The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Lord Jim

It is always interesting to me how we can learn so much about ourselves by looking at someone else. This is a big reason why I love books. When I read a good book, I learn more about myself than anything else. That is, I learn about humanity when I read a good book, and understanding humanity helps me to understand myself because I am a tiny mirror of humanity. Consequently, I once referred to reading a book as an “inner journey”. My point was that, in contrast to what many people think, I do not think that good books take you away from where you are. Rather, it has always been my experience that good books force me to take a deeper look at where I am and face what surrounds me.

As always, one particular book has got me thinking about books in general and the ways in which books deal with me. This time around, the book is Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad. I might add that I am pleased to find myself so enjoying my Brit Lit class, for which I am reading Lord Jim. Far too often, the books I read in class are not the books I would read outside of class, and it is refreshing to read something for a class that I realize I would enjoy reading anyway.

What I have most recently enjoyed about reading Lord Jim is the way in which the author provides short bios and anecdotes of various characters that the story is not really about as a means of rounding out the character of Jim. I realize that the book not only holds my interest, but also furthers its point of elucidating the nature of Jim’s character by spending a considerable amount of time describing other characters. The minor characters in this tale remind me that there is no hero in a one-man show. In fact, in books as in life, it is often the minor characters in a story that best define who we are.

The narrator of Lord Jim makes some interesting comments about humanity while he sits around a table late one night sharing the story of his friend Jim with a few of his companions. One such comment goes like this: “It is when we try to grapple with another man’s intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun.” That just about sums up everything I love about reading a good book and getting a degree in Humanities.

I love the “incomprehensible, wavering and misty” nature of the characters in the stories I read and the characters in the stories that are played out around me every day. As I read stories and live life, it amazes me how greatly the most insignificant of characters can simultaneously define and mystify the main character. At times, a minor character can merely make a story more interesting and give it depth. At other times, without a given minor character there would be no story at all.

“He was one of us,” says the narrator repeatedly to the readers. I feel like this may be the narrator’s way of saying this story is not really about Jim any more than it is about any one of the minor characters that help define who and what Jim is as well as how the story will progress. The story is directly about Jim, but, because Jim “was one of us,” the story is about “us” as well. This is why all of the characters we may be tempted to say do not matter are pivotal. The story is about all of the characters – to leave one out would be to alter this “us” to which the narrator so consistently refers to.

So, practically, what does all of this mean for us today? Don’t forget about the people around you who help tell your story? Don’t neglect reading good books because they can be extremely insightful? Maybe, but there’s probably more to it than that, and I’m not sure we can ever fully explicate what a book has taught us.

Matt Brumit is a senior humanities major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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