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Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5 
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Post Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
LORD JIM
Joseph Conrad

Chapters; 1-5



Sat Nov 24, 2012 9:08 pm
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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
I feel a connection to this book since it was set (largely) in Indonesia, where I lived between the ages of 8 and 17. In the third paragraph, I read, "They called him Tuan Jim: as one might say—Lord Jim." This explains the title of the book.

In my understanding of the Indonesian/Malay language, "Lord" is a little strong as a translation for Tuan. It is a male honorific, but I would compare it more to the older meaning of "Mister", as described thusly in Wikipedia: "Historically, Mr, like Sir, once indicated an ill-defined social status only applied to gentlemen or persons at or above one's own station as a mark of respect. This understanding is all but obsolete today."

When my family lived in Indonesia, my father was often called "Tuan Barron".

Another form of commonly used address, which can be contrasted with Tuan, is "Pak," as in "Pak Selamat", where Selamat is a personal name, with Pak meaning more or less, the current, lower status version of Mister we use in English today. ("Pak" is short for "Bapak", which means "Father".)

So, speaking to an older man I spoke with on a daily basis at my same social level or lower, I would use "Pak ...." Speaking to someone at a higher social status in a more formal setting, I might address him as "Tuan ...." I can't think of a circumstance in which I would address someone as "Lord anything."

Of course, my experience of Indonesian is from 1968 - 1977. Conrad's story is set, as best I can tell, in the late 1800's (it was originally serialized in Blackwood's Magazine between October, 1899, and November, 1900). In the same way that the meaning of "Mister" has shifted in English, it's possible that the meaning of "Tuan" in Indonesian has shifted during that same period.


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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
tbarron wrote:
Of course, my experience of Indonesian is from 1968 - 1977. Conrad's story is set, as best I can tell, in the late 1800's (it was originally serialized in Blackwood's Magazine between October, 1899, and November, 1900). In the same way that the meaning of "Mister" has shifted in English, it's possible that the meaning of "Tuan" in Indonesian has shifted during that same period.

But maybe it hadn't shifted, which makes your observation valuable. I never thought before about the significance of Conrad's choice of an English word for "tuan." Ordinarily, I'd expect "Lord" to be used for someone like Kurtz in "Heart of Darkness," yet he is just "mister" in that book. As we read, we'll be able to see whether Jim has lord-like status with the native people.

Speaking of Kurtz, it occurred to me that there could be a rough parallel between him and Jim. Both are portrayed as unusually talented (Jim has "Ability in the abstract"), and both harbor some idea or illusion of their own specialness. There the similarity ends, but for each of these characters, there is a sense that the world may not accommodate their visions of glory.

The first two pages in my edition seem to be set in the present, describing Jim's current state and his rather mysterious habit of quitting jobs and moving on when "his keen sense of the intolerable drove him away." Then the narration backs up to fill in his earlier years. There is clearly something Jim is running from.



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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
I wondered about the honorific "Lord" while I was reading the first few chapters so thanks for the insights. My thought is that Lord connotes the colonial period quite clearly for us 21C readers, where Mr. Jim would not so I'm glad its called Lord Jim.

Tom, you lived in Indonesia not too long after independence. Independence would have been well within living memory of many of the local folks that your family had contact with. I wonder what effect political independence has on language? Some would maintain that it is critical to alter the colonial language/discourse to free oneself (and one's country) from the shackles of colonialism because, in many ways, colonialism is a state of mind.

I lived for a couple of years in Papua New Guinea in the late 80's, about 10 years after independence, actually within walking distance of the Indonesian border, we could see Indonesia across the river. I recall the use of the term 'kiap' to describe a 'district officer'. This was a throw back to the Australian colonial system of governing PNG pre-independence. Even though 10 years had gone by since independence, the term was in common use. I had a Papua New Guinean friend who was a kiap and I asked him about the term and why he kept using it. He told me that he wanted to be called a 'kiap' because there is power associated with the title and it's important to have power in that role because its like being a cop and a judge and an administrator all rolled up in one, so you need a powerful name. Of course, the power stemmed from the colonial history, so one might think that de-colonized people would want to throw off this history, but at least in this case the continuing use of colonial name/language serves a purpose.



