The novel “Lord Jim” by Joseph Conrad is a story about a sailor named Jim who has to go through life trying to put a hideous act of cowardice behind him. He has no place to call his own, and it seems as though his history follows him everywhere he goes. This makes it difficult to keep a job because not only does everyone know what he did, but also he knows that they look at him poorly.
Jim always wanted to be a sailor. He loved the sea, and so he entered a training program for merchants where he excelled. He was injured while on board, and this sets up the story to have Jim aboard a boat called the Patna. This boat held 800 Moslem pilgrims, and Jim was first mate aboard it. One night, the ship hit something in the water and weakened the boat while the Moslems were asleep. Afraid the ship would sink, Jim and the other officers took a lifeboat to safety while the ship went under. They could even hear the screams of horror aboard the ship.
Jim went before a panel for them to determine if he was guilty of leaving them to die or if he could have saved them. They revoked his navel certificate, and Jim’s image of himself and his self-esteem were shattered. A man named Marlow went to Jim and spoke with him about his future and even offered him a job. Jim accepted, but soon after ran away because people remembered his history and he was scared. Eventually, Marlow got in touch with Jim and had a job for him on a trading post in Africa where he could be by himself and no one would bother him. On the way there, he was captured by Rajah Allang and his people. He escaped and made it to a tribe of Malays, headed by Doramin, a friend of Jim’s acquaintance Herr Stein. He felt safe around these people, and even fell in love with one of their women.
When Gentleman Brown came to Patusan, he threatened everything Jim had worked for. He planned on plundering the settlement. Jim talked to him and promised him a safe trip down the river and promised the Malays that nothing bad would happen. But the chief’s son and many others were killed, and Doramin was outraged. Jim returned to the village, knowing he would be punished. When he got there, Doramin shot him in the chest and he died.
I think the major theme of this book is courage. Jim is a good guy who made a terrible mistake and cannot forgive himself for what he has done. He made a cowardly act, but that should not keep him from moving on, yet it does. He was not brave, and that bugged him. In the end, however, by returning to the village to receive his definite fate he shows an amount of courage that one cannot measure.
Conrad is trying to stress the point that good people may do bad things, yet they are still good deep down. He says that other people will forgive you once you forgive yourself because the bad thing you did is not truly you, but a human mistake. It is pointed out that your conscience should not be too heavy if you make a mistake, as long as you learn from it.
Lord Jim is a novel about the growth of one man, trying to outrun his past, only to find out that you cannot take back what you have done, but you can move on. Conrad has made an attempt to show important self-confidence is, and how if you cannot live with yourself, no one else will either.