Humanity in J. Conrad's and W. Somerset's creativity

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hesion and dissolution, when Jims fate seems to be vibrating unspeakably as he experiences the radical pressures and tensions of his struggle to be more than what he is, or what he aspires to be. Jim, as if replacing the dead officer lying on the deck of the Patna, jumps: "It had happened somehow. . . ," Conrad writes. "He had landed partly on somebody and fallen across a thwart." He was now in the boat with those he loathed; "[h]e had tumbled from a height he could never scale again." "I wished I could die," he admits to Marlow. "There was no going back. It was as if I had jumped into a wellinto an everlasting deep hole."

A cold, thick rain and "a pitchy blackness" weigh down the lurching boat; "it was like being swept by a flood through a cavern." Crouched down in the bows, Jim fearfully discerns the Patna, "just one yellow gleam of the masthead light high up and blurred like a last star ready to dissolve." And then all is black, as one of the deserters cries out shakily, "Shes gone!" Those in the boat remain quiet, and a strange silence prevails all around them, blurring the sea and the sky, with "nothing to see and nothing to hear." To Jim it seemed as if everything was gone, all was over. The other three shipmates in the boat mistake him for George, and when they do recognize him they are startled and curse him. The boat itself seems filled with hatred, suspicion, villainy, betrayal. "We were like men walled up quick in a roomy grave," Jim confides to Marlow.

The boat itself epitomizes abject failure and alienation from mankind. Everything in it and around it mirrors Jims schism of soul, "imprisoned in the solitude of the sea." Through the varying repetition of language and images Conrad accentuates Jims distraught inner condition, especially the shame that rages in him for being "in the same boat" with men who exemplify a fellowship of liars. By the time they are picked up just before sunset by the Avondale, the captain and his two officers had already "made up a story" that would sanction their desertion of the Patna, which in fact had not sunk and which, with its pilgrims, had been safely towed to Aden by a French gunboat, eventually to end her days in a breaking-up yard. Unlike the others, Jim would choose to face the full consequences of his actions, "to face it outalone for myselfwait for another chancefind out. . . ."

"Jims affair" was destined to live on years later in the memo-Fear vs. ries and minds of men, as instanced by Marlows chance meeting honor. in a Sydney caf with a now elderly French lieutenant who was a boarding-officer from the gunboat and remained on the Patna for thirty hours. For Marlow this meeting was "a moment of vision" that enables him to penetrate more deeply into the events surrounding the Patna as he discusses them with one who had been "there." The French officer, at this time the third lieutenant on the flagship of the French Pacific squadron, and Marlow, now commanding a merchant vessel, thus share their recollections, from which certain key thoughts emerge, measuring and clarifying the entire affair. The two men here bring to mind a Greek chorus speaking words of wisdom that explain human suffering and tragedy. In essence it is Jims predicament that Conrad wants to diagnose here so as to enlist the readers understanding, even sympathy. "The fear, the fearlook youit is always there," the French officer declares. And he goes on to say to Marlowall of this with reference to Jim: "And what life may be worth . . . when the honour is gone. . . . I can offer no opinionbecausemonsieurI know nothing of it."

For Conrad the task of the novelist is to illuminate "Jims case" for the readers judgment, and he does this, from diverse angles and levels, in order for the reader to consider all of the evidence, all the ambivalences, antinomies, paradoxes. If for Jim the struggle is to ferret out his true moral identity, for the reader the task is to meditate on what is presented to him and, in the end, to attain a transcendent apprehension of life in time and life in relation to val-ues.1 Jim is, to repeat, "one of us," and in him we meet and see ourselves on moral grounds, so to speak.