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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
The story takes place as the age of sailing ships is being replaced by steamships, and true sailors are being replaced by engineers. Jim is trained on a sailing vessel, but quickly finds himself on a steamer. His dreams of courage, glory and sacrifice and soon met by crushing reality. We will find out more in later chapters.

I first encountered the title "Tuan" as a boy reading the Sunday comics in our newspaper. There was a strip called "Jungle Jim." Jim was a hunter and adventurer whose exploits took place in Southeast Asia. He had a sidekick (ala the Lone Ranger's Tonto) named Kolu. Kolu was a Malay, and often referrred to Jim as Tuan Jim or just Tuan. About this same time I read Frank Buck's "Bring 'Em Back Alive" also set in Southeast Asia and India. He mentioned his Malay helpers calling him Tuan, and compared it to the Punjabi Sahib.

The pilgrimage referred to in the early chapters is obviously a haj, and the pilgrims are Muslims. Whatever happened to the ship is clearly a life-changing event for Jim, and leads back to the first chapter's description of his life.

Who is Mallory? He appears to be a ship's officer of some sort, whether Royal Navy or Merchant Marine is yet to be said. He just pops up at the beginning of Chapter 5, and seems to take on the role of narrator.

If I have anything negative to say about the book so far, it is Conrad's penchant of using overly long sentences. I sometimes wondeer if he has forgotten the existence of the period (.).


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Mon Dec 03, 2012 5:28 pm
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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
DWill wrote:
Speaking of Kurtz, it occurred to me that there could be a rough parallel between him and Jim. Both are portrayed as unusually talented (Jim has "Ability in the abstract"), and both harbor some idea or illusion of their own specialness.


That's interesting. I have not read Heart of Darkness yet, but it's on my Kindle.

Giselle wrote:
Tom, you lived in Indonesia not too long after independence. Independence would have been well within living memory of many of the local folks that your family had contact with. I wonder what effect political independence has on language? Some would maintain that it is critical to alter the colonial language/discourse to free oneself (and one's country) from the shackles of colonialism because, in many ways, colonialism is a state of mind.


That's true, Giselle. If I remember correctly, Indonesia became independent in 1948. We arrived in 1968 just in time for their Independence Day celebration on August 17. I think your observation that colonialism is a state of mind and that changing the language would help reset that is spot on, but most of the Indonesians I knew didn't seem to be that politically aware. I remember my bemusement at how differently I was treated in Indonesia from my experience in the States. Nearly all the Indonesian adults I had contact with were very polite, kind, and respectful. Some of the children my own age started out hostile but once we got to know each other, we usually had a good time together. However, I sometimes had the sense that I was seen as superior in some way. I think the attitudes of colonialism were still strong in some ways.

With regard to the language, Indonesian still has a lot of Dutch words. I remember my Indonesian friend calling his aunt "Tante" (the Dutch word for Auntie). It also has lots of words from Portuguese (the first Europeans in the area), Chinese, and many of the local tribal languages of the islands. As I understand it, what is now Indonesian (or Malay, the two are very similar) started out as a trade language that wasn't anyone's native tongue but was created to facilitate trade in the region.

When we were there, we actually encountered more hostility to the Japanese left over from World War II than to the Dutch.

Cattleman wrote:
I first encountered the title "Tuan" as a boy reading the Sunday comics in our newspaper. There was a strip called "Jungle Jim." Jim was a hunter and adventurer whose exploits took place in Southeast Asia. He had a sidekick (ala the Lone Ranger's Tonto) named Kolu. Kolu was a Malay, and often referrred to Jim as Tuan Jim or just Tuan. About this same time I read Frank Buck's "Bring 'Em Back Alive" also set in Southeast Asia and India. He mentioned his Malay helpers calling him Tuan, and compared it to the Punjabi Sahib.


