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˜˜the bachelor and the baby.™™⁸ Living up to his billing as ˜˜The Knight™™
(the title of part ©© of the novel), Roderick chivalrously rescues Flora ¬rst
by marrying her and then by renouncing the sexual aspect of their
relationship as a sign of his courtly devotion.
Marlow plays more of a supporting role in the drama of ˜˜The
Damsel™™ (the title of part ©) in distress. While Marlow is more vicarious
in his engagement with Flora than Roderick is in his engagement to her,
Marlow™s performance as Flora™s bachelor con¬dant is not without
e¬ect. Marlow is useful to Flora much as the bachelor narrator of Under
Western Eyes is useful to Natalia Haldin: in his ˜˜way of looking on.™™ Like
the narrator of Under Western Eyes, Marlow is ˜˜a little ashamed™™ of his
interest in the heroine™s intimate disclosures, ˜˜as if listening to her I had
taken advantage of having seen her poor, bewildered, scared soul
without its veils™™ (C, p. ±µ). Also like the Under Western Eyes narrator, he
indicts his own voyeurism “ ˜˜to render myself justice without false
modesty “ I was anxious; anxious to know a little more™™ (C, p. ±µ) “ yet
also o¬ers evidence in defense of this tendency. While he uses Flora™s
su¬ering for his vicarious pleasure, his proclivity for onlooking also saves
her life: Flora abandons her suicide attempt when she sees that Marlow
±·
Melancholy, manhood, and modernist narrative
is watching her. Only after the event does Marlow discover, and in the
next chapter does he reveal to the reader, that it is the Fynes™ dog, not
himself, whom Flora views as her true savior: ˜˜You see, she imagined
the dog had become extremely attached to her. She took it into her head
that he might fall over or jump down after her™™ (C, p. ±·). The ironic
de¬‚ation caused by this discovery does not, however, disrupt Marlow™s
aggrandizing self-image as a maiden-rescuing bachelor knight. Rhetori-
cally distancing himself from damsel-eating dragons “ ˜˜You needn™t
stare as though I were breathing ¬re and smoke out of my nostrils. I am
not a woman-devouring monster™™ (C, p. ±±), he tells the novel™s un-
named external narrator “ and also from the dog who is so ˜˜unchival-
rous™™ (C, p. ·) as to desert Flora, Marlow tries to remain true to his
assumed chivalrous role.
Driven both by his sense of moral obligation to Flora and by a
vicarious interest in her su¬ering, Marlow appears two other times in
the role of Flora™s ˜˜chance con¬dant™™ (C, p. °±). The second occur-
rence is when Marlow keeps Flora company on the sidewalk while Mr.
Fyne confronts Captain Anthony in his hotel room:

[O]f all the individuals who passed by none appeared to me or the moment so
pathetic in unconscious patience as the girl standing before me; none more
di¬cult to understand . . . but we two, strangers, as we really were to each other,
had dealt with the most intimate and ¬nal of subjects, the subject of death. It
had created a sort of bond between us. It made our silence weighty and uneasy.
I ought to have left her there and then; but, as I think I™ve told you before, the
fact of having shouted her away from the edge of a precipice seemed somehow
to have engaged my responsibility as to this other leap. (C, pp. ±··“)

