The Patna 

I'm halfway through Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad's ambiguous novel about the exploits of Jim, a sailor experiencing shame and remorse for his actions aboard the Patna. I say ambiguous because it is rather uncertain what he has done to feel so ashamed about. Here's what I think I know so far:

Jim is a mate on the ship Patna, transporting approximately 800 Muslim pilgrims to Mecca. While in the red sea, they hear a bang, and Jim investigates. He finds a large bulge in the bulk head an immediately knows that the ship is going to sink. What's more, he knows that they do not have nearly enough life boats for the amount of people currently on board. The "white" crew members, including the German captain, scramble to release the life boats without the pilgrims waking up. Jim, who has delusions about being a hero, jumps into one of the lifeboats, but he is taking the place of another white man who has already had a heart-attack, and so is dead, but Jim doesn't know this.
(I'm not sure why it is wrong for him to jump in the lifeboat with other crew, aside from the fact he is leaving 800 people to die on the ship, but then so is the rest of the crew. The reason it appears to be bad is because he took the other man's place.)
Suddenly, a storm comes upon them, and the frantic scrambling to get off the boat becomes more frantic because the crew, Jim especially, knows that a swell will sink the boat for sure. However, even though the white crew members see the lights go out on the ship and tell themselves that the Patna has sunk, a French ship comes upon the boat and tugs it to harbor. Jim faces trial for some reason.

However, why Jim faces trial separate from the other men is a little confusing to me. From what I understand, the other crew is just a guilty as he is. If it is because he took another man's place in the life boat because he was scared, I don't see why he should face trial for that. The real trial seems to be in Jim's own mind. He, rather than being a hero, convicts himself of being a coward because he thought of himself first, and did not do anything to prevent what he assumed would be the assured death of 800 human beings. I'll finish the rest of the book tonight. However, if anyone has any comments or opinions that would clarify this situation, I'd greatly appreciate it.

29 May 2004
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