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Sunday, May 17, 2009

That "LORD JIM" moment

 

We've all had them: those moments when we made decisions, or had them forced upon us, that would haunt us for a long time.

The eponymous Jim is a young, good-looking, genial, and naive water-clerk on the Patna, a cargo ship plying Asian waters. He is, we are told, "the kind of fellow you would, on the strength of his looks, leave in charge of the deck." He also harbours romantic fantasies of adventure and heroism--which are promptly scuttled one night when the ship collides with an obstacle and begins to sink. Acting on impulse, Jim jumps overboard and lands in a lifeboat, which happens to be bearing the unscrupulous captain and his cohorts away from the disaster. The Patna, however, manages to stay afloat. The foundering vessel is towed into port and, since the officers have strategically vanished, Jim is left to stand trial for abandoning the ship and its 800 passengers. Stripped of his seaman's license, convinced of his own cowardice, Jim sets out on a tragic and transcendent search for redemption.

Jim eventually atones himself for the Patna at Patusan. To learn about this timeless exploration of morality, read Josef Conrad's book.