Literature Study GuidesLord JimChapters 28 30 Summary

Lord Jim | Study Guide

Joseph Conrad

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Lord Jim | Chapters 28–30 | Summary



Chapter 28

In defeat, Sherif Ali flees the country. Jim, with the help of Dain Waris, appoints new headmen in place of the villagers who had been Sherif Ali's allies. In keeping with his idea of fairness, Jim allows Rajah Allang to live and retain a measure of his old authority in spite of the Bugis's desire to "pay off old scores."

Doramin later confides to Marlow he hopes to see his son appointed ruler of Patusan. He has observed white men never stay—"they come to us and in a little while they go"—so expects Jim someday will leave and there will be need for a new ruler. He is not pleased when Marlow assures him Jim intends to stay.

The next phase in Jim's journey toward his final destiny grows into a story of love. Marlow begins the tale at a lonely gravesite he comes upon during an early morning stroll. It is the grave of the wife "of the unspeakable Cornelius." Surrounding it is a rustic, circular fence, garlanded with leaves and flowers. Jim has built this structure for love of the woman's daughter, whom he calls Jewel.

Marlow muses it is likely the dead woman was one of the extraordinary types who possess a quality or spirit almost heavenly in nature. This type of woman is rare, and her adventurous soul is willing to risk the emotional perils of life. However, she is vulnerable to the common fate of men: to love—to be "'in the fullness of possession" by someone—and to be ultimately abandoned. Cornelius's wife no doubt had shared her regrets, fears, and warnings with her daughter. But the young woman did not fully understand until her mother was dead "and Jim came along."

When Jim took her as his wife, he called her Jewel—a name that means precious, like a gem. Stories of Jewel reach Marlow on his way to visit Patusan while he is still 250 miles away. It is rumored "a white vagabond" living there has come into possession of something very valuable: an extraordinary emerald "of an enormous size, and altogether priceless." This growing "Jim-myth," as Marlow calls it, claims the white man has a woman whom he treats "with great respect and care," and who wears "the white man's jewel concealed upon her bosom."

Chapter 29

On Patusan, Marlow sees the romantic quality of the "Jim-myth" is real, but the jewel is not something Jim wishes to hide. Marlow recalls her loveliness, her grace and charm, and her attentiveness—a "vigilant affection." Marlow sees Jim is jealously loved—"as though he were hard to keep." Throughout Marlow's visit, she never goes to sleep until he and Jim have separated for the night.

Also devoted to Jim is Tamb' Itam, his "faithful and grim" servant. Tamb' Itam is Jim's uncompromising guardian. He also shadows Marlow throughout his visit, sleeping on the verandah outside Marlow's room once he and Jim have said goodnight.

Tamb' Itam detests Jewel's stepfather, Cornelius, whom Marlow compares to a repulsive beetle. After Jim replaces him as Stein's trading post agent, Cornelius stays in Patusan. He is a secretive, unsavory man who creeps about the village and Jim's house, "passing before the verandah with upward stealthy glances." Jim seems undisturbed by the implied threat. This carelessness about Cornelius confounds Marlow. The man already had been involved in a failed plot against Jim's life.

This story begins soon after Jim's escape from Rajah Allang and his arrival at Doramin's encampment. Jim crosses the river to take up his new position at Stein's trading post. Doramin warns Jim he is beyond Doramin's protection, but Jim is determined to get to work. He must room with Cornelius, who welcomes him with an outward show of abject joy. In fact, the man is abject—or self-abasing and without pride—in everything he says and does. The house and trading post are in a wretched condition, trading goods and money are missing, and Cornelius—by way of an apology—tries to blame everything on his late wife.

Over the next six weeks, Jim presses on, trying to put things right. However, he has another growing concern. The rajah has made it known he intends to have Jim killed.

Chapter 30

As the "'beastly" weeks pass, Jim finds himself hanging on mostly because of Jewel. She is defenseless against her stepfather's endless cruelty and vile abuse of her dead mother's memory. Cornelius seems to feel "the sacrifice of his honorable name" to marry the girl's mother had earned him the right to "steal and embezzle ... the goods of Stein's Trading Company." Losing his position has been a grinding disappointment that he takes out on Jewel. Jim is moved to protect her, to thrash Cornelius "within an inch of his life." Jewel has only to give the word. She will not do it, however, as she is satisfied that Cornelius is punished enough by his own intense wretchedness.