Marlow describes the ˜˜subject of [her intended] marriage™™ to Captain
Anthony as another ˜˜intimate subject between us to lend more weight
and more uneasiness to our silence™™ (C, p. ±·). ˜˜This other leap,™™ which
literally refers to Flora™s decision to elope, part of a pattern of ˜˜jumps™™
and ˜˜leaps™™ culminating in her ascension by rope from the deck of the
sinking Ferndale, also recalls the leaps that mark the progress of the young
protagonist of Lord Jim. Of course, Flora™s ˜˜¬ne adventures™™ (C, p. µ)
are rather di¬erent from Jim™s: whereas Flora is abandoned by her
guardians, Jim abandons ship; whereas Flora elopes with Captain An-
thony, Jim leaps into a new life as Lord Jim. Each protagonist™s misfor-
tunes and opportunities are shaped by historically based gender dif-
ferences. Just as the spectacular su¬ering of each protagonist takes place
in di¬erently gendered arenas, Marlow™s performances as the ˜˜looker-
±° Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
on at a game™™ (C, p. ) also vary according to gendered di¬erences. For
instance, Marlow observes that ˜˜you can™t buttonhole familiarly a
young girl as you would a young fellow™™ (C, p. ±·), a comment which
suggests that con¬dential male“female relations of the sort he shares
with Flora are less simple, both less candid and less comfortable, than
male-male ones of the kind he has with Jim.
Yet the dynamics of intimacy between older men and younger men in
these novels are far from simple. We see the complexities of intimacy
between older and younger men in the cross-generational relationships
of ˜˜Young Powell,™™ Jim™s other counterpart, beside Flora, in Chance.
The novel begins with Powell™s lengthy retrospective narration to Mar-
low and the frame narrator of how he got his ˜˜real start in life™™ (C, p. °).
Unable to obtain an o¬cer™s berth after passing the arduous seamanship
examination, Young Powell turns for help to a ˜˜Mr Powell in the
Shipping O¬ce™™ (C, p. ±), a stranger who coincidentally bears the same
name as himself. When Captain Anthony suddenly appears at the
Shipping O¬ce in urgent need of a replacement for his injured second
mate, Old Powell coolly o¬ers him the young man standing by, referring
to him familiarly as ˜˜Charles.™™ After Anthony signs him on and leaves,
Young Powell scrupulously attempts to clear up what he thinks has been
Old Powell™s, and not just Captain Anthony™s, misunderstanding: ˜˜I
believe the captain of the Ferndale was thinking all the time that I was a
relation of yours.™™

˜˜Did he?™™ says he. ˜˜That™s funny, because it seems to me too that I™ve been a
sort of good uncle to several of you young fellows lately. Don™t you think so
yourself? However, if you don™t like it you may put him right “ when you get out
to sea.™™ At this I felt a bit queer. Mr Powell had rendered me a very good
service “ because it™s a fact that with us merchant sailors the ¬rst voyage as
o¬cer is the real start in life. He had given me no less than that. I told him
warmly that he had done more for me that day than all my relations put
together ever did. (C, p. °; emphasis mine)

As his ˜˜good uncle,™™ Old Powell initiates Young Powell into his new life
as an o¬cer. Nepotism is the familial sign under which Old Powell
advances Young Powell™s career, but the de¬ning trait of their relation-
ship is its quasi-familiality or even its non-familiality.
Young Powell tells Old Powell that he has done more for him ˜˜than
all my relations put together ever did,™™ yet Young Powell has not been
entirely without familial support. He mentions to Marlow that the only
living relation he had at that time, the only person he needs to visit
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Melancholy, manhood, and modernist narrative
before shipping out, was an aunt ˜˜who quarrelled with poor father as
long as he lived about some silly matter that had neither right nor wrong
to it. She left her money to me when she died. I used always to go and
see her for decency™s sake™™ (C, p. ). His aunt gratuitously helped him in
the past as his ˜˜good uncle™™ does now, yet Powell emphasizes the
di¬erence between intercessions on his behalf by his family of origin and
those performed by his new, adoptive family of choice: the all-male,
quasi-family of the Mercantile Marine. The ¬gure of the newly ap-
pointed o¬cer who must visit his aunt before shipping out recalls
Marlow at the beginning of Heart of Darkness. In that novel, however, it is
the aunt herself who provides the nepotistic connection. Marlow is
dismayed to ¬nd himself turning for help to a family member, and a
female relative to boot: ˜˜Then “ would you believe it “ I tried the
women. I, Charlie Marlow, set the women to work “ to get a job!
Heavens!™™⁹
The Shipping O¬ce episode of Chance thus provides Young Charles
Powell with more than one quasi-familial ˜˜namesake™™ (C, p. ±): Powell
the elder and Charles (Marlow) the elder.¹° Powell undergoes initiation
by a good uncle not once, but twice in the novel: in the ¬rst chapter Old
Powell gives him a needed leg up into his o¬cer™s berth, and in the last
chapter Old Charlie pushes him to propose marriage to the widowed
Flora. Of course, Marlow is more a peer of Powell™s than his mentor “
this con¬rmed bachelor can hardly initiate another old bachelor into the
mysteries of marriage. Marlow does return in this ¬nal episode as Flora™s
con¬dant and domestic advisor, urging her to encourage Powell to
propose and to accept him. This act of intercession is relatively unam-
bivalent, although there is a suggestion in the external narrator™s ˜˜sar-
castic manner™™ of grinning that Marlow is visiting upon these two just
what he wouldn™t want for himself. Without question, he is promoting
the institution of marriage while avoiding it himself. Yet, in doing this
service for Powell and Flora, Marlow seems motivated by the vicarious
pleasure of generosity, not sadism.
Greater ambivalence is apparent in Old Powell™s mentoring of Young
Powell, or at least Marlow suggests that one might interpret his actions
this way. When Powell retrospectively describes Old Powell™s interces-
sion on his behalf as an ˜˜uncommonly kind™™ act, Marlow retorts:

