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35 THE AMBIGUOUS NAZARENE IN LORD JIM By Dudley Flamm (St. Olaf College) The statement that Jim is "one of us" rings through Lord JIm. (It appears no less than ten times, inclusive of Conrad's pointed use of It In his prefatory Author's Note.) Even Its most obvious meanings are multiple. JIm, like Marlow, Is a seaman, an Englishman , a gentleman, a white man, a Christian, a human being. Shadowing Marlow's claim on Jim's kinship are the more oblique expressions of the many other characters who would wish to claim JIm as one of their own - the Patna crew, Brlerly, Chester, Stein, Brown, Tamb· Itam and Jewel. It Is this bargaining, as It were, for JIm that makes the novel, In Albert Guerard's words, "a story of sympathies, projections, empathies . . . and loyalties" (gonrad the Novelist [Cambridge, Maes, 1958], p. 147). Nevertheless , It is Marlow who plays upon the use of the actual words "one of us" and who does so most often In a context suggesting that "we" are no better than JIm- nor he better than us. We share his weakness as well as his strength; we, too, have sinned In our time. Despite the amount of detailed criticism of this novel, scant attention has been given to the Biblical reference implicit in the phrase "one of us," or to the way in which this allusion to the Fall and to the Judeo-Chrlstlan ethos underlies our Westernworld view of Jim as a fellow human being caught in a classically human dilemma. The Biblical echo called up by the phrase is also important for explicating Tamb' Itam·s obscure references to Cornelius as the Nazarene (chs XIX, XLIV). The phrase appears in Genesis 3:22, where, after Adam has eaten of the forbidden fruit, God says to the angels: "Behold, the man Is become as one of us, to know good and evil" (Authorized Version). The following verse then tells of man's expulsion from Eden. Milton's rendering of the passage retains the very words of the Testament, while also giving additional emphasis to the resulting tragedy: 0 Sons, like one of us Man is become To know both Good and Evil, . . . ... ; but let him boast His knowledge of Good lost, and Evil got (Paradise Lost. XI, 84-7) Cast out of Eden man finds himself in a tragic world, deprived of his true home, a wanderer for whom death is the only passport back to his father's house. This is indeed Jim's situation, with allowance for the metaphorical translation of the elements. His clergyman father, "equably trusting Providence and the established order of the universe," instructs Jim that "'who once gives way to temptation, in the very instant hazards his total depravity and everlasting ruin·"; and the Eden-like quality of the parsonage, "that quiet corner of the world as free of danger or strife as a tomb," whose inhabitants would "never be called upon to grapple 36 with fate" (ch XXXVI), is, In a sense, "the height he could never scale again" once he Jumped from the Patna into "the everlasting deep hole" (ch X). Only in delivering himself up to death at the end does Jim believe he will "conquer the fatal destiny" (ch XLV). A reader's sympathy for Jim Is established not only through sensing his personal plight but also by a kind of tacit approval of the idealism Inherent In his moral values. And In large measure these values are a part of the common Western heritage. Conrad seems to bear this out by the contrast he establishes between white skinned and dark skinned men - a division that transcends any mere colonialist's praise of the white race at the expense of the dark. Conrad's distinction between the races is made both Implicitly and explicitly in the novel. It provides one of the many analogues in the complex comparison of physical and moral light and darkness. It is In this context that Tamb· Itam·s reference to Cornelius as the Nazarene takes on fullest meaning. If we understand JIm as "one of us" in the sense of the Western and Christian cultural tradition, Tamb...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 35-37
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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