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.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

Conrad wrote his novel at the dawn of the twentieth century, when the world was rapidly changing in many ways. One of the biggest changes was...

(The entire section is 502 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Narration is the most obvious technique that Conrad uses in Lord Jim. In the first line of the first chapter,...

(The entire section is 854 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

One obvious fault of Conrad's technique is to allow so much of the narrative to be related by Marlow as allegedly an oral tale told on a hot...

(The entire section is 373 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Conrad's reputation as an author of nautical fiction may provide an opening entry into a consideration of his work, especially in discussing...

(The entire section is 546 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

According to some critics, Lord Jim is the first major novel of Joseph Conrad's mature period as a fiction writer, and the work...

(The entire section is 524 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1890s: Horribly outnumbered, the British lose their battle with the Boers in South Africa's Cape Colony. However, since the Boers fail...

(The entire section is 242 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Research what life was like as a sailor in the 1890s. What did it take to get this kind of job? Put yourself in the place of a sailor from...

(The entire section is 240 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Conrad's novel offers a critique of Romantic attitudes toward heroism. Hence Conrad's novel follows a tradition of major nineteenth-century...

(The entire section is 190 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Almost all Conrad's major works of maturity could be considered relatives of Lord Jim. Several other tales are narrated by Marlow,...

(The entire section is 209 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The main film adaptation was a British production, released in 1965, starring Peter O'Toole as Jim and co-starring James Mason, Eli Wallach,...

(The entire section is 168 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

Lord Jim was adapted as a black and white, silent film in 1925 by Paramount Pictures. The film was directed by Victor Fleming and...

(The entire section is 80 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

Muhummad Asad's The Road to Mecca (2001) is a book about the author's journey through the Islamic world. The book discusses four...

(The entire section is 439 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cox, C. B. Joseph Conrad: The Modern Imagination. London: J. M. Dent, 1974. Maintains that the novel reveals the meaninglessness of the modern age. Marlow and Jim cannot find the language to reveal the truth of Jim’s actions. No words can be found; meaning can only be apprehended through glimpses and hints.

Guerard, Albert J. Conrad the Novelist. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966. Includes two extended chapters on Lord Jim, the first of which explores the work as impressionistic rather than realistic, which requires the reader to reflect morally and emotionally on the central character. The second examines...

(The entire section is 280 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Armstrong, Paul B., "Monism and Pluralism in Lord Jim," in Lord Jim: Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Sources,...

(The entire section is 490 words.)