Lord Jim: Chapters 27-29
Summary – Chapter Twenty Seven, Twenty Eight and Twenty Nine
Chapter Twenty Seven explains Jim’s directions to attack Sherif Ali’s camp. He supervised the cannons being moved up the hill and the ‘simple folk’ of the outlying villages came to believe he carried them on his back. Marlow notices how the surroundings and the praise influence Jim and sees it as part of his captivity. These people had trusted Jim implicitly and to date they have not regretted taking his advice. Jim also became involved in sorting out a dispute between a husband and wife as the husband came from a village miles away for his advice. Jim’s word ‘decided everything’, ‘ever since the smashing of Sherif Ali’.
The narrative returns again to this attack and we are told about how Tamb’ Itam, Jim’s servant, is loyal to his ‘white lord’ to the point of being fanatical. The Patusan people celebrated after the success of beating Sherif Ali and this became Jim’s ‘seal of success’. This chapter ends with Marlow pointing out that the telling of the story dwarfs Jim’s utter isolation, but ‘his word was the one truth of every passing day’.
In Chapter Twenty Eight, the readers are told that Sherif Ali left the country after his defeat without making another stand. In consultation with Dain Waris, Jim appointed the headmen and thus became the ‘virtual ruler’ of the land. Doramin is anxious about the future of his country and tells Marlow he fears Jim will return home as other white men have. Marlow replies ‘no, no’ and Doramin asks why, but Marlow does not explain.
The ‘individual side of the story’ is given as Marlow also explains that Jim has become close with Jewel, the step-daughter of Cornelius (who Jim came to replace). It is not until later that Marlow connects her name with an ‘astonishing rumour’ he heard on his journey there. ‘A mysterious white man’ (Jim) was thought to have acquired an enormous emerald. The most amazing part of this ‘Jim-myth’ was that such a jewel ‘is best preserved by being concealed about the person of a woman’. She also has to be young and insensible to the seductions of love and the rumour says that Jim hides the jewel in her bosom.
Marlow points out, in Chapter Twenty Nine, how 300 miles from ‘our civilisation’ ‘the haggard utilitarian lies’ ‘wither and die’ and are replaced by ‘pure exercises of imagination’. The true part of Jim’s story is that romance has singled Jim out and he ‘did not hide his jewel’ – he is extremely proud of it. Marlow does not see Jewel very often, but when he does he notes she presents ‘a curious combination of shyness and audacity’ and shows a ‘vigilant affection’ for Jim: she guards her conquest ‘inflexibly’. It is reiterated that Jim ‘was imprisoned within the very freedom of his power’.
The narrative then shifts to Cornelius, whom Marlow describes as ‘abject’. Cornelius first greeted Jim with joy, but gave him little food. Cornelius also tried to blame his late wife for the bad state of the accounts. Jim’s first six weeks in Patusan were ‘beastly’ as he tried to do his duty by Stein, but had other matters to consider such as the Rajah wanting him killed.
Analysis – Chapters Twenty Seven, Twenty Eight and Twenty Nine
These chapters outline Jim’s rise to acceptance and even adoration in Patusan, in particular after his successful decision to co-ordinate an attack against Sherif Ali. His now strong position is an ambivalent one, however, as Marlow points out that Jim is made captive ironically by the freedom he possesses. His lover, Jewel, demonstrates a ‘vigilant affection’ for him and Doramin also fears that Jim will leave as other white men have done previously. His freedom of power is dependent, then, on remaining there.