By Joseph Conrad
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Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad ranked # 85 on The Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list as selected by its Board Members.
Lord Jim is a novel by Joseph Conrad, originally published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1900. The novel falls into two parts, a psychological tale about Jim's moral lapse aboard the pilgrim ship Patna, and an adventure story about Jim's rise and fall amongst the people of Patusan, a native-ruled state somewhere in the interior of one of the islands of the East Indies. Some critics have said that the second part of the story is inferior to the first, but it is necessary to the working out of the psychological drama established in the first part.
The novel is remarkable for its sophisticated manipulation of point of view. The bulk of the novel is told in the form of a story recited by the character Marlow to a group of listeners, and the conclusion is presented in the form of a letter from Marlow. Within Marlow's narration, other characters often tell their own stories, in nested dialogue. Thus, events in the novel are described from many points of view, and in many cases, out of chronological order. Such a multi-faceted vision could not be achieved using the point of view of an omniscient narrator, or a first-person narration by Jim.
The reader is left to form an impression of Jim's interior psychological state from these multiple external points of view. But mere facts are inadequate to explain the human condition, as Marlow remarks of the trial: "They wanted facts. Facts! They demanded facts from him, as if facts could explain anything!" Ultimately, Jim remains mysterious, as seen through a mist: "that mist in which he loomed interesting if not very big, with floating outlines--a straggler yearning inconsolably for his humble place in the ranks." [...] "It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun." It is only through Marlow's recitation that Jim lives for us -- the warm relation between the two men that incites Marlow to "tell you the story, to try to hand over to you, as it were, its very existence, its reality -- the truth disclosed in a moment of illusion."
Marlow is also the narrator of three of Conrad's other works: Heart of Darkness, "Youth" and Chance.
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