by Joseph Conrad
Lord Jim Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
A month or so afterwards, when Jim, in answer to pointed questions, tried to tell honestly the truth of this experience, he said, speaking of the ship: 'She went over whatever it was as easy as a snake crawling over a stick.' The illustration was good [...] (4.1)
In his testimony during the official inquiry about the Patna incident, Jim uses a colorful simile, which seems odd, given that he's supposed to be doing nothing more than giving the facts. He's trying to tell the truth, sure, but that truth includes what has happened to him personally. He is trying to recreate the experience for the judges, so that they might better understand what went down. Perhaps he's trying to communicate a deeper truth, beyond the mere facts.
He spoke slowly; he remembered swiftly and with extreme vividness; he could have reproduced like an echo the moaning of the engineer for the better information of these men who wanted facts. (4.6)
The audience wants facts, but Jim wants to tell a story. His memories are vivid and horrifying, and it's hard not to let those emotions creep into his retelling of the facts. But does Jim want them to understand how he felt so the judges might let him off the hook? Or is he just interested in making everyone understand, for the sake of understanding?
After his first feeling of revolt he had come round to the view that only a meticulous precision of statement would bring out the true horror behind the appalling face of things. The facts those men were so eager to know had been visible, tangible, open to the senses, occupying their place in space and time, requiring for their existence a fourteen-hundred-ton steamer and twenty-seven minutes by the watch [...] (4.6)
Apparently the reason Jim is having such a hard time telling the truth during the inquiry is that he can't possibly recreate the scene for his audience. None of them can truly know what it's like to be on a ship you think is going down. The best he can do is be as precise as possible, but even that proves difficult. After all, we wouldn't call Jim a great communicator, now would we?