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This review is from: Lord Jim (Kindle Edition)
For me, the key to this book is that Jim is the son of a clegyman who also happens to be a strict father whom Jim feels he has somehow got to please. As a son, he carries moral obligations, which have been instilled in childhood, into the world and away from the secure peace of the rectory home. He is a young man of high self-imposed standards. Proud, perhaps. But he has never been taught about weakness, failure or forgivenes. When he fails by jumping ship on that fateful night, he descends into the self-condemnation of a man who feels, bearing down upon him, not only the displeasure of his father, but also of God. All this is subconcious and that, of course, is the genius of Conrad. Jim is human but he hasn't been fully taught about the human condition (weakness and failure, and the antidote Forgiveness), despite his father's profession. So his shame is unbearable. Nothing anyone says or does will take the burden from him. He knows the moral obligation, he knows his duty; but he has not ever known forgiveness or, more accurately, self-forgiveness or God's forgiveness. He is the product of a one-sided religion; a religion of moral obligation but one without the love that makes it complete. Although the world Jim inhabits is ready to forgive, forget and move on, Jim cannot do so and attempts to escape his torment (and, who knows, seek inner peace?) by trying always to sail away from his pain. But he can't because the problem, the pain, travels with him. He becomes a good man through his attempt to find escape and restitution in Work. He is sought by employers whose trade blooms under Jim's direction. But the demon is ever there. Whenever he is confronted by his failure on that awful night he withdraws and moves on. Finally, he can run no more. He has, as it were, travelled to the ends of the earth in an attempt to escape his pain. He comes to that remote place where maybe he can rest his soul. But even here it doesn't work and Jim, in his own eyes, fails once more. He dies violently, sad and broken inside (even though he is now 'Lord' Jim) having never been freed from the shackles of guilt and shame through forgiveness and love. It is a sad tale and one's heart goes out to Jim who, if the truth be known, proves himself better than most. He is, in a sense, made perfect through sufferings, although he dies in ignorance of the fact. Conrad, brilliant as usual, uses Marlow to explore the inner workings of the soul. One feels, sometimes, that he is writing from personal experience; maybe so, but, if not, he displays an amazing insight into the workings of the tormented mind and the turmoil through which that mind sometimes puts us. Excellent.