Lord Jim is one of the finest fictional explorations of a human soul trying to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. The film...
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Lord Jim is one of the finest fictional explorations of a human soul

trying to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. The film based on Joseph Conrad's classic novel tells the story of a young man named Jim who dreams of doing great deeds. As a newly appointed officer in the British Mercantile Marine, he spends quiet moments on board his ship fantasizing about saving damsels in distress and suppressing mutinies. After having been stranded in a Southeast Asian harbor because of a broken leg, Jim takes a job as chief mate to a crew of drunken, raucous white sailors with an equally unpleasant captain on the rusty old Patna, which is transporting a group of Muslim pilgrims to Mecca. Once they are at sea, a storm approaches, and Jim inspects the ship's hull. It is so rusty it is on the verge of breaking up. Back on deck Jim sees that the crew is lowering a lifeboat into the water—just one, for themselves. No measures are being taken to save the hundreds of pilgrims on the ship. Jim insists to the others that he is staying on board, but, at the last minute, as the storm hits, he comes face to face with his fear of death, which causes him to push aside all dreams of heroic deeds, and he jumps into the lifeboat after all. Believing that the Patna is lost already, the men in the lifeboat set course for shore. When they arrive, they see that someone got there ahead of them; in the harbor lies the Patna herself, safe and sound. She was salvaged and towed to shore by another crew, and all the pilgrims are safe. Jim is relieved that no one was lost, but his dreams of valor have been shattered—he is tormented by guilt. There is an inquest, and Jim decides to tell all, to the dismay of his superiors, who believe that dirty linen should not be aired in public. His testimony so affects the prosecutor that the prosecutor later kills himself, leaving a note saying that if fear can break even one of us, how can anyone believe himself to be safe and honorable? Jim's officer's papers are canceled. Everywhere he goes from now on, the memory of the Patna will haunt him; somebody will recognize him or mention the scandal, and he will have to go somewhere else, to another port and another odd job. Is Jim a coward? Were all the dreams of noble deeds just fantasies? He doesn't know. Months later, in some harbor in Southeast Asia, Jim is now a common dockside worker. One day, while transferring goods from shore to ship, he finds himself in a new, dangerous situation: A worker with a grudge against the shipping company lights a fuse that threatens to blow up the ammo being freighted to the ship, and he calls out to all hands to jump, before it blows. But Jim, on hearing the yell "Jump!," stands fast. The only man remaining on board, he puts out the fire and becomes a hero. The administrator of the shipping line, Stein, offers him a job, which Jim later accepts because he wants to get out of town. The job entails taking the guns and ammunition up river to the village of Patusan to help the local people fight against a tyrant. He becomes the hero of the people, respected and trusted. They call him Tuan Jim, Lord Jim. He now believes that he finally has proved himself, but in fact the real test is yet to come. A band of pirates land in Patusan, and with the help of a traitor from the village, they trick Jim into believing that they have good intentions. They are white, they promise they will sail away without harming any of the villagers, and Jim chooses to believe them; he lets them go without disarming them, trusting their word. He vows to the chief of the village that if anyone is harmed because of his decision, he will forfeit his own life. As it turns out, the chief's own son is killed in a fight between the pirates and the villagers. The villagers expect Jim to flee to save his life, and Stein tries to make Jim leave the village with the native woman he loves, but this time Jim stands fast; he explains to Stein, "I have been a so-called coward and a so-called hero, and there is not the thickness of a sheet of paper between them. Maybe cowards and heroes are just ordinary men who, for a split second do something out of the ordinary." In the morning Jim goes to the chief, who is mad with grief over his son, and offers him his life. Does the chief kill Jim? Read the book or watch the film.


Question: Do you think that we are like Jim in the sense that we all have moral breaking point which, when we reach it, reveals the frailty of our character? How would Aristotle rate Jim? Is he in the end a virtuous person?

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