Conrad was influenced by Alfred Russel Wallace’s article on the Dyaks while writing Lord Jim, thus when reading Wallace’s article, I could not help noticing parallels between the figure of Sir James Brooke and that of Lord Jim. Wallace justifies the imperial presence in Sarawak by valorizing the deeds of Sir James Brooke.
“Sir James Brooke found the Dyaks oppressed and ground down by the most cruel tyranny. They were cheated by the Malay traders and robbed by the Malay chiefs…From the time Sir James obtained possession of the country, all this was stopped.” (Wallace, p.71)
Brooke is portrayed as the heroic figure in Sarawak, whose intervention brings justice and peace to the natives. Like Brooke, Jim is similarly portrayed as the heroic figure who brings peace to Patusan. The white man’s deeds are valorized in both texts and this serves to justify imperial presence by positing the white man as a superior being who comes to save the native.
Although Conrad shows Jim’s integration into the Patusan community, by valorizing his deeds, Jim is set apart from his adopted community. This brings the question of the possibility of friendship between the white man and the native. In A Passage to India, the cultural differences between the white man and the native figure overcome any possibility of friendship. However in Lord Jim, Jim does have a close friendship with Dain Waris and even finds a lover in Jewel. While Jim achieves what Fielding failed to in his connection with the natives, it is note worthy that Dain Waris and Jewel are described as having European influences. Dain Waris “knew how to fight like a white man … he had also a European mind” and Jewel is the daughter of a Dutch-Malay woman. This again highlights the divisions between the white man and the native, since the possibility of friendship only arises when the native figure is not completely seen as the ‘other’.