Lord Jim (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Lord Jim (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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by Joseph Conrad, A. Michael Matin

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Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
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Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

With Lord Jim, first published in 1900, Joseph Conrad transformed a tale of seafaring adventure into a subtle study of the meaning of honor and courage, loyalty and betrayal. When Jim, an idealistic merchant seaman and ship’s officer, abandons the supposedly sinking Patna and its passengers, he dashes his youthful dreams of glory in a single stroke. Condemned in court for his impetuous act of cowardice, Jim relegates himself to a life roaming the Far East.

Unforgettably told by Marlow, who also narrates Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the story of Lord Jim plumbs the mysteries of a man renounced by society but driven by a desire for redemption.

A. Michael Matin is a professor in the English Department of Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. He has published articles on various twentieth-century British and postcolonial writers, and has written the introduction and notes for the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Heart of Darkness and Selected Short Fiction by Joseph Conrad.

Product Details

Barnes & Noble
Publication date:
Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Edition description:
New Edition
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Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

From A. Michael Matin’s Introduction to Lord Jim

Explaining why he routinely drew on historical events as germinal sources for his fiction, Conrad wrote in a preface to a reissue of his first short story collection, Tales of Unrest, that “[t]he sustained invention of a really telling lie demands a talent which I do not possess” (The Works of Joseph Conrad: Tales of Unrest, p. ix). Many of the plot elements of Lord Jim, accordingly, have their origins in facts. For the first half of the novel, the most significant of the several historical sources Conrad drew on was the voyage of a ship called the Jeddah, which, in August 1880, with more than nine hundred Muslim pilgrims en route from Singapore to Jeddah (the port city west of Mecca on the Red Sea), was abandoned by its white officers, who mistakenly believed it to be sinking. The protagonist of Conrad’s novel is the first mate of such a ship who, while dreaming of glory and triumph, ironically achieves only infamy and ruin. He is an English clergyman’s son named Jim who, having become enamored of adventure literature during childhood, pursues a career in the British merchant marine. At the age of twenty-three, he takes a position on a ship called the Patna, whose voyage largely parallels that of the historical Jeddah. One night, when Jim is indulging in fantasies of his own heroism, the vessel strikes an object in the water and appears to be on the verge of foundering. The officers, including Jim (who believes there is no time to save the passengers), escape in a lifeboat and then, assuming the ship to have sunk, report this as fact when they are rescued. Upon arriving on shore, however, they learn that it has remained afloat, and they are subsequently disgraced and expelled from the service.

Although Conrad based many of the circumstances of his tale on the scandalous Jeddah episode, which was widely reported in such newspapers as the London Times and even taken up by the British Parliament, he also made some substantial changes. For example, whereas the Jeddah was, at eight years old, relatively new and in good condition, Conrad’s Patna is “as old as the hills” and “eaten up with rust,” so Jim’s assumption that it is about to sink appears reasonable. And whereas Jim is induced by the other officers to abandon ship, his historical counterpart, Augustine Podmore Williams (who, like Jim, was an English parson’s son), was determined by a court of inquiry to have been largely responsible for the desertion. Although the captain was deemed to have “shown a painful want of nerve” for having “allowed his feelings to master the sense of duty it is the pride of every British seamaster to vaunt,” it was concluded that “but for Mr Williams’s officious behaviour and unseamanlike conduct, the master would . . . have probably done his duty by remaining on the ship” (Report of the Court of Inquiry; reprinted in Sherry, Conrad’s Eastern World, pp. 299–309). Further, unlike Jim, Williams was merely censured rather than prohibited from again being employed as an officer. In fact, he went on to serve two years later as first mate of a ship called the Vidar, on which Conrad himself subsequently served as first mate. It is possible, therefore, that Conrad’s sources about the Jeddah fiasco included more than public reports.

