Veranda. Porch with comfortable chairs and side tables located somewhere in the East—apparently in one of Great Britain’s colonial territories—where men gather into the tropical evening for long conversations. Throughout the night they listen as Marlowe, the narrator of the novel, recounts the story of a man named Jim. In the darkness, Marlowe’s words alone must carry the narrative.
Patna. Old steamer on which Jim serves as chief mate during an ill-fated voyage. A rusty, ill-tended vessel, the Patna sails from an unnamed port—most likely on the west coast of India—carrying Muslims on their pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. During the transit described in the novel, some eight hundred pilgrims are aboard the dangerously overcrowded ship; many sleep on deck and in the holds below.
Little more than a derelict, the Patna has rusty bulkheads and antiquated engines. The only place of comfort is its bridge, which catches some breezes as the ship steams through the night. Jim is on duty on the bridge when the ship collides with some unknown object in the water. Because the ship appears on the verge of sinking. the captain and his European crew—including Jim—abandon both it and their passengers. However, despite the damage it sustains, the Patna does not sink and is later taken under tow by a French vessel. The resulting inquiry and Jim’s search for redemption for his own cowardice provide the mainspring for what follows in the novel.
Courtroom. Colonial administrative building, probably in India, where a panel investigates the Patna incident. There Jim is the only member of the ship’s crew to testify and accept responsibility for deserting the ship’s passengers. For no particular reason, Marlowe attends this hearing and it is there that he first comes to know Jim. Afterward, he and Jim encounter one another in the street and strike up a friendship. Stripped of his certification as a chief mate, Jim afterward moves about in the Orient, seeking redemption for his act of cowardice.
Patusan. Remote district of a native-ruled state in the Malay archipelago. About forty miles inland from the sea, it is located on a river between two prominent hills with a deep fissure between them—a geographical fact that may be interpreted as a symbolic reference to Jim’s own divided nature. Patusan is nominally ruled by a corrupt rajah who allows his subjects to be robbed and extorted by a series of local strongmen. This situation is possible because Patusan is dominated by an old European fort whose rusty cannon can easily overwhelm the local residents. Sent to Patusan as a trading agent by Marlowe, Jim restores order to the community, whose people gratefully dub him “Tuan (Lord) Jim.” Jim thereby achieves some peace of mind but when his well-intentioned actions in a later crisis cost the lives of villagers, he willingly allows himself to be shot as an act of penance.
Malabar House. Social club at an unspecific location that is frequented by English and other Europeans doing business in the East. There, amid wicker chairs, potted plants, and little octagonal tables with candles shielded in glass globes, Jim first tells Marlowe his story in a long and sometimes excited oral narrative. The gulf between Jim’s experience on the rusty steamer Patna and the background and expectations of the European settlers and merchants is highlighted by the setting, which attempts to re-create, as much as possible, the atmosphere of a conventional English club.
*Asian port cities
*Asian port cities. After losing his certification as a ship’s mate, Jim moves about among such cities as Bombay, Calcutta, Rangoon, Penang, and Batavia, working as a water-clerk. As a water-clerk, he acts as advance salesperson for ships’ chandlers that sell nautical goods and supplies. It is his job to solicit business from ships newly arrived in port and steer their captains to do business with his employers. Although he is an...
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