Marlow’s Medium, Conrad’s Message

The use of dubious and mixed narrative perspectives in Lord Jim, as I see it, does more than having epitomized the high aesthetics of modernism. I would argue, indeed, that this very maxim intricately anticipates the foundation of today’s ‘post-modern’ media industry, that which has the distinguishing characteristic whereby “The medium is the message” (McLuhan, 1964: 7).


I shall begin with a condensed explanation of McLuhan’s thesis. He was then critiquing how modernity has customized our response to the ‘content’ of any medium (including literature) as our focal-point de facto to the extent of becoming ‘blind’ towards the character of that medium. Literally speaking, therefore, a twentieth-century writer (such as Conrad himself) has to deliberately engage ‘potent’ techniques such as temporal fragmentation and narrative ambiguity in order to procure the reader’s contemplation on the meaning behind the text. This, in a nutshell, is the very message per se.


With this, one can consequentially ask: what does Conrad want us to see from the narrations of Marlow and the other unnamed, third-person narrator in Lord Jim? It is quite obvious that any plausible answer to this would not be found in the text. To me, this endearing enigma serves to provoke a retrospective reflection on the literatures that preceded itself, with a concurrent view about the treatment of contemporary issues – be they imperialistic or otherwise.

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