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Lord Jim

Lord Jim

by Joseph Conrad

Memory and the Past Theme

In a sense, Lord Jim is all memories. Marlow tells Jim's story through his own memory, and the memory of other sources (including Jim himself) from whom he learns about Jim's life and death. For many of these characters, Jim in particular, the past and memories of that past are inescapable. Jim's fateful choice aboard the Patna sticks with him for the rest of his life. Memories of it consume him, shaping his choices and his chances. Marlow seems keen on telling us this story to show us just how powerful these memories can be.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. Is Jim able to forget the Patna incident at all while he's on Patusan, or does he remain haunted by it? How do Jim's words and actions on Patusan provide evidence one way or the other?
  2. How does Jewel's tragic past affect her ability to deal with other people's tragic pasts and secrets, namely Jim's?
  3. Does Marlow's continued fixation with Jim reveal a sort of obsession with the past in general? What does this concern with the past tell us about Marlow's character?
  4. What about Stein? He seems trapped in the past, but his memories are much more positive than Jim's. Do these memories seem to help or hurt Stein? How so?

Chew on This

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

Jim allows his memories to haunt him. It's a choice, and it's one he didn't have to make.

Jim represses a lot of his memories, which is probably why they bother him so much. It's nothing a little trip to Freud wouldn't cure.

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