by Joseph Conrad
This Scotsman was a friend of Stein from back in the day. Alexander helps introduce Stein to his future wife, a Malay princess, and Stein always remembers him fondly.
Stanton is a water-clerk who drowned while trying to rescue a woman from a drowning ship. Marlow brings up Stanton's tragic death while discussing Jim's own water-clerk career, perhaps as a contrast to Jim, who has by now abandoned ship on the Patna. Jim's cowardice looks all the more cowardly against Stanton's heroism.
Chester and Robinson
Chester and Robinson are the odd duo that offers Jim a sketchy job on a guano-collecting mission when our hero begins to quit job after job after job. Motormouth Chester does all the talking, and Robinson chimes in every once in a while, but without really revealing anything about himself. In fact, all we really know about Robinson is that the dude was a hard-core drug smuggler and killer of seals. Not cool dude:
"Know my partner? Old Robinson. Yes, the Robinson. Don't you know? The notorious Robinson. The man who smuggled more opium and bagged more seals in his time than any loose Johnny now alive." (9.4)
Despite Robinson's checkered past, Marlow seems to have a soft spot for the guy. He notes that he is growing senile, and that Chester is basically using his friend to suit his own ends.
Unlike Robinson, his Australian buddy gives us a lot to work with. Chester's past is just as checkered as Robinson's, plus he's a loud-mouthed speculator, who is not shy about his money-making goals. If Chester is starting to sound like a jerk, it's intentional. Marlow is a fairly open-minded guy, but he has serious issues with Chester. Chester may "accept" Jim, but he has no plans to help him overcome his reputation. In fact he plans to use Jim's notoriety for his own ends to conduct his shady business. Jim's public shame is convenient, and Chester has no qualms about taking advantage of it.
Chester's recklessness is common in the world of Lord Jim, but he takes risky business to a new level. Marlow shows a lot of smarts when he steers Jim clear of Chester and Robinson's moneymaking scheme. We're betting Jim would be thankful, too. After all, the guano-grubber is never heard from again, and all those sailors are presumed dead in a hurricane.
Doramin's wife could be read a couple different ways. We might see her as a nameless wife of a powerful man, overshadowed by her husband and silenced by all the men huffing and puffing around her. Or we might see her as the book's sole mother figure, who manages to be a loving caretaker for our novel's troubled men despite her low position on the totem pole. In the end, she's a little of both:
Doramin's old wife, full of business and commiseration, was issuing shrill orders to her girls. "The old woman," he said softly, "made a to-do over me as if I had been her own son." (25.3)
She doesn't even get a name here, but we know she's a good, stern mother-figure. So while she's stuck in the shadow of her powerful husband, she manages to carve out a role for herself as a mom. Perhaps there's some power in that?
Egstrom and Blake
Egstrom, a German man, and his business partner Blake own a ship supplier, and they give Jim a job as a water-clerk after he disgraces himself aboard the Patna. We don't know much about them, but we do know they have quite the stormy relationship:
We could hear in the shop Blake upbraiding Egstrom in an abusive, strained voice. They had been associated for many years, and every day from the moment the doors were opened to the last minute before closing, Blake [...] could be heard rowing with his partner incessantly with a sort of scathing and plaintive fury. (18.5)
Despite the fact that these two are forever fighting, they have a fondness for Jim, especially Egstrom, and that fondness helps reinforce our notion of Jim as a sympathetic character.
Captain Elliot is the man in charge at the port where Jim and the Patna crew arrive after abandoning ship. Elliot lets the Patna gang have it, particularly the Captain when he discovers what went down. To which we say, good on you, Elliot.
The French Lieutenant
He never gets a name, and he's only in a few scenes, but the French lieutenant plays a pivotal role in the novel. For one thing, he provides Marlow with some key information about the Patna.
That's right, the French lieutenant is none other than the man who rescued the Patna, and he tells Marlow that key information. But what's really interesting is this Frenchman's take on the whole debacle. Looking back on it, he has this to say:
One talks, one talks; this is all very fine; but at the end of the reckoning one is no cleverer than the next man – and no more brave. Brave! This is always to be seen. [...] Each of them [...] would confess that there is a point – there is a point – for the best of us – there is somewhere a point where you let go everything [...] And you have got to live with that truth – do you see? Given a certain combination of circumstances, fear is sure to come. (8.6)
It almost sounds as if the lieutenant is on Jim's side, doesn't it? Or at least he seems to understand where Jim is coming from. What Jim did was exhibit a lack of self-control, and in the end, that doesn't make him all that much different from anyone else. You can't blame Jim for being afraid; it could happen to anyone, "given a certain combination of circumstances."
