Literature Study GuidesLord JimChapters 44 45 Summary

Lord Jim | Study Guide

Joseph Conrad

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Lord Jim | Chapters 44–45 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 44

Brown's boat slowly approaches the spot along the backwater nearest Dain Waris's camp. Brown orders his men to load their weapons and vows, "I'll give you a chance to get even with them before we're done." The gloomy fog is still thick from the water to the treetops.

In the meantime, Tamb' Itam has delivered Jim's ring and message to Dain Waris. As he listens to Tamb' Itam, Waris slips the ring on the forefinger of his right hand. Then, satisfied with the message, Waris sends out orders for a return to Patusan in the afternoon. The men in camp lower their guard.

Now, in "an act of cold-blooded ferocity," Brown and his men attack. With Cornelius's help, they have crept up close to the camp and are hiding in the underbrush. They have a clear view of the entire camp, and no one looks their way. At Brown's cry of "Let them have it," his 14 men fire off three volleys into the crowd of panicking natives. Tamb' Itam understands with the first volley what has happened. Untouched, he falls down as if dead, his eyes open. In this way, he sees Dain Waris die with a bullet in his forehead.

Brown breaks off the attack after the third volley, having settled his account and taught Jim and the people of Patusan a lesson. He and his men depart in the longboat and their schooner vanishes from the island's shores.

Tamb' Itam discovers Cornelius running along the riverbank among the corpses, desperately trying to get one of the native canoes into the water. Certain Cornelius played a role in Brown's treachery, Tamb' Itam kills him with his spear. Then he heads back to Patusan, knowing the importance of being first to deliver the awful news to Jim.

Chapter 45

Tamb' Itam goes directly to Jim's quarters at the fort. Inside the gates, he encounters Jewel and blurts out, "They have killed Dain Waris and many more." Immediately, she orders him to shut the gates. Moments later, she cries in despair, "Doramin." Understanding what she fears, Tamb' Itam replies, "Yes. But we have all the powder in Patusan."

Jim receives the news of treachery and, rising to the occasion, prepares to pursue Brown and his men. He is stopped short when Tamb' Itam balks at leaving the safety of the fort to carry out his orders. "It is not safe," he explains, "for thy servant to go out amongst the people." Jim suddenly understands the far-reaching consequences of Brown's vile attack and Dain Waris's death. The new world which he had built up by his own hands "had fallen into ruins upon his head." Marlow states this realization was likely the turning point for Jim. With no way to salvage the situation, he now decides how best to end the story—how best to defy the disaster.

Jim sits alone for a time in silence. Marlow ponders the thoughts and memories that must pass through his mind. People had trusted him with their lives, and now that trust is gone.

Tamb' Itam reports to Jim that outside the fort, the people weep, and there is much anger. He tells Jim, "We shall have to fight." However, Jim can see nothing to fight for; his life is gone. Even Jewel fails to stir his desire to live as she wrestles with him "for the possession of her happiness." He is inflexible and seemingly without hope. In the face of this hopelessness, he has determined to "prove his power in another way" and somehow "conquer the fatal destiny itself."

As the sun is "sinking toward the forests," the body of Dain Waris is brought to his father. The people gathered in his camp are silent as Doramin looks down at his son. His anger is touched with "a great awe and wonder at the suddenness of men's fate." Someone stoops and removes the silver ring from Waris's hand and holds it up for Doramin to see. The old man stares at the familiar token and releases a roar of pain and fury.

Back at his fort, Jim tells Tamb' Itam, "Time to finish this." Jewel tries a last time to hold him, passionately recalling his promise to never leave her. Clasping her arms about his neck, she refuses to let go. Jim frees himself and leaves without looking back. The woman screams after him, "You are false!" He cries, "Forgive me," to which she replies, "Never! Never!"

At Doramin's camp, Jim approaches the old man, gently saying, "I come in sorrow. ... I am come ready and unarmed." As Doramin stands, the ring drops from his lap and rolls to Jim's feet. The old man eyes Jim with pain and rage, raises one of Stein's flintlock pistols, and shoots "his son's friend through the chest." With one hand to his lips, Jim sends a "proud and unflinching glance" to the gathered crowd before falling dead.

Analysis

These final chapters recount Brown's cold-blooded attack, Dain Waris's death, and the disaster that befalls both Jim and the people of Patusan.

On the occasion of Marlow's visit, Jim once laughingly says it would have been a tragedy for Patusan had he been "wiped out" by the rajah upon his arrival. "It is this place" he rightly says, "'that would have been the loser." Jim has lavished on Patusan the gifts of his lofty dreams and noble ambitions. In a final sacrifice, he surrenders his life to atone for a fatal mistake in judgment. In the end, as Marlow observes, Patusan "will never give him up ... to a world indifferent to his failings and his virtues." He is their Tuan Jim.

Brown's treachery springs from a savage craving for revenge. The natives have "received him with shot." Jim has refused to be his ally. Brown judges Jim's guarantee of "a clear road" to indicate Jim thinks he has rendered him harmless, which grates on his pride and inflames his arrogant temper. However, the attack on Dain Waris's camp is not the massacre it could have been. It is disciplined and cut off after the third volley. Brown intends it as a departing message—a lesson—that will most effectively destroy Jim.

Jim's life collides with the "floating derelict" of Brown's betrayal. Once again, as on the Patna, he has indulged in his illusions, naively misjudged the presence of danger, and been caught unaware. The attack and Dain Waris's death put him in imminent physical danger. Worse, "he has lost again all men's confidence." He tells Jewel, "I have no life," and refuses to fight "the dark powers" that would "rob him twice of his peace." However, he also refuses to "jump." Jim is driven "to prove his power in another way and conquer the fatal destiny itself." He gives himself up to Doramin, his friend's grieving father. In this final act of self-sacrifice, Jim's romantic ideals and self-image become one with reality. In dying honorably, he is able at last to leave his place of exile on Patusan and rejoin the world that once judged him "not good enough." He will do so through his story shared by Marlow. Those who hear or read it will then judge him, as did Marlow, Brierly, the French lieutenant, Stein, and the rest, through prisms of their own values and moral codes.

Marlow closes his narrative by noting that, in Jim's wildest boyhood dreams, he could not have imagined the life he led. In the end, he faces certain death as he always yearned to: with unflinching courage. All his life, such opportunity had remained elusive, "a shadowy ideal of conduct" veiled like "an Eastern bride," her face hidden before the wedding. Now he has seen her unveiled and has celebrated "his pitiless wedding." However, in doing so, he has left behind life and a living woman.

Marlow muses as Jim is "one of us," it should be easy to determine if he is now satisfied with his choice, yet it is not. Jim remains elusive. Sometimes the reality of his existence is a tangible force. At other times, he is only a passing shadow. Nevertheless, like Stein's prize butterfly, Jim is a captured memory, sealed up and preserved by his story. Now the listener—and the reader—must decide how close Jim came to realizing his dreams, and whether his lifelong struggle was meaningful or futile.

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