Study Guide

Lord Jim What's Up With the Title?

By Joseph Conrad

What's Up With the Title?

Lord Jim is about, well Lord Jim, so Conrad doesn't win any points for originality there.

Or does he? When we first begin to read the novel, it's clear that Jim is not a Lord, and probably won't be anytime soon. He's young, cowardly, and a bit down and out. The title, therefore, gives us that little hint of suspense we're looking for. How and when will Jim become a Lord? And if he doesn't, are we supposed to read this title as sarcastic? 

Of course we find out that the inhabitants of Papusan call our guy Tuan Jim, which translates to Lord Jim. They see him as quite lordly, and look up to him as their leader. But still, we have to ask. Can a guy who behaved like such a coward on the Patna really become a Lord?

Plus, check out how the contrast we have here. Lord makes us think of nobility, and we're expecting the word to be followed by a fancy name like Archibald or Aloysius. Instead, we're given Jim, which doesn't exactly scream nobility. In fact, it's a nickname for James, and it's a pretty common one at that.

This juxtaposition in the title gives us a clue as to what's coming – things aren't always what they seem in Lord Jim, and the unexpected occurs, especially when it comes to our main man, Jim. The title also gives us insight into Jim's character. The dude is a study in contrasts and contradictions – he's the perfect gentleman sailor, but he messes up, a lot.