Summary – Chapters Fourteen, Fifteen and Sixteen
Chapter Fourteen returns to the final day of the inquiry. Marlow compares it to attending an execution and says the experience was infinitely worse than a beheading: ‘These proceedings had all the cold vengefulness of a death sentence, had all the cruelty of a sentence of exile’. The court finds that the Patna had not been seaworthy for the voyage, but that it had been navigated with care up to the time of the accident. There was no evidence to explain the cause of the accident. For ‘disregard of their plain duty’, Jim and the skipper’s certificates are cancelled.
When Jim walks away, Marlow thinks he staggers a little. Marlow hears a man say ‘man overboard’ and recognizes him as Chester. The narrative deviates whilst Marlow explains Chester’s idea to collect guano and his wish to buy a steamer. Chester is scornful of Jim for taking the events to heart and wants him to work for him as he sees he is no good anymore. Marlow refuses to advise Jim about this offer and the chapter ends with Chester walking away.
In Chapter Fifteen, Marlow later catches sight of Jim leaning over the parapet of the quay. They then walk together with Marlow leading the way to his rooms. Marlow sits down at once to write letters. The inquiry has not made Jim invisible as he wished, but Marlow behaves as if he is. He carries on writing whilst Jim stands quietly with his back to the light.
Marlow explains in Chapter Sixteen that the last time he saw Jim, he was protected by his isolation. However, Marlow sometimes thinks he should not have stood between Jim and Chester’s offer. He has heard nothing of Chester since he set off as he has not been seen since and it is thought he may have been killed in a hurricane.
The narrative then returns to Marlow writing letters. Jim thanks him for this ‘bit of shelter’ and begins to feel more optimistic about his future. Marlow warns him to be a little cautious, and then fears Jim will now ‘begin the journey towards the bottomless pit’. There is a downpour and it is dark outside, but Jim decides to leave. Marlow stops him and asks him to come back in and shut the door.
Analysis – Chapters Fourteen, Fifteen and Sixteen
With the end of the inquiry, Jim appears to be spent and is seen as ‘no good’ now (according to Chester). Marlow’s faith in this younger man is made evident, however, as he takes him to his rooms and Chapter Sixteen finishes with him stopping Jim from leaving.
Jim’s childlike naivety is made evident, through the interpretation made by Marlow, as he had hoped the inquiry would bring him invisibility. The suggestion is made that Jim believed that doing the ‘right thing’ would mean he would then be treated fairly. It is implied that his own code of honor differs to that of other men and this is made apparent throughout the story of Jim’s life.