Lord Jim By Joseph Conrad Summary and Analysis Chapters 31-33

Summary

The next day, Jim spent a long time with Doramin, the old nakhoda, trying to impress on him and the principal men of the Bugis community the absolute necessity for immediate and vigorous action in order to counter Sherif Ali.

Meanwhile, Sherif Ali's men strutted about, "haughtily in white cloaks," spreading the rumor that Rajah Allang intended to join them in raiding and defeating the Bugis once and for all. The attack seemed imminent, and terror among the natives was intense and widespread.

Jim returned home at sunset, pleased at having convinced Doramin of his plan to rout Sherif Ali. Now he had "irretrievably committed" the Bugis to action. Now, also, Jim had committed himself; in fact, all of the responsibility for success was "on his own head." And yet he was elated and lighthearted with the fantastic possibility of his vision.

In the middle of a deep sleep that night, Jim was awakened by Jewel. She put his revolver into his hand and insisted that he get up. Four men, she said, were waiting to kill him. Then she took him to one of the storehouses.

Jim sighed. He was tired of these alarms, and he was angry with Jewel for her increasing anxiety. But he pushed open the door of the dungeon-like ruin of a storehouse anyway. At first, he saw nothing — an empty wooden crate, and a litter of rags and straw. For days, he had been living with a heavy weight on his soul; if only there had been something here — a trace or a sign of someone. But there was nothing.

Suddenly, Jewel shouted at Jim to defend himself, and in the pale light, he saw the gleam of a pair of eyes within a heap of mats. Jim yelled for the man to come out, and a half-naked, glistening native pounced toward Jim, the blade of his knife above his head. Jim felt utter relief. He let the man come toward him until he could see his dilated nostrils and his wide eyes. Then he fired, his bullet exploding inside the man's mouth and disappearing through the back of his head.

Afterward, Jim was strangely calm. He felt "appeased, without rancour, without uneasiness." He stepped over the body and routed out three other naked figures, crawling forward from under the mats and holding out their empty hands.

Jim led the prisoners out into the night, and Jewel followed, her white nightgown trailing and her black hair falling to her waist. At the edge of the river bank, Jim stopped. He told the men to take his greetings to Sherif Ali, and then he ordered them all to "Jump!"

Afterward, when he and Jewel were alone on the river bank, Jim told Marlow that never before had he realized how dearly he loved Jewel. "More than I can tell," Jim said; to him, his love for Jewel was "idyllic, a little solemn, and also true." In addition, Jim expressed his almost disbelief in the natives' complete trust of him. He knew that he was equated with what was "true" and "brave" and "just," and yet he knew his own secret nature — that is, he knew how utterly he had failed, once.

Later, after sundown, Marlow was stopped by Jewel. She wanted assurance" from Marlow, "a statement, a promise, an explanation." Her life had been a puzzle and a living hell — until Jim's appearance. Now she had fallen in love with him — a white man — exactly what her mother warned her against. What would keep Jim from leaving her and Patusan one day? The world "out there" had always been one vast Unknown to her, and then Jim came to her from that vast Unknown, as did Marlow now. Marlow sensed that she felt that he could — and would — "with a word whisk Jim away — out of her arms." He was overwhelmed by her breathless urgency to keep Jim.

Marlow was touched by Jewel's innocence and her youth, as well as by her "wild flower" beauty and by her tremulous fears. To her, Marlow clearly stood for the frightening void of the Unknown. If he had not come for Jim, Jewel asked, why had he come? Marlow tried to explain that he had come because of friendship and because of business. But the girl was firmly convinced that he had come for Jim. Marlow said that she must trust Jim: he would never leave her. Marlow also told her that she was the only one in Patusan who doubted Jim's word.

Jewel said that Jim swore never to leave her, but she could not believe him. His promise was not enough. And yet she feared for his life if he stayed. She had even begged him to go. But after Jim killed a man and sent three others back to Sherif Ali, he and Jewel fell in love "under the shadow of a life's disaster." Jewel said that she feared dying like her mother — that is, dying of sorrow because of a man. And even if Jim did swear never to leave her, what made his vow any more honorable than any other white man's vow? Was Jim, she asked Marlow, any different from other men? Marlow answered Jewel. He said that yes, Jim was different. Was Jim, Jewel asked, more brave? More true?

Marlow tried to discover what Jim had told the girl about his past, but he could not. Seemingly, Jim had told her only that once, long ago, he was "afraid." Jewel beseeched Marlow to tell her what it was that Jim was afraid of. How could she battle this ghost in Jim's past? Jim had told her that "the world out there" did not want him; was it true, she asked. Marlow answered that yes, it was true.

Jewel continued to ask questions about Jim until Marlow exasperatedly shouted that Jim was "not good enough" for the world. Jewel was stunned. Those were the same words that Jim had uttered when he had told her why he had to stay on at Patusan. "You lie!" she cried out to Marlow.

Hearing footsteps, Marlow slipped away.

Analysis

These chapters are essentially devoted to the love that developed between Jim and Jewel, and the difficulties that Jewel encountered when she tried to believe Jim and trust him — in spite of the fact that everyone else in the village trusted him completely.

In Chapter 31, we go back in narrative time to a point before Jim blew up Sherif Ali's fortress; we return to a night when four of Sherif Ali's men attempted to kill Jim. It was the first night that Jim discovered that the girl, Jewel, had constantly kept a vigil over him while he was sleeping, thus indicating to him her deep concern for him.

At first, when Jewel came to him, Jim thought that she was in trouble; then he was annoyed when she told him that his life was in danger. He had heard this fear expressed so many times from so many people that the threat had become boring.

This time, however, Jewel was correct, and we see Jim confronting the charging killer and capturing the three men in hiding. The entire purpose of this scene is to illustrate both to the reader and to Jewel the nature of Jim's courage.

Here, in the face of almost certain death, Jim did not "jump."

He held his ground until the last possible moment, and then he fired at the charging killer. By standing his ground, Jim displayed considerable courage; in one sense, he has begun to redeem himself from his jump from the Patna. Furthermore, Jim grew in stature in Jewel's eyes.

In Chapter 32, Jim expressed some of the paradoxes of his love for Jewel. First of all, he couldn't leave her because he had become convinced that his very existence was essential for her own continued existence. He was obligated to her. He was, however, troubled that he could never be completely honest with her, partly because she would never believe him if he were to tell her the true reason for his being in Patusan.

That is, Jewel has seen Lord Jim perform outstanding acts of bravery, courage, and defiance; thus, she would never believe him if he were to tell her the true state of affairs. But the colossal irony is that if Jim were to tell Jewel or anyone else about his past, they not only wouldn't care, but they would agree that Jim had done the right thing in saving his own life. This view is what will make it so impossible for Jewel and Tamb' Itam to accept Jim's decision, at the end of the novel, not to "run for his life."

Chapters 32 and 33 present a fuller view of Jewel. When she is alone with Marlow, she questions him about Jim because she can't understand Jim. We see her as an acute, sharp, intelligent woman, but one who is still naive and innocent. She also has deep fears of Marlow's "hold" over Jim, and as Marlow says: I belonged to the Unknown that might claim Jim for its own at any moment." Jewel greatly fears this great Unknown. Jewel knows that other white men have come, and they have always left after awhile: "They always leave us." Sometimes she thinks that Jim "in his sleep when he cannot see me [will] then arise and go" because even though "other men had sworn the same," yet they all have left. The irony of these fears is that, in the ultimate analysis, Jewel is right. In deciding not to flee (not to make a run for his life later on) and in his decision to face death rather than live with her, Jim will be "deserting" Jewel.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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




Quiz