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Lord Jim

Lord Jim


by Joseph Conrad

Lord Jim Theme of Foreignness and the Other

The two major episodes of Lord Jim deal with different kinds of "others." Aboard the Patna we get lower-class men contrasted with Jim, who is a middle-class gentleman. On Patusan, we get native islanders contrasted to Jim, the white imperialist. What's interesting is how Conrad flips expectations around in both episodes. Jim is never the one with all the power, even though his racial, economic, and national status would seem to empower him. And unlike a lot of authors of the era, Conrad uses "others" to point out negatives in the dominant group (white Englishmen) rather than write off all "others" as negative.

Questions About Foreignness and the Other

  1. How are non-white characters described in the novel? Are there any racist elements in Marlow's descriptions of them?
  2. Are characters of mixed heritage treated differently than the characters who are entirely white or entirely foreign?
  3. What's the significance of having all the other people who jumped from the Patna be members of a lower economic class than Jim?
  4. Does Jewel's mixed racial heritage seem significant in the novel?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The native characters on Patusan are cast in a fairly positive light through Jim and Marlow's descriptions. They aren't cast as negative "others."

The non-white characters are consistently described in negative terms throughout the novel, revealing Conrad's racist tendencies.

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