Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
Lord Jim is a combination of high-seas adventure, romance, and psychological character study.
Jim wasn’t born with the title Lord. Quite the contrary, he was an ordinary young guy – smart, ambitious, kind, polite, and friendly. He was the son of a British pastor who grew up in humble surroundings and was eager for life’s adventures.
He left home for a life at sea – full of hope and confidence – with one important message from his father, “Who once gives way to temptation, in the very instant hazards his total depravity and everlasting ruin. Therefore resolve fixedly never, through any possible motives to do anything which you believe to be wrong.”
His father’s advice might have been prophetic. One major mistake, in a moment of panic, alters Jim’s life forever. After a catastrophic accident at sea involving 800 passengers, and a dead crew member, Jim’s short lived career at sea is ruined and so is his reputation. Fortunately, a few wise men believe in him and he gets a second chance at proving himself which leads to a whole different environment of romance, respect, and the title Lord … but inevitably his past comes back to haunt him.
The plot was imaginative, intriguing, entertaining, and stimulating. Set in the wilds of the open sea and lawless untamed remote islands, the book offers colorful descriptions and exotic characters. Conrad’s personal experience as a merchant marine renders credibility to the plot’s details. And his linguistic skills are remarkable. For these qualities, the book rates number 85 on the Modern Library list of best 100 novels.
On the other hand, the story lacks emotion. And Lord Jim was not an easy book to read – being told by a third person, often quoting a second person, who occasionally quotes Jim. This creates confusion throughout the narrative as to who is actually in character. The lack of clarity often requires re-reading entire paragraphs to grasp exactly who is being quoted. It is the equivalent of watching a movie where speech is garbled and requires constant re-winds, or viewing a sporting event that requires constant re-plays because it is not clear what really happened. This distraction often prevents getting totally immersed in the story.
Lord Jim was first released in the year 1900. I imagine the public was starving for new literature and delighted in the adventures of Conrad’s novels. This was my first attempt at reading Joseph Conrad and despite my rating, I am in no hurry to read his other three highly acclaimed books on the Modern Library list.
Rated 3.5 Stars, June 2014
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