Reading Conrad (gives me a headache!)

When I was reading Lord Jim, what really struck me most was, again, how ambiguous and un-concrete everything in the story felt. Perhaps it’s because of the large amount of time I spent thinking about ‘truth’ in Heart of Darkness, but when I read Lord Jim, the complexity of the novel and the way so much is left to the reader to judge, really brought this point home to me.

The fact that Conrad creates an explicit audience in the text makes it hard for me not to think about my responses to the text, and in that area, I found Lord Jim rather disturbing to read. Its close similarities with Heart of Darkness, combined with a setting that is much closer to home, made me continuously question my reading of the text, and, in particular, my responses to it. I found myself asking even more questions than perhaps Conrad had intended the reader to do. By the end of the story, I simply did not know what to make of everything—even Jim’s death struck me as rather anti-climatic, because I had become quite confused as to my feelings towards him as a character. Conrad seems to deliberately create an audience in the text (by positioning Marlow as a storyteller), to draw the reader in and destabilise the assumptions and norms we have. The more I read Conrad, the more I think he’s more postmodernist than modernist—I can easily imagine a David Lynch Heart of Darkness or Lord Jim movie.  Now that’s a scary thought.

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