Summary – Chapters Thirty Six and Thirty Seven
In Chapter Thirty Six, Marlow tells the readers that he has finished his main narrative with these words and his listeners drifted off and only one of them was to hear ‘the last word of the story’. This ‘last word’ comes to his home two years later in a thick packet; it is addressed to him in Marlow’s handwriting.
This man is described as drawing the heavy curtains and the readers are told his wandering days are over. For him, there are ‘no more horizons as boundless as hope’. The sight of the packet brings back sounds and visions and ‘the very savour of the past’.
There are three main enclosures in the packet. There is an explanatory letter from Marlow (and another letter falls from this); a good many pages pinned together; and a loose sheet of greyish paper.
Marlow’s letter explains how this man is the only one to have shown an interest in Jim after he told him his story. He also says this reader had said that ‘giving your life up to them’ (that is, anybody who is not white) ‘was like selling your soul to a brute’. Marlow also explains that the greyish paper is written by Jim and shows he had made his house into a place of defence (as he refers to it as The Fort). On this piece of paper, Jim has written that ‘an awful thing has happened’, but gives no further explanation.
The old letter, which Marlow has forwarded, was found preserved in Jim’s writing case and is from his father. It is full of news of people who have never had to grapple with fate as Jim has done. Marlow also says the story of Jim’s last events are also included (as the pages that are pinned together) and ‘it is romantic beyond the wildest dreams of his boyhood’. We are told that the most astounding part of this adventure is that it is true. Marlow explains that he has written it down as if he were an eyewitness; his information was fragmentary and has had to fit the pieces together. This chapter ends with Marlow saying it is difficult to believe Jim ‘will never come’ and that he will not hear his voice again.
Marlow’s first-person account begins in Chapter Thirty Seven and says it all begins with a man called Brown (who is also referred to as Gentleman Brown) and his theft of a Spanish schooner. Much later, Brown tells Marlow about Jim and fills in the gap (just before Brown dies). Brown refers to Jim as the ‘stuck-up beggar’ and also reveals ‘unsuspected depths of cunning in the wretched Cornelius’.
The narrative shifts back to eight months before Marlow’s encounter with Brown. This is when Marlow visits Stein and is greeted by a man from Patusan. He also sees Tamb’ Itam outside Stein’s room and Marlow asks if Jim is inside. Tamb’ Itam replies, ‘no’, and repeats ‘he would not fight’. Marlow then talks with Stein who tells him Jewel is also at his home. Stein is clearly distressed and says Jim loved her very much. He asks Marlow to talk to her in order to tell her to forgive Jim.
Jewel tells Marlow that Jim left her and says, ‘you always leave us – for your own ends’. She recounts the whole story to Marlow (which he does not reveal at this point). He says she should have trusted him, but she argues against this and says Jim was ‘false’. Marlow asks Stein to explain to her about Jim’s past and then leaves. The ‘privileged reader’ then ‘turned to the pages of the story’.
Analysis – Chapters Thirty Six and Thirty Seven
The complexity of the narrative takes a new twist as the ‘privileged reader’ is given Marlow’s account (as collected from Brown and others). Throughout Lord Jim, Conrad has favored an elaborate movement in time and perspectives in order to relate the story of Jim. In Chapter Thirty Six, this becomes more complicated still as Marlow becomes distanced from the action and narrative.
The interested reader receives the packet of letters and this person may also be seen as the readers of the novel in some regards as we have maintained our interest in Jim by continuing to read about him. As with the younger Jim, the readers have been caught up in a tale of romance and adventure and the layers of different narratives trap these readers further.