Literature Study GuidesLord JimChapters 41 43 Summary

Lord Jim | Study Guide

Joseph Conrad

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Lord Jim | Chapters 41–43 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 41

Jim arrives to meet Brown, just as Cornelius predicted. The two men come face-to-face across the stream, perhaps near the very spot where Jim landed years before when escaping the rajah's stockade. Brown hates Jim at first sight. He hates "'his youth and assurance, his clear eyes and his untroubled bearing." Jim is not the type of man Brown expected to meet, and he instinctively knows there is nothing Jim wants or needs from him. All hopes of plundering Patusan vanish. Jim represents everything Brown has despised and defied his entire life.

Nevertheless, Brown suspects that a man like Jim lives in a place like Patusan for some hidden reason. He admits to Jim that he and his men are caught like rats in a trap, but suggests Jim is "too white" to keep them holed up until they die of hunger and thirst. He challenges Jim to either allow them to die fighting or to let them go and take their chances in the open sea. Being set free in the forest is out of the question. They will drop from starvation, and the ants will go to work on them before they are dead. When Jim suggests they don't deserve a better fate, Brown lashes out, "And what do you deserve ... you that I find skulking here?" He then asserts that he and his men came to Patusan for food. "And what did you come for?" he demands of Jim.

Dodging the questions, Jim asks Brown what he had done "out there." Brown couches his reply in charitable terms, stating his story is probably no worse than Jim's. "I've lived," he tells Jim, "and so did you, though you talk as if you were one of those people that should have wings." He then explains he is here "because I was afraid once in my life"—afraid of a prison. And fear has brought him to "this infernal hole."

Brown gleefully tells Marlow he then found a way to get around "that confounded, immaculate, don't-you-touch-me" fellow and shake up his soul.

Chapter 42

Marlow's letter continues. For Jim, Brown is a shock and a danger to his work. He is a messenger from the outside world Jim has renounced; a white man from "out there" where he did not feel good enough to live.

As for Brown, he still cannot grasp who Jim is. Jim remains elusive; his character hard to make out. However, Brown is a master at pinpointing "the best and the weakest spot in his victims," and he perceives that he should present himself to Jim as a man dealing bravely with persistent ill luck. He paints a picture of coming to Patusan with the intent to beg, and then defending himself from the natives' unprovoked attack. It's a brazen lie, for he intends to terrorize the population with mayhem and murder. Only Dain Waris's "energetic action" has prevented this calamity. As Brown continues his version of events, he assumes the weariness "of a man spurred on and on by ill luck till he ceases to care where he runs." Then, as if a demon is whispering in his ear, Brown asks Jim if he understands how "when it came to saving one's life in the dark, one didn't care who else went—three, thirty, three hundred people." He asks Jim if he has "nothing fishy in his life to remember." He subtly refers to their common European blood and suggests they share a common experience and a common, secret guilt.

The two are silent for a time while village life goes on around them, stabilized by Jim's return. Jim asks, "Will you promise to leave the coast?" Brown says he will, but then rejects Jim's request to give up his weapons. After some thought, Jim states, "You shall have a clear road or else a clear fight." Then he leaves, and Brown never sees him again.

On returning to the knoll, Brown is confronted by Cornelius, who is profoundly disappointed Brown did not kill Jim when he had the chance. Brown explains he has something better in mind.

Jim meets with Doramin to gain approval for his plan. Then he summons all of the principal Bugis and Patusan natives, who are eager to hear what Jim intends to do. To the assembled headmen, Jim explains the invaders were "erring men whom suffering had made blind to right and wrong." He then reminds the men he has fought side-by-side with them, and they know his courage and his great love for the land and its people. In light of this, he asks that they allow the evildoers to live and to have clear passage back to the sea. Jim vows to "answer with his life" if any harm comes to the people as a result. When Doramin offers no objection, Jim requests Dain Waris be notified, explaining, "For in this business I shall not lead."

Chapter 43

The council agrees to Jim's plan primarily because they trust him. Their ignorance, fear, and anger yield to "the sheer truthfulness of his last three years of life" on Patusan. Naively unaware of Brown's malevolent nature, Jim mistakenly trusts him. He does not understand the depths of Brown's "indignant and revengeful rage" at having his evil plans foiled. Nevertheless, Jim recognizes things still can go wrong. Feeling responsible for every life on the island, he keeps watch over the knoll and the creek through the night from the rajah's stockade.

Early in the evening, Jim sends word to Brown that he will "get the clear road." He and his men are to start as soon as the morning tide floats their longboat. Cornelius, who delivered the message, still means to use the situation for his own good. He tells Brown about Dain Waris's forces waiting down the river and confides there is a backwater behind Waris's camp broad enough to let Brown's boat sneak past unseen.

When the time is right, Jim send Tamb' Itam down the river to alert Dain Waris Brown is coming and to let him pass. As proof these orders truly come from Jim, Tamb' Itam carries Stein's silver ring, which Jim habitually wears.

Two hours before dawn, the "white robbers" come down to their boat. A heavy mist cloaks the silent shore and lies low to the water. As the boat pulls into the river, Jim's voice comes out of the fog, telling Brown he will try to send down provisions for the ship. Jim himself stands somewhere invisible on the shore.

In the boat is Cornelius, ready to guide the craft along the backwater route behind Waris's camp.

Analysis

In these chapters, Brown at last meets Jim, takes his measure of the man, and plans his destruction. In his innocence, Jim fatally miscalculates Brown's nature and intent.

Significantly, the two men meet at the site of Jim's second life-changing jump and stand on opposite sides of that stream as they talk. The two do not appear so different: They are both men of the sea and Europeans leading uncommon lives of adventure far from home. Both are outcasts, exiled from a world that has judged them not good enough. They have guilty pasts. Nevertheless, just as they are positioned on opposite banks of the stream, the two men occupy opposite ends of the spectrum of human decency. Jim's exile is voluntary while Brown's is compulsory. Jim is seeking redemption in Patusan while Brown is bent on mayhem and revenge. Jim loves and respects the people; Brown holds them in contempt. Finally, Jim's intentions toward Brown are honorable. Brown intends to destroy Jim. Naively, Jim attributes to Brown his own noble instincts and human failings, never understanding that Brown and he occupy opposite ends of the good and evil spectrum of human nature.

Brown has no better understanding of Jim and has trouble getting a grip on what drives the man. However, as he probes him for some weakness to exploit, Brown inadvertently taps into the core reasons for Jim's presence in Patusan. Marlow says "it was as if a demon had been whispering advice in his ear." Brown tells Jim he is here in Patusan because "I was afraid once," echoing Jim's reason. He then asks Jim if he has nothing "fishy in his life"—something that would harden his heart against a man "trying to get out of a deadly hole." Jim finds himself forced to revisit his past and the dark path he has walked. He fails to see the difference between Brown and himself, and instead accepts their "common experience of guilt and secret knowledge." Here Jim's idealistic imagination betrays him once again. He decides Brown is simply a luckless soul, much like himself, who would welcome a second chance. He excuses Brown's wrongdoings and offers him safe passage out of Patusan.

Out of respect, Jim reports first to Doramin and advises him to let Brown and his men go in safety. The villagers anxiously await the final decision. Thanks to Jim, everybody now has something to lose. When his wishes are made known, they assent. He is Tuan Jim. His truth is their guiding principle, and he has never deceived them. Plus, Jim is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice should his plan go wrong. He will take responsibility for any lives lost by forfeiting his own life.

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