Very interesting, Cattleman. "Jungle Jim" sounds vaguely familiar. I may have seen a strip at some time or another. I don't remember encountering "Tuan" there, though, and I may be remembering "George of the Jungle" or something like that and confusing them. I think the comparison with Sahib is very apt.


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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
Tom: You may be thinking of the Jungle Jim movies (there were several) starring Johnny Weismuller (sp?) after he got too old to play Tarzan. They were set in Africa: i don't remember much about them, but I recalll he had a son. Don't remember a wife.


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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
I think you're right, Cattleman.


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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
Cattleman wrote:
The story takes place as the age of sailing ships is being replaced by steamships, and true sailors are being replaced by engineers. Jim is trained on a sailing vessel, but quickly finds himself on a steamer. His dreams of courage, glory and sacrifice and soon met by crushing reality. We will find out more in later chapters.

Who is Mallory? He appears to be a ship's officer of some sort, whether Royal Navy or Merchant Marine is yet to be said. He just pops up at the beginning of Chapter 5, and seems to take on the role of narrator.

Good point about sailing ships vs. steamships - with steam as the mode of propulsion the ships' engineer becomes a critical person, we still have specific qualifications for those who work with boilers and steam (especially high pressure steam which would have been required for these ships) ... its highly skilled work with significant safety issues and this must have changed the social dynamics on-board. On Mallory, (I think you mean "Marlow") I agree he becomes the narrator in Ch5, if I recall from "Heart of Darkness", Marlow was a main character and I guess could be described as 'narrator' but I don't know if the two Marlow's are one and the same character.



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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
Conrad's language is a little baroque, maybe, for modern tastes. And he can go on at times, as in the scene ending Chapter 5, when the engineer is having his trauma-induced psychotic episode. But Conrad is a word-magician, as every writer who deserves to be called great must be. Here's how he paints sea that Jim looks out on, a sort of calm before the catastrophe that defines Jim:
Quote:
A marvellous stillness pervaded the world, and the stars, together with the serenity of their rays, seemed to shed upon the earth the assurance of everlasting security. The young moon recurved, and shining low in the west, was like a slender shaving thrown up from a bar of gold, and the Arabian Sea, smooth and cool to the eye like a sheet of ice, extended its perfect level to the perfect circle of a dark horizon. The propeller turned without a check, as though its beat had been part of the scheme of a safe universe; and on each side of the Patna two deep folds of water, permanent and sombre on the unwrinkled shimmer, enclosed within their straight and diverging ridges a few white swirls of foam bursting in a low hiss, a few wavelets, a few ripples, a few undulations that, left behind, agitated the surface of the sea for an instant after the passage of the ship, subsided splashing gently, calmed down at last into the circular stillness of water and sky with the black speck of the moving hull remaining everlastingly in its centre.

Marlow comes on the scene first from the viewpoint of the omniscient narrator, and from then on I believe all the narration is Marlowe's. The narrator being a character, but not involved in any of the action, gives the story an interesting and more immediate voice, for me. What did you think about Marlowe's judgment of Jim's character? He appraises Jim as having just the right stuff; it's something Marlowe says he can simply intuit in Jim. "He was the kind of fellow you would, on the strength of his looks, leave in charge of the deck -- figuratively and professionally speaking. I say I would, and I ought to know." But then he retracts this endorsement with the following:
Quote:
I tell you I ought to know the right kind of looks. I would have trusted the deck to that youngster on the strength of a single glance, and gone to sleep with both eyes -- and, by Jove! it wouldn't have been safe. There are depths of horror in that thought. He looked as genuine as a new sovereign, but there was some infernal alloy in his metal. How much? The least thing -- the least drop of something rare and accursed; the least drop! -- but he made you -- standing there with his don't-care-hang air -- he made you wonder whether perchance he were nothing more rare than brass.

