Study Guide

Lord Jim Choices

By Joseph Conrad


In <em>Lord Jim</em>, 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, escape it, and rise above it. In one weak, fleeting moment aboard the <em>Patna</em>, Jim makes a snap decision that throws a big ol' wrench into the rest of his life. The aftermath takes us through the rest of the novel, and reminds us that while choices can be made in a matter of seconds, their consequences can last a lifetime.

Questions About Choices

  1. Do you think Jim made a conscious choice to jump ship on the <em>Patna</em>? Could we consider this bad decision as not a decision at all, but instinct? Do we ever get a glimpse of Jim's thought process on that night?
  2. Why exactly does Marlow choose to help Jim? Do we get a clear answer to this question, or are there reasons that he only hints at?
  3. Why does Brierly have such a problem with Jim choosing to stand trial? Does Brierly ever come right out and say what his issue is? And while we're on the subject of Brierly, why do you think <em>he </em>jumps overboard?
  4. Why does Jewel not understand, or refuse to understand, Jim's decision at the novel's end, which results in his death? Is this a choice on her part?

Chew on This

While onboard the <em>Patna</em>, Jim jumps ship based on pure instinct. He has no choice in the matter. But for the rest of the novel he's making the choice to be continually ashamed of his actions.

Jim chooses to go to his death at the hands of Doramin at the end of the novel as a way to make up for his choice to jump ship aboard the <em>Patna</em>.