Captain Brierly and Jim: Long Lost Brothers?
In reading Conrad’s novel, the character of Captain Brierly is one whose story is minor in role but highly significant in the understanding and development of Jim. Shortly after the inquiry of the events that took place on the Patna, Brierly commits suicide, thus abandoning the ship of life. Even with his small and mysterious incorporation to the novel, I find that Captain Brierly not only helps me understand Jim much better, but more over I see a connection in the actions of Brierly and Jim.
While in the court house, Brierly was “consumedly bored by the honour thrust upon him” (Conrad 38) when listening to the inquiry of the Patna. Brierly himself is a highly respected and well known ship captain and in listening to Jim’s tale of the events and abandoning ship leaves him distraught, contemplating his own decisions in life that credit to this unknown “shame” that plagues him in his final hours. Brierly I think in a sense feels for Jim, like a big brother for his little brother when they are feeling down. Brierly understands the heat of the moment, your life flashing before your eyes, and above all he is fully aware of what it is like to go out and face the treacherous sea head on. Although it is your sworn duty to never abandon ship unless it is indeed sinking, you can’t blame a man for doing such when all the alerting signs are before him: the lights going out, the boats being lowered, etc. It is with this understanding that Brierly proposes the option to Jim through Marlow to take a sum of money and leave the harbor area. He sees past the extreme amounts of scrutiny towards Jim for his decision to abandon ship and sees the strive for heroism in him. Brierly, a sea hero himself, knows of the troubles that lie at sea and in a sense can’t blame Jim for his decision to leave. His offer of the money is not just a way to escape his troubled past, but also to get a fresh start and continue to chase his dream.
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