I wonder whether Marlowe isn't simply influenced in this assessment of Jim by what he knows Jim did, whether he picks out the "alloy" as a way of explaining to himself the act that doesn't seem to make sense for this upstanding lad to have committed.

I always want to place an "e" on the end of narrator's name. It's "Marlow."



Last edited by DWill on Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
You are correct. Giselle, just a senior moment for me in the Marlow/Mallory misstatement. :blush:


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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
giselle wrote:
... On Mallory, (I think you mean "Marlow") I agree he becomes the narrator in Ch5, if I recall from "Heart of Darkness", Marlow was a main character and I guess could be described as 'narrator' but I don't know if the two Marlow's are one and the same character.


from the Wikipedia page on Lord Jim:
Quote:
Marlow is also the narrator of three of Conrad's other works: Heart of Darkness, Youth, and Chance.


DWill wrote:
Conrad's language is a little baroque, maybe, for modern tastes. And he can go on at times, as in the scene ending Chapter 5, when the engineer is having his trauma-induced psychotic episode. But Conrad is a word-magician, as every writer who deserves to be called great must be.


Perhaps someone has already mentioned it and I just missed it, but it surprised me to learn that English was not Conrad's native language. From the Wikipedia page on Joseph Conrad:

Quote:
Conrad is regarded as one of the great novelists in English,[4] though he did not speak the language fluently until he was in his twenties (and always with a marked Polish accent).


He was raised in Poland and moved to France in his late teens, then later to England. The story of his life reads like one of his books -- he did some sailing before settling in England to write.


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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
DWill wrote:
Marlow comes on the scene first from the viewpoint of the omniscient narrator, and from then on I believe all the narration is Marlowe's. The narrator being a character, but not involved in any of the action, gives the story an interesting and more immediate voice, for me.

A comment on Marlow as narrator - I would say he is a narrator but he is also a story-teller or, in this case, perhaps we could call this 'spinning a yarn'. Certainly, Conrad's world of sailors is one of rumour, gossip and conclusions drawn about people based on slim evidence. It will be interesting to see how Conrad develops Marlow as a character who is also the story-teller. The idea of story-telling fits well in Conrad's world of the sea, ships and sailors. The fact that Conrad did not have English as a first language and that he apparently spoke accented english may have contributed to his inclusion of an english speaking narrator in his book(s). The other thing I have noticed in these early chapters is the repeated reference to 'race', white, Malay, mixed race etc. but quite clear that race is prominent in the characters' minds and, I guess, in Conrad's mind. Race clearly matters. I think this is quite appropriate given the sensibilities of that time and the sailors' exposure to all races on a regular basis. Still, I find it an archaic way to think, and rather strange to think that the time frame is a mere 100-150 years ago.



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Post Re: Lord Jim; chapters, 1-5
giselle wrote:
The fact that Conrad did not have English as a first language and that he apparently spoke accented english may have contributed to his inclusion of an english speaking narrator in his book(s). The other thing I have noticed in these early chapters is the repeated reference to 'race', white, Malay, mixed race etc. but quite clear that race is prominent in the characters' minds and, I guess, in Conrad's mind. Race clearly matters. I think this is quite appropriate given the sensibilities of that time and the sailors' exposure to all races on a regular basis. Still, I find it an archaic way to think, and rather strange to think that the time frame is a mere 100-150 years ago.

Perhaps it is this fact (Conrad's native language was not English) that makes Marlow speak more like a college professor of literature than a sea captain. Though I must confess ignorance as to the educational background of a British sea-captain at this time.

The mention of race, and the constant reference to it must be viewed in the light of the time of the novel. This was at the height of British (and European) Imperialism - "The sun never sets on the Britich Empire." From my own reading of other British writers of this period (Kipling comes to mind), the implication seems strong that the 'white man' considered himself superior to all other races. Thus such terms a 'native,' 'half-caste,' and even the infamous 'nigger' tells us that Marlow and his fellows, perhaps even Jim, considered the local as definite inferiors.


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