Study Guide

James Murray in The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

By David Grann

James Murray

He's Hot and He's Cold

It doesn't take a scientist to realize that James Murray has a snowball's shot in Tahiti at surviving the Amazon jungle. James Murray is a snowball: he's a hardened explorer shaped by a strenuous expedition in the Antarctic. However, he's so cocky, he thinks "how difficult could the jungle be compared with the Antarctic?" (12.30).

The answer: very difficult.

Actually, it's not so much a question about level of difficulty. Each environment has its own difficulties, and Murray, who accompanies Fawcett on one particularly disastrous expedition, isn't ready for the specific difficulties of the jungle. In the heat of the jungle, Murray literally disintegrates. Skin peels off his feet. He is consumed by parasites. He craps out his insides. On top of that, he steals the group's food, gets malaria, and starts to lose his mind.

Murray is such a jerk, though, and this is one case when we wouldn't blame Fawcett for abandoning Murray in the jungle to die. But Fawcett actually deviates from the course to get Murray to safety, even though he's not happy about it.

Murray also brings out one of Fawcett's less desirable qualities: his paranoia. Murray is so terrible and incompetent that Fawcett wonders if the guy is actually attempting to sabotage him. Given this level of paranoia, it's even more incredible that Fawcett goes out of his way to save the man's life.

After leaving Murray with a friendly tribe, Fawcett emerges from the jungle, and it's months before Murray is seen again. Like Fawcett, Murray is presumed dead. But Murray actually does emerge, and he is furious that people think he's dead.

Murray and Fawcett never kiss and make up after this incident. Murray later goes on another chilly, snow-filled expedition, where he leads a mutiny against his captain and disappears for real.

Hmm…maybe Fawcett was right about sabotage.