Thursday, February 09, 2006

Lord Jim (by Joseph Conrad)

All about how a whiny white man redeems himself by solving all the problems of the "natives" with his wise white wisdom, and sacrificing himself to them. So condescending. And the narrative is this one guy delivering a florid book-length monologue (same gimmick as Heart of Darkness though we're supposed to be impressed with its "narrative density" rather than turned off) and pondering the "nobility" problems of the main character. Oh no, a young imperialist failed to be noble when he was supposed to be noble! Thank god he could go tame the natives and reclaim his nobility! I hate Joseph Conrad.

According to Spark Notes, by the way, Conrad's characterization of the natives "seem[s] to function as a subtle critique of representations of colonial subjects. At times, Conrad can be too subtle, though; he has occasionally been accused of racist discourse himself. The juxtaposition of extremes and the replay of stereotypes suggest, however, that Conrad is fully knowledgeable of his literary actions and means to be subversive." Personally, I don't buy this one little bit. Nice try, Spark Notes.

My notes in the margins read: "Oh quit whining, you giant effing baby" and "Stupidly British imperialist honor nobility bullshit." Which makes no sense, but you get the point, I think?

"The sting of life could do no more to his complacent soul than the scratch of a pin to the smooth face of a rock. This was enviable. As I looked at him, flanking on one side the unassuming pale-faced magistrate who presided at the inquiry, his self-satisfaction presented to me and to the world a surface as hard as granite. He committed suicide very soon after." (Chapter 6)

2 Comments:

Blogger K said...

Your problems with Lord Jim are also mine, and I'm very impressed that you have finished it. I gave up on it, which is rare for me, after having to go back and reread the same few pages too many times because I just wasn't paying attention. It's really a book-length monologue? I'd sort of hoped it was a couple-of-chapters-length monologue at the most...

I was also deeply unimpressed with Heart of Darkness, which my university tutors had been selling as a sort of key to understanding colonial fiction: "we know you can't write about it in the exam because it's officially too modern, but you Just Don't Understand because you haven't read it". So I read it. I'm not convinced it improved my marks, though.

1:37 AM  
Blogger vashti said...

I couldn't disagree more! By judging Conrad to have been racist is not, in my opinion, taking in to consideration the period he was writing Lord Jim. He was, infact, way ahead of his time, so perhaps the modern reader should take this in to account.
I am currently half way through the book, and though I admit it can be a little 'long winded' in descriptions, nonetheless the novel astounds in it's versatile poetry!

4:01 AM  

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