Summary and Analysis Chapter 3



The stillness of the night and the serenity of the stars seemed to shed an assurance of everlasting security, and the Patna, moving smoothly and routinely across the Arabian Sea, seemed to be a perfect part of a safe universe.

On deck, Jim paced during his night watch. As usual, he was dreaming, his imagination lulled by romantic visions of courageous deeds and bold action. He had a full and wonderful sense of self-confidence.

Minutes before he was relieved, he saw the pig-like outline of the skipper come up on deck; he was repulsed by the man's disgustingly naked belly, glistening and obscene with greasy sweat. The second engineer also came up, and he began to argue drunkenly with the skipper.

Then suddenly, everything changed. The gesturing engineer, descending below the deck, lurched violently and pitched head-down, cursing loudly. Jim and the skipper staggered forward. Distant thunder rumbled, then there was silence. The ship quivered, then regained its slow, peaceful progress.


This chapter devotes itself to presenting a repulsive picture of Jim's captain and fellow officers. The captain, the chief engineer, and the second engineer are all described in derogatory terms in order to foreshadow their despicable, disreputable, horrible immoral actions — that is, the desertion of the 800 Moslem pilgrims to certain death.

For example, the immoral nature of the captain is first expressed in his physical description — "There was something obscene in . . . his naked flesh . . . [his] odious and fleshly figure . . . fixed itself in his memory as the incarnation of everything vile and base that lurked in the world we love." In addition to the captain's obesity is the drunkenness of the second engineer. Against these people, Jim and his romantic purity and ideals stand in sharp relief. And yet in the crucial moment, as we later learn, Jim "Jumps" along with these immoral derelicts.

Later in the novel, and especially at the end of Chapter 3, note Conrad's technique of impressionistically suggesting that "something" has happened. Conrad, however, will not reveal fully "the jump" until quite later. In fact, the reader should try to determine at what point in this novel it becomes perfectly clear that Jim did indeed "Jump" and abandon the Patna and the Moslem pilgrims.