Marlow's Psychology and His Two Narrative Perspectives in Lord Jim

Yusuke Takahata


By considering Marlow’s psychology as a character, this paper aims at explaining the specific way in which the difference in texture between Marlow’s oral and written narratives in Lord Jim arises. Marlow’s oral narrative is characterized by conflicting statements that he makes about Jim’s case, which has been commonly regarded as reflecting his vacillation. However, the text also allows us to see some of Marlow’s contradictions as his conscious or unconscious obfuscation deriving from his uneasy conscience about his own growing aloofness from Jim, an issue which is a rarely addressed aspect of the Marlow-Jim relationship. While in his oral narrative Marlow remains in a state of limbo as to his attitude towards Jim’s case, chiefly because of its incompleteness, in his written narrative he possesses the knowledge of Jim’s end. Marlow’s psychological subtleties involved in this situational difference necessarily affect the texture of his narrative. In the comparatively simple and linear nature of Marlow’s main written narrative, we can discern signs of the implicit teleology of his narrative project―namely to represent Jim’s end as the realization of his long-time romantic dream and thereby to salvage his own conscience. The fact that the tone of Marlow’s main written narrative is complicated by the uncertainty expressed in the framing devices―his explanatory letter and the final three paragraphs of the novel―can be interpreted as reflecting his troubled awareness of a possibility of its misrepresentation.

Słowa kluczowe: Lord Jim, Marlow’s psychology, discrete perspectives, Marlow’s oral and written narratives, aloofness, obfuscation, compunction, Marlow-Jim relationship, limbo, teleology, framing devices, misrepresentation

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