculiar twist of his mouth as if he were perpetually on the point of gnashing his teeth." To Cornelius, Jim had not come to merely take Patusan from him, but already he had begun to also take Jewel from him.

Marlow says that what he remembers most clearly about Jewel was the "even, olive pallor" of her skin and the "intense blue-black gleams of her hair." Also, she wore a small crimson cap far back on her head. She was a curious mixture of charm and shyness and audacity, and she was obviously devoted to Jim; "her tenderness hovered over him like a flutter of wings." It seemed, Marlow says, as if she were always "ready to make a footstool of her head for his [Jim's] feet."

Cornelius' house was in a shambles when Jim came to live there. Half the roof had fallen in, and all of Stein's account books were torn, and there was nothing in the storehouse but rats. It was unpleasant, Jim said, and what made it worse was the fact that, during his first six weeks there, he kept hearing rumors that Rajah Allang planned to kill him, which of course, was very possible, for, as Jim said, "I couldn't see what there was to prevent him if he really had made up his mind to have me killed."

Jim tried to explain to Marlow why he had decided to remain at Patusan. Of course, he said, there was Jewel, and she was treated horribly by her stepfather. Cornelius would scream at her, curse her dead mother, and finally he would chase Jewel around the house, flinging mud at her. Such cruelty, Jim said, was "a strange thing to come upon in a wilderness." Jim was finally so exasperated by Jewel's stepfather's behavior that he told her that he was willing to kill Cornelius. Then Jewel told him a curious thing: she herself could easily kill Cornelius "with her own hands," but she knew how "intensely wretched" Cornelius was with himself.

Lying on his back one night, on a thin mat, Jim saw an omen: "a star suddenly twinkled through a hole in the roof." Instantly, Jim knew the real reason for his staying on at Patusan. He would rid Patusan of the evil Sherif Ali. Jim knew that he had to make solid plans for overcoming Sherif Ali in his hilltop stockade "roost" above Patusan. He would destroy this Arab "who lurked above the town like a hawk above a chicken yard." Jim envisioned cannons mounted on the top of the hill opposite Sherif Ali's stockade. He became so excited and possessed by the idea that he told Jewel about it. She listened reverently to Jim, clapping her hands softly and whispering her admiration for his vision.

Analysis

Even though Jim becomes the most respected person in Patusan, being called "Tuan Jim," or Lord Jim, Doramin shows no sense of jealousy even though Doramin's most secret desire is to have his son Dain Waris become the chief ruler of Patusan. Part of Doramin's lack of jealousy, of course, stems from the fact that both he and his wife know that no white man has ever stayed in Patusan for longer than a few years, unless they were evil, vicious, spiteful, and cruel — such as the wicked and unprincipled Cornelius.

Jim, however, basking in the glory of his recent triumphs, cannot tell the people of Patusan that he is, in the eyes of the outside world, a disgrace who can never be accepted, and thus, he can never return to that society. In addition to Doramin's wife, then, who cannot believe that Jim has no mother, no one at all to return to, later Jewel, Jim's wife, will also have difficulty believing that Jim will not leave her someday.

This brings Marlow to the subject of the romantic love that developed between Jim and Cornelius' stepdaughter. Their love, from the start, was imbued with "a romantic conscience," and Jim even translated her Malay name into the English name "Jewel," meaning any gem of precious quality. Not only was their marriage performed in the native style, but their union was highly successful. It was also highly unique because Jim and Jewel would walk publicly hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm; normally, a Malay woman was supposed to walk behind her lord and master and was considered to be inferior to her husband. Furthermore, we later learn that when Jim had to be away from the village, Jewel was placed in charge of valuable property, such as the ammunition room.

Chapter 29 presents more of Jewel's background and reinforces what we have already been told about her total and complete devotion to Lord Jim — a devotion that is equaled only by Tamb' Itam's loyalty to Jim. The depth of the devotion of these two people to Jim will later account for their inability to understand Jim's decision not to flee after the terrible tragedy at the end of the novel.

In contrast to the purity and beauty of Jewel's and Tamb' Itam's characters is the vileness of Cornelius, Jewel's stepfather. "His slow, laborious walk resembled the creeping of a repulsive beetle, the legs alone moving with horrid industry while the body glided evenly. . . . [He was so] loathsome, abject and disgusting" that Marlow could not stand to even be around him. Conrad's graphic description of Cornelius prepares the reader for his vicious and cowardly behavior at the end of the novel.

Chapter 30 continues to present Cornelius' atrocious behavior, especially his disgraceful treatment of Jewel. Yet, ironically, it is in the midst of the horror of Cornelius' presence that Jim suddenly conceives of a plan to free Patusan of the wicked Sherif Ali — a plan which we have already seen was successful.

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At Jim's trial, someone said, "Look at that wretched cur." Who did Jim think said it?




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