Literature Study GuidesLord JimChapters 31 33 Summary

Lord Jim | Study Guide

Joseph Conrad

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Lord Jim | Chapters 31–33 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 31

Jim spends the next day in Doramin's camp, explaining his plan and "preaching the necessity of vigorous action." He pledges to take full responsibility for the plan's success or failure and is elated when the Bugis agree to follow it. That night, back at the trading post, Jim is awakened by torchlight and the voice of the girl pleading, "Get up! Get up! Get up!" She slips Jim's loaded revolver into his hand and leads him swiftly into the courtyard, explaining that four men have been sent to assassinate him while he sleeps. They now are in the main storeroom, which faces the agent's house, and are waiting for a signal.

Standing there in the quiet cool of the courtyard beneath a sky glittering with stars, Jim learns Jewel has been watching over him night after night, knowing he is in danger. The knowledge hits him like a blow to the chest. He is "touched, happy, and elated." When she tells him to run, to make his escape, Jim will not do it. He feels certain he cannot outrun the utter loneliness that magnifies all his dangers. Unexpectedly, the young woman herself seems to be his only refuge.

Jim resolves to enter the storehouse and meet the danger head on. Jewel tells him to wait while she circles behind the building to listen for her voice. When she cries out, Jim bursts through the door. "The low dungeon-like interior" is now faintly illuminated by the torch Jewel has thrust through the bars of a back window. The place seems empty except for piles of rags, mats, and litter. Then Jim catches the gleam of eyes in one heap of mats. In the next moment, an assailant charges out from his hiding place. Jim coolly uses his gun. Seeing their comrade fall dead, the other three men quickly surrender.

Chapter 32

With Jewel at his side, Jim marches the three would-be assassins down to the river. He tells them to take his greetings to Sherif Ali and makes them jump into the water and swim for their freedom. Then turning to Jewel, he is suddenly struck speechless by a surge of emotions. There is surprise and wonder at discovering she cares for him. In time, he will come to understand his "existence is necessary—absolutely necessary" to her. He finds he loves her dearly in return. In Jim's view, their love affair is deeply meaningful, "idyllic, a little solemn, and also true."

Now, Marlow's narration shifts to a conversation on his last day with Jim. Marlow recalls quite clearly how the sun was setting as they walked along the riverbank. Jim tells him he cannot conceive of ever leaving Patusan. The idea of returning to the world outside is unnerving, as he can never quite forget why he came to the island in the first place. He has found what he desired here. He is trusted and revered; he is Tuan Jim. Still, it is an unhappy fact that the people could never be made to understand the real truth about him. Nevertheless, Jim knows it, and when he remembers, his confidence falters, until he also recalls what he has accomplished here. When Marlow agrees Jim has done well, Jim retorts, "But all the same, you wouldn't like to have me aboard your own ship—hey?"

Accompanied by Tamb' Itam, Jim goes off to attend to his evening duties. On his own, Marlow heads for the house, but he is unexpectedly intercepted by Jewel. In her innocence, she knows nothing of the outside world beyond what her Dutch-Malay mother may have told her. All she knows of it are a betrayed woman (her mother), an untrustworthy white father, and an evil buffoon (her stepfather). However, this is the world from which her lover comes and "which might claim Jim for its own at any moment." It is also Marlow's world, and he may well be the agent who, with a word, will "whisk Jim away out of her very arms." Driven by "a real and intolerable anguish," she comes to Marlow seeking assurances he cannot give.

Chapter 33

Marlow begins to grasp that Jewel fears the unknown: her ignorance makes it "infinitely vast," and he represents all of it. Still, Jim also belongs to "this mysterious unknown of her fears." In her experience, white men from the outside world always leave.

She tells Marlow that on the night Jim escaped assassination, she had tried to make him leave her and to leave the country. She had been afraid for him and, like many others, had underestimated his chances of defeating Sherif Ali. Perhaps unconsciously, she had wanted to save herself, too. She tells Marlow, "I didn't want to die weeping. ... Like my mother." Jewel then explains on the day of her death, her mother wept bitterly while Jewel barred the chamber door to keep out Cornelius who raged to be let in. Knowing the origins of her mother's grief, the girl fears she cannot trust Jim when he swears never to leave her. "Other men had sworn that same thing," she tells Marlow, adding softly, "My father did. ... Her father, too."

