Lord Jim

Lord Jim


Joseph Conrad

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Lord Jim Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad was born in Berdychiv, a region that was part of Poland before he was born, was part of Russia at the time he was born, and is today part of Ukraine. Conrad’s family, particularly his father, was politically active, with a strong interest in Polish patriotism and reclaiming former Polish land from Russia. Both of Conrad’s parents died of tuberculosis by the time he was 11, and he lived for a while with an uncle, then at a boarding school. Eventually, he joined the merchant marines, first for France, then eventually for Britain, which became his home for most of his adult life. Compared to many writers, Conrad began his career later in life, not even becoming fluent in English until his early twenties. He published his first novel, Almayer’s Folly, in 1895, but he is perhaps best known for the short novel Heart of Darkness (1899), followed closely by Lord Jim (1900). Conrad wrote several other novels and shorts stories, and in general, his works were very well-received, earning praise from critics and other writers of the time. When he died in 1924, he was one of the most famous writers in the world, and his works remain widely read and adapted.
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Historical Context of Lord Jim

In addition to being inspired by Joseph Conrad’s own career as a merchant marine, Lord Jim may have been inspired by a real-life incident involving a ship called the SS Jeddah. Like the Patna of Lord Jim, the SS Jeddah, too, had nearly 800 Muslim passengers going on a pilgrimage who were abandoned by the captain and officers on the ship once the ship began taking on water—only for the ship to survive without sinking. The mate of the Jeddah even tried to avoid the scandal by starting a new life for himself working for a chandler in Singapore, similar to what Jim does in the novel. More broadly, Lord Jim was influenced by the rise of the British Empire, which was nearing its peak at the time the novel was published. Britain’s vast overseas empire connected the world through trade routes to a greater extent than ever before (as shown in the diverse nationalities of the characters in Lord Jim), but exploitative colonialist policies had a devastating impact on residents of colonized lands, as Lord Jim and several of Conrad’s other works show.

Other Books Related to Lord Jim

Lord Jim is closely connected to Joseph Conrad’s other famous work, Heart of Darkness, since both are largely told from the perspective of a sailor named Marlow. Conrad’s unique writing style is often attributed to the fact that he learned Polish and French before English, and when he was younger, he was particularly interested in Polish Romantic poetry. With Heart of Darkness coming out in 1899, Conrad was one of the first major novelists of the literary movement known as modernism, and his work influenced many other modernists, including F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby), T. S. Eliot (The Waste Land), and Ernest Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea), as well as many other writers since then.
Key Facts about Lord Jim
  • Full Title: Lord Jim
  • When Written: Late 19th century
  • Where Written: England
  • When Published: 1900
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Adventure Novel, Psychological Novel
  • Setting: Various ports in Southeast Asia and a remote village called Patusan
  • Climax: Jim learns that his actions have indirectly caused Dain Waris to be killed.
  • Antagonist: Gentleman Brown, Jim’s own guilt
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for Lord Jim

Famous Last Words. Joseph Conrad, a writer who was fluent in at least three languages, has his name spelled wrong on his tombstone.

First-Name Basis. While many characters in Lord Jim are referred to by their last names, Jim is only ever called by his first name—his last name is never revealed.