Meanwhile, Jim is aware that danger around him is growing. Doramin continues to warn him he should return to the protection of the Bugis. People come in the dead of night to warn Jim of assassination plots. Finally, Cornelius offers to smuggle Jim safely out of Patusan for the price of 80 dollars. He will stay behind to face the deadly consequences, as "proof of his devotion to Mr. Stein's young friend."

Jim does not fall for the trick, but it sets him thinking of ways to fix the intolerable political situation on the island. That night, he conceives the plan for defeating Sherif Ali and correcting the balance of power while weakening the rajah. Excitedly, he jumps from bed and goes to the verandah where he comes upon Jewel. Trusting her, Jim proceeds to share his plan, until suddenly she presses his arm and disappears. A moment later, Cornelius appears and mumbles a feeble excuse for wandering about at two o'clock in the morning.

Back in his room, Jim is in bed, thinking, when he hears stealthy footsteps and a voice at his door whispers, "Are you asleep?" Jim answers briskly, "No! What is it?" There is no reply. Annoyed, Jim steps onto the verandah and finds Cornelius, who asks if he has reconsidered the offer to smuggle him out. When Jim flatly refuses to leave Patusan, Cornelius tells him if he stays, he will die. Jim's temper flares at last, and he unleashes a tirade against Cornelius—ceasing only when Jim notices the other man's deathlike silence. Ashamed of his outburst, Jim retreats to his room and soon falls deeply asleep. Jewel does not sleep, however; she keeps watch.


Marlow now introduces the love story between Jim and Jewel, intertwining it with the growing danger that surrounds Jim.

Following the successful rout of Sherif Ali and capitulation of Rajah Allang, Jim makes a mistake. He trusts in a European code of honor which says you do not kick an enemy when he is down. While the Bugis wish to take revenge on the defeated Rajah Allang, Jim allows him to retain his position of authority. To Jim's way of thinking, this action is only fair. He naively supposes the rajah will behave honorably and be content to live in peace. Similarly, Jim ignores the threat posed by Cornelius, who is hateful, cunning, and resentful of Jim's presence in Patusan.

Interestingly, Marlow describes Cornelius as resembling a repulsive beetle. This description recalls Stein's collection of these "horrible miniature monsters" and heightens the differences between Cornelius, a beetle, and Jim, a rare butterfly.

Jim tolerates Cornelius and ignores warning signs of treachery for the sake of Jewel. He cannot leave her to live safely in Doramin's village. As Marlow introduces their love story, he cautions his audience: like everything about Jim, "to tell this story is by no means as easy as it should be." Jewel is the daughter of a Dutch-Malay woman and European man. Like her mother, she is no ordinary woman but one whose life path shares men's common fate: to love someone or something that is ultimately lost. As time will tell, this is indeed Jewel's fate.

Here Marlow touches on his view of women—a view which suggests a broken romance in his past. He suggests there is an ideal against which women can be measured. Most fall short, but those who measure up possess an ethereal quality—"an extraterrestrial touch"—that renders them extraordinary. The common fate of men in loving women is to be possessed by them but then deserted. Marlow's extraordinary women share this ability to love and this common fate. His view is not very complimentary or realistic. However, he places Jewel's mother within its boundaries, and his initial description of Jewel marks her ethereal qualities and sketches her with careful delicacy.

As the love story unfolds, love evidently becomes one of the invisible restraints imprisoning Jim "within the very freedom of his power." He is watched, guarded, loved, cherished, and given authority, but all within the boundaries of his "prison." Not only Jewel, but Jim's servant Tamb' Itam also keeps a watchful eye on him.

The final sentences of Chapter 30 sum up Jewel's possessive love and show she fears Marlow has come to take Jim away. Jim has told Marlow how he berated Cornelius and then retired to his room to sleep. Here Jewel interjects, "But I didn't sleep." She adds, "I watched," and then fastens her eyes on Marlow, who represents the outside world that may call Jim back. This foreshadows a showdown between Jewel and Marlow.

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