Summary and Analysis
Bobbing violently in the pitch blackness and the pelting rain, the lifeboat drifted away from the Patna. Jim remembered that he heard the sea "hissing like twenty thousand kettles." He was so horrified that finally he jumped to save himself. He left 800 helpless Moslems to drown in the black smoke, the scalding steam, and the freezing sea. In his imagination, the Patna's engines had already exploded and the shipful of praying religious pilgrims had already perished.
Jim also remembered that dawn lightened the sky above the tiny lifeboat. The rain ceased, and he saw the masthead light of the Patna. It did not sink. The other crewmen also saw the Patna's light, as well, and they also saw Jim. During the confusion of the night, they had believed that it was their fellow crewman George, the "donkey-man," who escaped from the ship. They were enraged to see Jim; he was not one of them. He had stood apart while they struggled with the lifeboat, and during the night, he had overheard them plotting their alibis for deserting the ship. Jim would tell; he was a witness to their cowardice. They threatened to kill him, and Jim had to grab a tiller to ward off their advances. The light from the Patna suddenly vanished.
Survival gave Jim no happiness. His thoughts were continually darkened by a sense of the "irrational that lurks at the bottom of every thought, sentiment, sensation, emotion."
Next morning, he sat guardedly on the edge of the lifeboat, as if daring fate — or the scruffy, enraged crewmen, or the sea — to topple him over. If he could, he would swim back, witness the wreckage, and then drown himself along with the Moslems. He heard the other men absurdly feigning friendship for him and attempting all the while to rationalize their escape from the Patna. He was horrified when they tried to convince him that he was "one of them." He was not one of them. They chose to jump; Jim did not choose to jump. They chose for him. They called to him. "It was their doing as plainly as if they had reached up with a boathook and pulled [him] over."
On the verandah, Marlow is aware of the mist gathering around them, the darkness beyond, and the flickering candlelight, and he ponders how very alike truth and illusion are when compared to the mist and the candlelight and the darkness. How difficult it is to ultimately know what is "right." Even Jim said that there was not "the thickness of a sheet of paper between the right and wrong of this affair."
Jim related to Marlow his thoughts about suicide, and Marlow thinks that it is ironic that Jim should think of suicide; no one died because of Jim's actions. Suicide, Jim concluded finally, "would have ended nothing." He could also have allowed himself to be killed by the crewmen, but that would have only served their alibis of half-truths.
Jim suddenly asked Marlow for his opinion: did Marlow believe that Jim was innocent or guilty? Marlow was too stunned at the suddenness of Jim's question to answer him.
The only thing — the best thing — to do now, Jim said, was to wait — wait for another chance to prove his worth "another chance — to find out . . ."
Chapter 10 presents the immediate horrors of Jim's jumping, and it opens with Marlow's confirming Jim's assertion at the end of Chapter 9 that Jim "had indeed jumped into an everlasting deep hole. He had tumbled from a height he could never scale again."
The first horror which Jim faces as a result of his jump is that he finds himself among the dastardly people who also deserted the ship. Jim's deepest instincts tell him that he is, if not superior, at least different from these horrible, depraved cowards, yet he too did desert the ship, and thus he is "one of them." They all are literally and metaphorically in the same boat, and ironically, they misidentify Jim as George, the third engineer who died (unbeknownst to them) of a heart attack.
This mistaken identity further aligns Jim with the others until they discover that it is Jim and begin to curse him. But their animosity, hatred, and threats to take his life allow Jim to again see himself as a being entirely apart (or separate) from these unethical monsters, especially as they continually call him a coward or a "murdering coward." Jim sums up the first horror of jumping as the discovery that he had joined these horrible companions. He says, "Oh yes, I know very well — I jumped. Certainly, I jumped! I told you I jumped; but I tell you they were too much for any man."
A short time after he jumped, Jim could still see the masthead light, and it terrified him to see that the ship had not sunk. Then, when he and the others saw the light disappear, they all assumed that the ship had sunk.
As we are later to hear from Captain Brierly, what happened was that the squall simply turned the ship around so that the light was no longer visible. Still, Jim had a deep desire to escape from the accursed lifeboat — to swim back and see for himself because the horror of being with the captain and the others was more horrible than possible death.
In Chapter 11, Jim again brings Marlow and us back to the matter of guilt by asking again if we wouldn't act the same as he did: "Suppose I had stuck to the ship? Well. How much longer? Say a minute half a minute. Come. In thirty seconds, as it seemed certain then, I would have been overboard; and do you think I would not have laid hold of the first thing that came in my way — oar, life-buoy, grating anything? Wouldn't you?" And now if Marlow even uses a euphemism, such as "And so you cleared out," Jim emphatically corrects him: "Jumped . . . jumped, mind you."
At the end of Chapter 11, Jim is waiting "for another chance," and thus, the remainder of the novel will deal with Jim's search for another chance to prove himself to himself.