He's providing yet another lens through which we can view Jim and his actions. Marlow takes this to heart, just like he takes Stein's perspective to heart, and Jim's, too. The French lieutenant reminds us that there are a lot of different ways to look at the Patna scandal.
She may be nameless, but Jewel's mother (Cornelius's wife) gets some very vivid descriptions:
Who was the woman he had mentioned in connection with Patusan I can't say; but from his allusions I understand she had been an educated and very good-looking Dutch-Malay girl, with a tragic or perhaps only a pitiful history, whose most painful part no doubt was her marriage with a Malacca Portuguese [...]. (21.3)
She doesn't sound too happy, now does she? Think about it. She is stuck on a remote island with an abusive husband with whom she clearly shares no love. Plus, there's the matter of her death, which is described as pitiful:
In a far corner upon a few mats the moribund woman, already speechless and unable to lift her arm, rolled her head over, and with a feeble movement of her hand seemed to command – No No! and the obedient daughter, setting her shoulders with all her strength against he door, was looking on. (33.6)
In the end, Jewel's mom seems a victim of unfortunate circumstances. We know she must have some redeeming qualities because Stein had a soft spot for her, but she's so wrapped up in despair and suffering that we don't get to see these qualities in action.
Jim's dad is one of the more sympathetic characters in the book. He's an elderly parson back in England. His fondness for his son is noted by many characters throughout the book, and Jim seems to genuinely miss his father. Of course we don't ever get to know him very well, seeing as how he's back in Jolly Old England. But we do have his letters:
I send you also an old letter – a very old letter. It was found carefully preserved in his writing-case. It is from his father, and by the date you can see he must have received it a few days before he joined the Patna. Thus is must be the last letter he ever had from home. He had treasured it all these years. The good old parson fancied his sailor-son. (36.7)
Jim, it seems, loves his old man just as much as his pop loves him. That love reminds us that Jim is a pretty good guy, and it also adds another layer of sadness and grief to the Patna incident, which appears to coincide with when Jim lost contact with his dad.
If this were any old novel, Jones would be the brave and loyal servant to the brave and heroic Captain Brierly, the Alfred to his Batman. But this ain't any old novel. While Jones is undoubtedly upset and distraught over Brierly's suicide, the fact of the matter is that he didn't actually like Brierly, so you'll have to pardon him for not shedding a tear:
"I was loath to go, and that's the truth, Captain Marlow – I couldn't stand poor Captain Brierly, I tell you with shame; we never know what a man is made of. He had ben promoted over too many heads, not counting my own, and he had a damnable trick of making you feel small." (6.5)
Jones is one of the most honest characters in the book, and he doesn't shy away from acknowledging painful and unpleasant truths, like the fact that his boss was an arrogant jerk. It probably would have been easier for him just to eulogize Brierly to Marlow and go about his business. But he doesn't do that. Instead he takes the time to acknowledge Brierly's faults, his own mixed emotions and regret, and his confusion over Brierly's death. A curious Marlow is of course grateful for Jones's chattiness.
As a matter of fact, Jones and Marlow actually have a fair amount in common. Both are aging sailors who have been shown up by the young upstarts Brierly and Jim. Plus, Jones and Marlow are also both storytellers who focus their stories on the tragic young sailors they've encountered. They know what the sea can do to a man.
Kassim is a close counselor to the Rajah. He's a double-dealer who engages in all sorts of political intrigue after Brown arrives on the scene. Kassim plays a role in harming Jim's power-base and getting him killed, but other than that, he's not exactly a star player.
This man was Stein's best friend during his youth. Stein married Mohammed's sister, the "princess," and had a daughter (Emma) with her. Mohammed is assassinated because of political intrigue, and the loss is very painful for Stein – the dude was like a brother to him.