As with the novel’s first half, the events of its second half—the exiled Jim’s glorious although ultimately tragic career in the Malay village of Patusan—are drawn from a variety of historical sources. During his years as a seaman, Conrad traveled to the Malay Archipelago a number of times, and before writing Lord Jim he had set much of his fiction there, including his first two novels, Almayer’s Folly and An Outcast of the Islands, as well as the short stories “Karain” and “The Lagoon.” Yet he also made clear that much of his information about that part of the world was not based on firsthand experience. As he wrote in 1898, responding to a published criticism of his fiction as unauthoritative on Malay customs, “I never did set up as an authority on Malaysia”; his sources, he maintained, consisted primarily of “dull, wise books” (Collected Letters, vol. 2, p. 130). Indeed, upon analyzing Conrad’s source materials, one discovers the literal accuracy of Jim’s pronouncement that the residents of Patusan “are like people in a book.” The most notable of such books was the English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago (1869), which was one of Conrad’s favorite works. Further, in depicting Jim’s transformed character in this new setting, Conrad departs from his original primary source, Augustine Podmore Williams, and turns to two other Britons, both of whom were adventurers in the Malay Archipelago who bore the name James: James Lingard, nephew of the renowned explorer and trader William Lingard (the model for Tom Lingard in the so-called Malay trilogy of Almayer’s Folly, An Outcast of the Islands, and The Rescue); and James Brooke, who in 1841 became rajah of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, under circumstances evoked in those of Jim’s accession to power in Patusan. Regardless of how diligently we conduct detective work on the novel’s antecedents, however, we ought to bear in mind Conrad’s admonition, in a 1917 letter to an admirer who was an enthusiastic hunter of historical backgrounds for his texts, that “I am a writer of fiction; and it is not what actually happened, but the manner of presenting it that settles the literary and even the moral value of my work” (Collected Letters, vol. 6, p. 100).

Meet the Author

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) grew up amid political unrest in Russian-occupied Poland. After twenty years at sea with the French and British merchant navies, he settled in England in 1894. Over the next three decades he revolutionized the English novel with books such as Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, and especially Heart of Darkness, his best-known and most influential work.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 3, 1857
Date of Death:
August 3, 1924
Place of Birth:
Berdiczew, Podolia, Russia
Place of Death:
Bishopsbourne, Kent, England
Tutored in Switzerland. Self-taught in classical literature. Attended maritime school in Marseilles, France

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Lord Jim 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I read Lord Jim for the first time as a teenager I found it boring. Many years later I now find it an amazing book. Conrad himself spent sixteen years at sea in the late 1800s, so this book is to some degree autobiographical. The version of this book that I have even quotes Conrad: 'Every novel contains an element of autobiography.' In this book, the protagonist, Jim, travels to a remote region of the world, far from Victorian England. In this sense, the plot is similar to that in one of Conrad's other famous works, Heart of Darkness. Other than that book, I'm not familiar with Conrad's other works, nor am I an expert in Victorian literature, so I can't place this in its proper historical context. However, it seems like an amazingly well written story in and of itself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In HEART OF DARKNESS, one of three Conradian works featuring the narrator Marlowe, the main character is Kurtz, a European completely corrupted by imperialism. In LORD JIM, Marlowe tells of his friend Jim, another European who seeks the jungle. Jim does everything he can to help the tribesmen he encounters. Although LORD JIM is an anti-imperialist book, it is a warning from a civilized author to a civilized readership to expect to be demoralized in any encounter with primitive peoples. Kurtz is a bad man and Jim is a good man, but the two have much in common. Marlowe (Conrad's mouthpiece) pities them both.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lord Jim is an adventure story, but it also involves the psychological side. There were several chapters that I had to reread several times to get a true grasp of the story that was being told. And that's alright. Jim is a young man who pictures himself as one who is destined to be a hero and a great adventurer. Unfortunately reality does not match his vision and Jim must deal with his own act of cowardice. Wherever Jim goes and as much as he tries to hide form his past, he soon learns it catches up with him and since he does not know that if he can be forgiven he runs further and further. His lack of knowing that he can have redemptions leads to a very sad ending. While this is not as easy reading as most adventures, and at times made me want to pull my hair out, I still recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: Amethyst <br> Description: pale purple, huge, ancient, purple eyes <p> Likes: eating rocks, swimming, watching people <br> Personality: generous, selfless, unflirty, strong <p> Rider-crush: pony-shrug
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GConradDietz More than 1 year ago
In my opinion the story became bogged done with too much psychological analysing of the characters to keep my interest.
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songcatchers More than 1 year ago
I thought the first half of the book was pretty good but it went downhill from there. I really struggled to finish this one. Boring!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This beautiful story of a young man damned to a reputation of cowardice is from the man who wrote HEART OF DARKNESS. This involves imperialists in the jungle, as does HEART OF DARKNESS, but Jim, the young man, wants to help people. Whether he can or not is part of the plot. Conrad is the master of irony.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that this was an wonderful book. It was one book out of many on my 9th grade reading list, and I am so glad that I read it. THe characters are memorable, and the storyline is wonderful. Conrad is a very elegant writer with an interesting style. I would definitly recommend this book.