Summary – Chapters Twenty Two and Twenty Three
Chapter Twenty Two begins with an introduction to Patusan. It can be seen in ‘collections of old voyages’ and 17th century traders used to go there for pepper. These Dutch and English voyagers would defy death for it and such journeys made them heroic and pathetic. After a century, Patusan seemed to drop gradually out of the trade.
Stein tells Marlow that there are antagonistic forces in Patusan and the Rajah is described as ‘a dirty, little, used-up old man with evil eyes and a weak mouth’. The narrative shifts forward briefly to when Jim first arrives there in a dug out; he sits on a box borrowed from Marlow and nurses an unloaded revolver (which was also given to him by Marlow). Jim’s first day in Patusan is almost his last and would have been if his gun had been loaded.
Before Jim leaves, Marlow warns him that once there it would be as though he had never existed in the outside world. Jim’s eyes sparkle at the thought of this and he rushes to Stein’s house for final instructions.
In Chapter Twenty Three, Jim returns from Stein’s the next day with a letter for the man (Cornelius) who he is to replace. Stein has also given him a silver ring to help with his introductions as Doramin (who is one of the principal men there) gave it to Stein when they parted. Jim is excited about his departure and sees the ring as ‘a sort of credential’ and ‘like something you read of in books’. Stein has told him he had saved Doramin’s life accidentally, but Jim has his own opinions (that is, that Stein is being modest).
Jim is excited at the promise of this new life and Marlow confesses to being sick of him at this point and thinks Jim is hurling defiance at the universe. As 20 years his senior, he also notes an element of youthful insolence. When Jim becomes annoyed with him and says no wonder he is excited, Marlow shouts, ‘It is not I or the world who remember’, ‘it is you – you who remember’.
They talk calmly again after a period of time and Marlow warns him not to be foolhardy: if he lives long enough he will want to return home. Jim replies he will never come back. Before setting off, Jim visits Marlow on his ship and Marlow offers him an old tin trunk. Jim tips the content of his valise into it and Marlow notices he is taking a copy of ‘complete’ Shakespeare. Marlow then gives him a revolver and cartridges and says the gun may help him remain there. He corrects himself and says it may help him ‘get in’. When Jim has gone, Marlow notices he has forgotten to take the cartridges and visits Jim’s ship.
The master of this ship tells Marlow he will take Jim to the mouth of the river (30 miles from Patusan), but no further. He also describes Jim as already ‘in the similitude of a corpse’. When Marlow questions him on this, the man imitates the act of stabbing somebody from behind.
Jim promises Marlow that he will take care of himself and informs him that he feels as though nothing can touch him. As they part, Marlow is not sure if Jim shouts ‘you will hear of me’ or ‘you will hear from me’. Marlow’s eyes are also dazzled by the sea and thinks he is ‘fated to never see him clearly’.
Analysis – Chapters Twenty Two and Twenty Three
It is possible to see Marlow counter Jim’s idealized romantic views in Chapter Twenty Three. This may be based on a difference in age, as Marlow suggests, but Marlow’s annoyance may also be seen as a pragmatic counterbalance to the inherent dangers of idealism.
Their parting is made poignant as Marlow does not quite hear what Jim says and is unable to see him clearly. This is also a narrative device to expand on the point that it is impossible to know a person fully (including ourselves). Marlow and the readers only see Jim partially, just as the readers only see aspects of Marlow.