Summary – Chapters Nine, Ten and Eleven
On board the Patna, in Chapter Nine, the chief engineer asked Jim for help to free their lifeboat from the ship and pointed to the approaching squall. Jim kept his distance from them and the second engineer ran for the hammer (under the orders of the skipper) in order to release the chock (which releases the boat). In their panic, ‘they had no leisure to look back upon his passive heroism, to feel the sting of his abstention’. Jim closed his eyes and felt the ship dip its bows and tells Marlow he too would have felt like leaping into a boat. Whilst watching the men still around the boat, George, the third engineer, collapsed and died (but it was not known at the time that he had died). When the remaining white crewmen got in the boat, Jim heard them shouting for George to jump in too. He felt as though he could hear all 800 passengers shouting for George to jump. The rain swept over the ship and Jim’s cap blew off; he also believed the ship was going down. He tells Marlow, ‘I had jumped…’ and Marlow feels the pity an old man experiences, ‘helpless before a childish disaster’. Jim recounts how he knew nothing about jumping until he looked up. He felt like he had jumped into a well, into ‘an everlasting deep hole’.
In Chapter Ten, Marlow says that nothing could be truer: ‘He had indeed jumped into an everlasting deep hole. He had tumbled from a height he could never scale again.’
As their boat moved away, one of them cried out, ‘she’s gone’, as the ships lights had gone out. They hear nothing, though, and Jim thought this was strange, but Marlow sees this as understandable: ‘He must have had an unconscious conviction that the reality could not be half as bad, not half as anguishing, appalling, and vengeful as the created terror of his imagination.’ Jim tells Marlow he fought back his impulse to swim back to the sea.
It was completely dark in the boat and the other men abused Jim (in the belief he was George) for taking so long to join them. They were taken aback initially when they realized their mistake, but then became angry with him for not helping to release the boat. This anger stopped Jim from tipping back to fall into the sea: it kept him alive. They also pretended that they thought Jim had harmed George and the chief engineer called him a ‘murdering coward’. Jim felt as though they were all in a ‘roomy grave’ and that nothing mattered; Marlow sees that such irrational thoughts can be the effect of being on a boat on the high seas. Jim spent six hours on the defensive and in the daylight he saw the other three men sitting together in the stern ‘like three dirty owls’ and they begged him to drop his piece of wood. The other men agreed to make up a story and these three went under the spread out sail, while Jim stayed in the sun with his head bared. After Marlow prompts him, Jim admits that he deliberated as to whether he should kill himself.
Jim tells Marlow, in Chapter Eleven, that he is a good sort for listening to him and Marlow demonstrates his identification with him: ‘He was a youngster of the sort you like to see about you; of the sort you like to imagine yourself to have been…’ Jim explains why he did not kill himself, gentleman to gentleman, and says that if he had stayed on the ship he would have tried to save himself. He adds that his suicide would have ended nothing and the proper action was to face the consequences.
Analysis – Chapters Nine, Ten and Eleven
Jim’s fateful decision to jump from the ship into the boat haunts him through the novel. The fragmented explanation of why he followed the others comes in Chapter Ten and is, therefore, crucial to understanding his later torment. Jim did not want to stay on what he thought was the sinking ship; but he also did not want to join the other men. Indecision and panic appear to have ruled him and he goes on to punish himself for not staying and for acting in a way that he deems cowardly. If one remembers his dreams of being a hero, it is evident that he has let himself down by not performing in the way he imagined he would in a crisis.
Although Marlow is the cipher for Jim’s story on the Patna, he is a central character as the readers see Jim through his eyes. Chapter Eleven gives a useful example of his connection to Jim as he clearly identifies with this younger man and, consequently, his partiality for him is made explicit.