Marlow tries to reassure her Jim is different, somehow better than these others, but Jewel remains unconvinced. She knows there is a mystery—a calamity—in Jim's life; he has told her he has been afraid. However, this remembered thing has no face or voice for her, nothing she can grasp. She fears Jim will see or hear it, perhaps when he is asleep and cannot see her. Then he will "arise and go."

Marlow tries to soothe her, knowing she can never understand the outside world does not want Jim. In losing himself in Patusan, Jim has found what he has desired, and "his very existence probably had been forgotten by this time." Jewel then asks Marlow, "Why did you come to us from out there? ... Do you—do you want him?" Marlow replies, no, he doesn't want Jim, the world doesn't want him, and it is she who holds Jim's heart in her hand.

For a moment, Jewel seems satisfied, and then abruptly asks, "Why?"—why is Jim not wanted. In utter frustration, Marlow replies brutally, "Because he is not good enough." The young woman's response is bitter and despairing, yet contemptuous: "This is the very thing he said. ... You lie!" In defeat, Marlow leaves her.

Analysis

The intertwined stories of romance and danger continue. Jim confronts his would-be assassins and comes through unscathed. Simultaneously, he learns he is watched over and loved by Jewel. The realization he loves her in return nearly chokes him. When she begs him to leave her—to save himself—he cannot. The romance of the situation is perfect for Jim, like a story in a book, with danger, daring deeds, and the unexpected love of a beautiful young woman.

Marlow reminds his audience this is a love story, and his description of events reveals an eye for detecting romance in a situation, but there is nothing lighthearted about it. Ominously, their love blooms "under the shadow of a life's disaster," suggesting the romance will not end well.

There is foreshadowing in the darkness that falls on the last day of Marlow's visit to Patusan, which is the last time he will see Jim. It is late in the day, and, as they walk along the riverbank, Marlow recalls quite clearly the sunset. It seemed to rob the world of "the illusion of calm and pensive greatness." He noticed clearly at the time "the gradual darkening of the river, of the air, of the irresistible ... night settling silently on all visible forms ... like black dust." On this visit to Patusan, Marlow has found Jim at the peak of his success, standing on a hilltop, "high in the sunshine." The falling darkness seems to portend a darkening of Jim's fate.

On this same day, Marlow discovers he still represents to Jim the unforgiving world that can never forget Jim's moral failing. Furthermore, his accomplishments on Patusan will not weigh in his favor. Even Marlow, who has witnessed greatness of his achievements still would not, in Jim's words, "like to have me aboard your own ship." In contrast, here on Patusan, Jim need not fear the past because the villagers will never believe in it. He is safe.

Like the villagers, Jewel will not believe Jim is anything less than he appears to be. She cannot grasp this thing that haunts him but fears it deeply. She also fears the outside world Marlow represents and ascribes to him the power to draw Jim away, back to where she cannot follow. She is unshakable in her belief that he has this power over Jim.

Marlow's mixed emotions about Jim are evident in his outburst at the close of Chapter 33. Jewel pushes and prods him into explaining why the outside world would not want Jim. In exasperation, he responds brutally, "Because he is not good enough." Marlow admires Jim and perceives in him much that is good but must acknowledge his significant flaws. In the past, Marlow has said Jim's youth and idealism were appealing and reminded him of his own youthful potential. He has also felt anger when Jim failed himself and his ideals so miserably and destroyed the illusion they were achievable. Jim reminds Marlow of his own failings, which prompts Marlow to add, "Nobody, nobody is good enough." In other words, he feels nobody can live up to the ideals set by society. They are noble standards out of reach for most mortal men, even righteous men like Brierly, who once seemed so perfect.

For her part, Jewel refuses to believe Jim is not good enough for the outside world, though Jim and now Marlow have said so. Her exclamation, "You lie!" applies not only to Marlow but to Jim and the entire world that has rejected him.

Finally, Jewel's story about her mother illustrates the bitterness of being abandoned. Her tragic situation harkens back to Marlow's reflection on "men's common fate" and the extraordinary women who share it: to love someone or something that is ultimately lost. This sheds new understanding on Jewel's fear Jim will similarly leave her.

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