Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


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...

(The entire section is 710 words.)