Summary and Analysis Chapters 12-13



The narrative now focuses on what happened when Jim and the three crewmen were picked up next day by the Avondale. The German skipper recited the alibi agreed on by all the crewmen, except Jim. The first lifeboat, the skipper said, was lowered slowly to avoid panic, and then "the ship went down in a squall — sank like lead." Jim knew that this was a lie, but he said nothing. Still, however, he was sure that he heard hundreds of pilgrims screaming and crying out for help.

Once the men were on shore, they learned immediately that the Patna did not sink; it was sighted by a small French gunboat and towed to Aden. Did the Patna's light disappear, as the crewmen in the lifeboat seem to think it did? Yes, the wind had swung the ship's stern around, so that the lifeboat was suddenly behind the Patna. Thus, the Patna did seem to suddenly disappear.

Marlow recalls a conversation that he had, purely by chance, some time afterward; it took place in Sydney, Australia, with the French lieutenant who boarded the Patna the day after its officers deserted it. For thirty hours, the Frenchman remained on board while his small boat pulled the Patna toward Aden, two of his men ready at any minute to cut the tow lines and let the Patna — and all 800 Moslems sink if the ship's stern caved in. But the Patna's stern did not burst, and the rescue mission was wholly uneventful, remembered by the Frenchman primarily because the religious pilgrims did not have a single drop of wine to serve him with dinner.

Marlow continued his conversation with the elderly French officer, fascinated by the man's bitterness and sadness. I have known some brave men," the Frenchman said, but, within each one, there was always fear: "the fear — it is always there." He sighed and said that all men are weak," but that we must each accept that truth and "live with it."

The French lieutenant left, and Marlow was alone. He shuddered as he thought of Jim working as a mere water-clerk, perhaps the most 11 unheroic," most unromantic work imaginable. He remembered a small, short man, "bearded to the waist like a gnome," whose soul had shrunk to the size of "a parched pea" when circumstances forced him to do menial work; yet that man proved his manhood to himself when he tried to rescue a strong-bodied, strong-willed woman who so overpowered him that they both drowned.

Marlow then returns us to the night before Jim's sentencing. That night, Marlow offered Jim a plan for escape, in addition to a letter of recommendation for a new job — plus more than 200 rupees ("A loan, of course"). Jim would have none of it. "Clear out!" he told Marlow, and Jim's face was so close that Marlow could see the soft down on Jim's smooth, young skin.

Jim said that he had to be his own witness for what he had done. I may have jumped, but I don't run away." The knowledge that he jumped from the Patna, abandoning 800 people to what he was sure was certain death, was a deadly weight upon his soul. By staying to face the panel of inquiry, Jim hoped to perform an act that would partially restore his sense of self-worth.

With a miserable grin on his face and a nervous laugh, Jim dashed off then, and the night swallowed him up. Marlow was stunned. Jim had touched Marlow's "secret sensibility"; Marlow knew that he himself might have taken the money and run if he were Jim. He was awed and puzzled by such resolute idealism in one so alone and so young, "not yet four-and-twenty."


Jim tries to explain that when the Avondale rescued them, he said nothing when the captain gave out the fictitious story because, after all, I had jumped, hadn't I?" Thus after avoiding the word "jumped" for so long, now that he has actually said it, he seems to take a perverse delight in using the word. After the report of the Patna, Jim is exultant partly because the shouts for help that have been haunting him must have been imaginary, but nevertheless, these shouts were so piercing that he is now glad that the pilgrims were saved so that he will no longer hear their imaginary shouts. He still can't understand the sinking of the masthead (explained by Captain Brierly as a shift in the ship's position), but he knows that it too must be imaginary.

Conrad then shifts his narrative to that of the report of the French lieutenant whose gunboat rescued the Patna. Then Conrad shifts the novel's time sequence again — this time, to three years in the future, when Marlow encountered this same French lieutenant who had boarded the Patna and oversaw her towing for thirty hours without sleep or wine, but knowing that two quartermasters were standing with axes ready to cut loose the lines if the Patna were to begin to sink, in which case, the French lieutenant would have also have gone to his death.

And yet in Chapter 13, when Marlow and the French lieutenant discuss the events, the Frenchman does not condemn Jim for his actions. Even though he himself was there for thirty hours, he maintains that "After all, one does not die of . . . being afraid." Also, he maintains that "there is a point — there is a point — for the best of us there is somewhere a point when you let go everything. And you have got to live with that truth — do you see?" Thus, the man who faced death for thirty hours refuses to either condemn or judge Jim.

Conrad (or Marlow) then returns to the time of the trial — just before the judging, when Marlow finally feels that Jim has suffered enough indignation and therefore offers him money (200 rupees from Captain Brierly and more from himself) so that Jim can simply leave, disappear. But Jim refuses: "I may have jumped, but I don't run away." It is as though once again his romantic nature craves added punishment and indignation.