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In Lord Jim, how does Captain Brierly's method of dealing with his past influence Jim?

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jovigirl72 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 16, 2008 at 1:08 PM via web

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In Lord Jim, how does Captain Brierly's method of dealing with his past influence Jim?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 19, 2012 at 7:23 AM (Answer #1)

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The character of Captain Brierly offers an example of somebody who copes with memories in a very bad way. Captain Brierly is one of the judges on Jim's case, and he is clearly a very successful man. Aged only 32, he apparently has everything he could want. However, what makes him stand out is that he chooses to commit suicide a week after Jim's case is finished, jumping overboard. In retrospect, Marlow remembers conversations that he had with Captain Brierly that point tantalisingly towards the reason why he chose to commit suicide:

Such an affair destroys one's confidence. A man may go pretty near through his whole sea-life without any call to show a stiff upper lip. But when the call comes...

These words of Captain Brierly suggest that Jim's case has triggered off profound self-doubt within Brierly himself, as his inability to continue talking at this point suggests. Perhaps, just like Marlow, Captain Brierly recognises that he has the capacity for Jim's cowardice within himself as well, and it is this realisation that causes him to commit suicide rather than accept the past and any mistakes that he made. Captain Brierly's example influenced Jim by giving him the determination to face up to his fate with bravery, even though it leads to his death. Jim saw in Captain Brierly a good man ruined by his self-doubt, and he determined that he would not share this fate, and would not let his own inner demons conquer him.

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