Captain O'Brien is not, we repeat not a fan of Jim. In fact, he thinks the whole Patna affair was despicable:
"It's a disgrace to human natur' – that's what it is. I would despise being seen in the same room with one of those men. Yes, sir!" (18.7)
While we might be tempted to just tell O'Brien to take a chill pill and call it a day, for his day and age, that reaction was stock and standard. O'Brien's words remind us just how scandalous the Patna incident was, and just how hard Jim will have to work to get his reputation back. Especially when you consider the fact that these very words arouse so much shame in Jim that he quits his job.
Rajah Allang is one of many power-players on the tiny island of Patusan. He's the head honcho when Jim arrives, but he has competition from the likes of Doramin, Sherif Ali, and of course Jim and Gentleman Brown, too.
Despite his power, the Rajah doesn't play a huge role in the novel. His main moment to shine occurs when he captures Jim and locks him up as soon as our hero arrives on the island. Of course this plan quickly backfires and Jim's daring escape from lock-up becomes the stuff of legends. It appears our Rajah is an accidental hero-maker.
The Rajah doesn't just disappear after this, though; he teams up with Gentleman Brown later on and in a roundabout way contributes to Jim's untimely death. Guess he got his way in the end.
Schomberg is a hotel-keeper who gives Marlow the lowdown on Jim's barroom brawl with a Dane that results in him fleeing town and his job once again. He's one of many witnesses on whom Marlow relies to piece together Jim's lengthy story.
This dude is bad news. He is always attacking the denizens of Patusan, and causing trouble for Jim and his buddies. Of course all this antagonism gives Jim a good chance to show his heroic stripes. In his most traditionally heroic episode in the book, Jim executes a daring plan and defeats Sherif Ali and solidifies his place as a hero and leader on Patusan. Thanks for the opportunity, Ali.
This nameless servant is Brown's right-hand man and has some parallels to Tamb' Itam. Unlike the upstanding Tamb' Itam, the nameless Solomon Islander is about as bad as Brown and murders for his master on occasion.
Stein's Wife and Daughter
Stein always refers to his late wife as "my wife, the princess." This must be one heck of a lady. Of course we never learn what her actual name is, but no matter. She has a bit part in a sweeping novel. The one thing we do learn is that her daughter's name was Emma, and that both Emma and her mother died of a fever many years earlier. Poor Stein.
The way Stein speaks of his wife and daughter gives us a lot of insight into who they are to him, not necessarily who they are as people. Stein describes his wife in two ways: in her relationship to him (she's his wife) and in her relationship to her community (she's a princess). By calling out the princess part in conjunction with the wife part, Stein seems to be bragging about his wife. But can you blame the guy? She sounds pretty awesome:
[S]he begged me to have no fear for her. She could defend the house against anybody till I returned. And I laughed with pleasure a little. I liked to see her so brave and young and strong. (20.10)
The fact that Stein's wife is not white is something that isn't emphasized much in the book. This is a book focusing on men out and about in the empire, and the reality was that many of these men could, would, and did have relationships with non-white women. It's just a matter of fact. This means, of course, that their daughter Emma is of mixed race, which puts her in quite a different position from that of either of her parents.
One last thing worth noting about Stein's wife is how she parallels two other characters in the book: Jewel and Jewel's mother. All these women were non-white and all had romantic relationships with European men that ended rather poorly, which is to say, in death.
Jim's loyal servant Tamb' Itam is definitely the kind of guy you want to have around when you're in a fix. A Malay former slave, Tamb' Itam becomes Jim's right-hand man after Doramin frees him from slavery. His close relationship with Jim parallels the relationship Jim has with Dain Waris. The key difference is that Tamb' Itam is Jim's servant, which means he will always be treated a little differently. He will always be in Jim's shadow.
Tamb' Itam does not get many moments of stardom in the novel, but when he is in the spotlight, he really shines. Tamb' Itam is the one who finally takes out the evil, awful Cornelius in the heat of battle, and he is the one who tells the story of Jim's fate to Marlow. So while Tamb' Itam spends much of the novel serving others, in the end he manages to find his own voice.
The Yucker Brothers
The Yucker Brothers are merchants who employ Jim (just as nearly everyone in Southeast Asia seems to have at one time or another) before Jim settled down on Patusan. Clearly these two are the most important characters in the novel by far... or not.