In the final paragraph of his Authors Note, Conrad is careful to point out that the creation of Jim "is not the product of coldly Jims function perverted thinking." Nor is he "a figure of Northern mists." In Jim, Conrad sees Everyman. In short, he is the creative outgrowth of what Irving Babbitt terms "the high seriousness of the ethical imagination," and not of the "idyllic imagination," with its distortions of human character. In other words, this is the "moral imagination" which "imitates the universal" and reveres the "Permanent Things." In Jim we participate in and perceive a normative consciousness, as we become increasingly aware of Jims purposive function in reflective prose and poetic fiction, aspiring as it does to make transcendence perceptible.2 Conrad testifies to the force and truth of the principles of a metaphysics of art when, in the concluding sentence of his Authors Note, he writes about his own chance encounter with the Jim in ourselves: "One morning in the commonplace surroundings of an Eastern roadstead, I saw his form pass byappealingsignificantunder a cloudperfectly silent. Which is as it should be. It was for me, with all the sympathy of which I was capable, to seek fit words for his meaning. He was one of us."

A man of "indomitable resolution," Jim strikes aside any "plan for evasion" proffered to him by a "helping hand" like Marlows. Nothing can tempt him to ignore the consequences of both his decisions and indecisions, which surround him like "deceitful ghosts, austere shades." Any plan to save him from "degradation, ruin, and despair" he shuns, choosing instead to endure the conditions of homelessness and aloneness [12, 104]. He refuses to identify with any schemes or schemers of a morally insensitive nature. The "deep idea" in him is the moral sense to which he somehow hangs on and the innermost voice to which he listens.

Unfailingly Conrad reveals to us the nature of Jims character and will in a "narrative [which] moves through a devious course of identifications and distinctions," as one critic observes.3 Thus in the person of Captain Montague Brierly we have a paragon sailing-ship skipper, and an august member of the board of inquiry, whose overarching self-satisfaction and self-worth presented to Marlow and to the world itself "a surface as hard as granite." Unexplainably, however, Brierly commits suicide a week after the official inquiry ended by jumping overboard, less than three days after his vessel left port on his outward passage. It seems, as Marlow believes, that "something akin to fear of the immensity of his contempt for the young man [Jim] under examination, he was probably holding silent inquiry into his own case." Jim will not go the way of Brierly, whose juxtaposition to Jim, early on in the novel, serves to emphasize the young seamans fund of inner strength needed to resist perversion of the moral sense. Unlike Brierly, Jim will not be unjust to himself by trivializing his soul.

Nor will Jim become part of any business scheme that would Jims destiny conveniently divert him from affirming the moral sense. A farfetched and obviously disastrous business venture ("[a]s good as a gold-mine"), concocted by Marlows slight acquaintance, a West Australian by the name of Chester, and his partner, "Holy-Terror Robinson," further illustrates in Jim the ascendancy of "his fine sensibilities, his fine feelings, his fine longings." Jim will not be identified with the unsavory Chester any more than he would be identified with the Patna gang. Marlow himself, whatever mixed feelings he may have as to Jims weaknesses, intuits that Jim has nobler aspirations than being "thrown to the dogs" and in effect to "slip away into the darkness" with Chester. Jims destiny may be tragic, but it is not demeaning or tawdry, which in the end sums up Marlows beneficent trust in Jim.

In a state of disgrace, Jim was to work as a ship-chandler for various firms, but he was always on the runto Bombay, to Calcutta, to Rangoon, to Penang, to Bangkok, to Batavia, moving Man "wants from firm to firm, always "under the shadow" of his connection to the Patna "skunks." Always, too, the paternal Marlow was striving to find "opportunities" for Jim. Persisting in these efforts, Marlow pays a visit to an acquaintance of his, Stein, an aging, successful merchant-adventurer who owns a large inter-island business in the Malay Archipelago with a lot of trading posts in out-of-the-way trading places for collecting produce [11, 123]. Bavarian-born Stein is, for Marlow, "one of the most trustworthy men" who can help to mitigate Jims plight. A famous entomologist and a "learned collector" of beetles and butterflies, he lives in Samarang. A sage, as well, he ponders on the problems of human existence: "Man is amazing, but he is not a masterpiece . . . man is come where he is not wanted, where there is no place for him. . . ," he says to Marlow. He goes on to observe that man "wants to be a saint, and he wants to be a devil," and even sees himself, "in a dream," "as a very fine fellowso fine as he can never be. . . ." Solemnly, he makes this observation, so often quoted from Conrads writings: "A man that is b