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Lord Jim Themes
Little Words, Big Ideas
Language and Communication
Lord Jim is all about storytelling. There are stories within stories within stories and then some. As characters tell their stories to our narrator, Marlow, they struggle to find the right words to...
In Lord Jim, the book's namesake makes one whopper of a bad choice. It's a choice he just can't seem to bounce back from and he spends the rest of the novel trying to understand it, justify it, esc...
Memory and the Past
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 ma...
Men and Masculinity
Women are few and far between in Lord Jim, which means we're reading a novel that's all about men being men – sailing, pirating, and fighting (okay, the ladies get in on a little of that action,...
Guilt and Blame
In Lord Jim, Jim's entire story, as told by Marlow, is all about coping with guilt, shame, remorse, and regret. Jim feels guilty, sure, but we also come to understand how his guilt and shame affect...
Respect and Reputation
Lord Jim takes place in the late 19th century, and those Victorian Brits weren't exactly known for being chill and flexible. When Jim disobeys the social code that governs his group of "gentlemen"...
Lord Jim is chock full of sailors following a strict behavioral code that's all about being a gentleman. As a seaman, Jim has to follow that code, too, but he chucks it overboard with his pride and...
Jim is the ne'er do well kid to Marlow's well meaning if a bit frustrated father-figure. Jim makes mistake after youthful mistake, and Marlow picks up the pieces when he can. In many ways, we might...
After his Patna disgrace, Jim refuses to have contact with people he knew before, including his own family. Though we feel sympathy for his unfortunate situation, Jim is the author of his own exile...
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 isl...
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