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Lord Jim

Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Patna

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Lights of Bohemia to Love in Livery

a novel by Joseph Conrad, published in 1900, serialized in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (18981900). Probably Conrad's most popular and accessible work, the novel concerns a young Englishman who decides on a career at sea ‘after a course of light holiday literature’. However, the sea does not live up to his romantic expectations. The crisis comes when the Patna, with its 800 passengers, collides at sea, while Jim, the chief mate and officer on watch, had been day-dreaming about heroic adventures. Not only does Jim fail to live up to his own romantic self- image, he fails in his duty as an officer. In the second half of the novel he is given another chance and, in the romantic world of Patusan, he is allowed to realize his romantic expectations until the arrival of the piratical Gentleman Brown confronts him with a second crisis. Apart from its engagement with Conradian concerns of isolation, identity, betrayal, solidarity, and moral tests, the novel also marked a development in Conrad's narrative method both in its handling of narration and in its use of time-shift. After four chapters recounted by an omniscient narrator, the English seacaptain Marlow takes over the narration. Introduced at the ‘official inquiry’ into the incident in Bombay, Marlow then conducts his own investigations. He interrogates a succession of witnesses who act as moral touchstones and interpreters of Jim: the impeccable Captain Brierly; the honourable French lieutenant; the disreputable Chester; and finally the romantic Stein, who suggests sending Jim to Patusan. Before Marlow is introduced, however, Conrad effects one of his most significant time-shifts, when he jumps a month from the moment of collision to the time of the Inquiry (and thus conceals from the reader the events that followed immediately after the collision).

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