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Lord Jim | Chapters 34–35 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 34

Marlow reviews that Jim has told Jewel his story, and she will not believe him. Likewise she believes he, Marlow, has lied. He concludes there was nothing to do but let time and fortune reveal the truth.

Marlow leaves Jewel just as Jim is arriving and makes his escape down a path through a stretch of newly cleared land. Now he comes upon the grave of Jewel's mother. It is a peaceful but lonely place, and Marlow lapses into thoughtfulness. He muses that, upon leaving Patusan—this lost and forgotten place—will "slip out of existence, to live only in my memory."

Cornelius interrupts Marlow's reverie by the grave. Marlow finds the man contemptible and describes him as vermin-like and "perpetually slinking away." In his most ingratiating manner, Cornelius tries to excuse his role in the plot to assassinate Jim. He claims he was tragically ruined by dismissal from his post, and this great misfortune twisted his thinking. Now he would most humbly ask Marlow to intercede with Jim on his behalf, to persuade Jim he should be given "a suitable present" in exchange for his stepdaughter. It will cover his cost for keeping her after Jim leaves the island. When Marlow tells him bluntly Jim will never leave, Cornelius drops all traces of humility, accusing Jim of coming to Patusan for the purpose of trampling and robbing him. Cornelius then spews threats and curses as Marlow walks away.

Marlow informs Jim of this encounter as they are being rowed to the mouth of the river. It is time for Marlow's departure. Jim refuses to worry about the likes of Cornelius. He considers him too insignificant to be dangerous. In fact, if a man may be judged by his foes as well as his friends, Jim views Cornelius's enmity as a favorable sign.

Chapter 35

Marlow explains the Patusan he leaves behind the next morning is frozen in memory. All the people who populate that memory—Doramin and his wife, Rajah Allang, Dain Waris, Jewel, Tamb' Itam, and Cornelius—remain distinct and unchanged by time as if enchanted. Only Jim, "the figure round which all these are grouped," is indistinct and somehow intangible.

The trip down the river cuts through untouched wilderness, where the superheated air is sweltering and oppressive. Then, a last bend in the river releases them. The sky overhead widens, the air freshens, and the horizon opens up with the vastness of the sea. Marlow now understands what Jewel fears. This is the outside world—this is freedom—and it is calling to him.

Jim sits in the boat, "his head sunk on his breast;" his eyes downcast. Soon they land the vessel on a stretch of white beach backed by a low wooded cliff draped in heavy vines. The vast sea spreads before it. Jim is immediately approached by two villagers from a nearby group of squalid dwellings. They want his help in some matter concerning the rajah, who does not yet understand he can no longer abuse the villagers.

Marlow points out the changes Jim has made on the island, stating he has had the opportunity he desired. Jim admits this is so, but opportunity has its limits in a place like Patusan. While he has gotten back his self-confidence, he is trapped by knowledge of the chaos that would descend on the island if he were to leave. As things are, he must "go on forever" in this role and never betray the villagers' belief in him. It is the only way, Jim explains, for him to feel safe and to feel connected to—"to keep in touch with"—those people he will never see anymore, especially Marlow. "I shall be faithful," he says quietly. Still, his eyes wander upon the sea turned "a gloomy purple under the fires of sunset."

A schooner arrives to take Marlow away. The two men part, knowing they'll not see each other again. At the last moment, Jim seems about to impart a final message to the outside world, calling out to Marlow, "Tell them." Then he stops. As a small boat takes Marlow out to the schooner, twilight darkens to night. On the shore, Jim is a motionless, white-clad figure with the blackness of the cliffs at his back. As the schooner departs, that pale figure shrinks with distance to a white speck. It seems to Marlow the speck stands "at the heart of a vast enigma." Then suddenly, it is gone.

Analysis

The events in these chapters reveal the depths of Cornelius's hatred of Jim and the pain inherent in Jim's self-imposed exile. In addition, Marlow relates his final moments with Jim and lasting impressions of Patusan.

As Marlow reflects upon leaving Patusan, he mulls over the connections between reality, dreams, and illusion, realizing that once he leaves Patusan, the island—and Jim—will "slip out of existence," to live on only in his memory. Speaking directly to his audience, he says this notion about Patusan is the reason he shares the story of Jim's life. He needs to pass on its existence—its reality—encapsulated in the tale: "the truth disclosed in a moment of illusion."

Also at the gravesite, Marlow's verbal exchange with Cornelius alerts Marlow to the growing threat the former agent poses to Jim. Marlow discovers Cornelius is "as full of hate as he could hold." When the "vermin-like" man vows he will not be trampled on, his muttered "Patience, patience" seems to be a thinly veiled threat. The implication is that he is biding his time, seeking another chance for revenge and foreshadows more trouble for Jim.

Marlow is not convinced Cornelius's threats truly matter. Marlow believes that, on Patusan, Jim has at last mastered his fate and he is out of Cornelius's reach. This idea contradicts Marlow's earlier opinion about Jim's future found at the end of Chapter 17. At this time, Marlow gloomily suggests a person's fate is carved in stone and unchangeable, and Jim's fate is no exception. Yet now, it seems Jim has proven him wrong. Handed a second chance, Jim has taken control, imagined a new life and made it a reality while holding on to his romantic ideals.

Finally, Marlow's description of the boat ride to the sea contrasts the two worlds that have shaped Jim's life—Patusan and "outside." The first wants Jim; the other has rejected him. The first, Jim needs; the second, he has renounced. Still, both call to him in some way. The path of the river is narrow and claustrophobic, as oppressive physically as the island is spiritually for Jim. As the river opens up to the sea, it is as if "a great hand ... had lifted a heavy curtain." With the sea before them, Marlow describes breathing deeply the freshened air and reveling "in the vastness of the opened horizon." In that moment, he sees Jewel was right: the outside world does call, and deep inside him, there is the yearning to answer.

Jim's suppressed love of the sea appears in the way he sits with downcast eyes, afraid to look up; he does not want to be reminded of the romantic visions he once entertained. More than "a seaman exiled from the sea," Jim is a prisoner on an island paradise of his making. However, he is a prisoner who holds the key to his freedom and has only to use it. That key is self-forgiveness. He remains convinced of his own unworthiness to rejoin the world. He mistakenly imagines it as a far better place than it is, peopled by individuals far nobler than he.

Twilight falls like a portent on the final scene of departure on the beach. Then the schooner is taking Marlow off to the outside world. From Marlow's viewpoint, Jim becomes little more than a white speck in the darkness before disappearing. Just as Jim disappears from his sight, he will disappear from Marlow's life.

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