Marlow repeatedly refers to Jim as, “one of us.” Why does Conrad find this so important? If Jim is “one of us,” does Conrad believe that we (us) have a reservoir of maturity that we keep hidden from ourselves, which prevents us as leaders—in government, in business, of our communities, of our families; hell, even as leaders of pro sports teams—to acknowledge our failures and to accept their consequences?
Like Jim, do we instead fantasize that we possess heroic qualities only to jump overboard to escape our sinking ships—and maintain that others who do as we do are made of lesser stuff—until we can no longer escape ourselves and, finally, learn we must stand up and accept our responsibilities no matter the outcome?
One could further conclude from Lord Jim that Conrad only means leaders who really lead. That those who lead poorly either cannot access the inner chamber that contains their integrity or, perhaps, they don’t have the stomach for it. How else can you explain why Captain Brierly drowns himself just days after leading the inquiry into Jim’s conduct on the Patna?
Marlow earlier in the book describes Brierly saying,
He had never in his life made a mistake, never had an accident, never a mishap, never a check in his steady rise, and he seemed to be one of those lucky fellows who know nothing of indecision, much less of self-mistrust.
Obviously, Captain Brierly (and Conrad) knows Captain Brierly better than Marlow does.
Reading Lord Jim may make you ask these and other questions. You may not find any comforting answers within this book, but it will make you think.
BTW, the above photo is of the 1959 Heritage Press hardcover edition of Lord Jim with slip case, illustrated by Lynd Ward, which I bought at a used book sale for six dollars. The print and page quality looks and feels better than most brand new books. You can find similar copies for sale online.