He did what he could . . . and on his own showing that was not a very great
deal. I cannot help thinking that there was some malice in the way he seized the
opportunity to serve you. He managed to make you uncomfortable. You
± Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
wanted to go to sea, but he jumped at the chance of accommodating your
desire with a vengeance. I am inclined to think your cheek alarmed him. And
this was an excellent occasion to suppress you altogether. (C, pp. ±“)

Marlow suspects ˜˜some malice™™ in Old Powell™s seeming lack of fore-
thought. In so precipitously ful¬lling Young Powell™s desire for initi-
ation, Old Powell may have been motivated by a desire ˜˜to suppress™™ an
alarmingly aggressive neophyte. ˜˜[A]ccommodating your desire with a
vengeance,™™ Marlow suggests, is a covertly hostile act; it is a way, just
short of refusing him, to dispose of this young upstart. Young Powell
rejects this interpretation, although he does ˜˜admit it was something like
telling a man that you would like a bath, and in consequence being
instantly knocked overboard to sink or swim™™ (C, pp. ±“).
As Young Powell™s comment suggests, professional initiation into the
˜˜secret society™™ (C, p. µ) of the Mercantile Marine, and particularly
into that inner circle of o¬cers who have ˜˜got a ship™™ (C, p. ±), creates
quasi-fraternal and quasi-¬lial bonds which encompass both a¬ection
and hostility, dependence and self-reliance, equality and hierarchy. The
intimate bond between initiator and initiate both binds and liberates, a
paradox vividly exempli¬ed by Conrad™s ˜˜The Secret Sharer,™™ as dis-
cussed in the previous chapter. Part of the danger of male“male inti-
macy, of course, resides in its association with homoerotic desire, a
danger that grew more intense with the late nineteenth-century illegaliz-
ation of homosexual activities and the pathologizing and popularizing of
homosexuality as a cultural identity. The longstanding association of the
pedagogue with the pederast, and later with the emergent nineteenth-
century type of the pedophile, only compounded the threat of ho-
moerotic desire in quasi-avuncular relations.¹¹
For all of these reasons, it is not surprising that Marlow equates the
desire to get a job for a young man with the desire to get rid of him. But
in Chance, as in Lord Jim where Marlow himself takes responsibility for
getting a younger man a position, such intercessional acts enable the
mentor both to get rid of his young man and also to keep him. The bond
of intimacy between initiator and initiate is paradoxically predicated on
the initiate™s attainment, whether gradual or sudden, of greater author-
ity and ultimately of greater independence from the initiator. Thus, as
much as Marlow wishes to help Jim to get and keep a position, Marlow
also wants
to get him out of the way; out of his own way, be it understood. That was our
main purpose, though, I own, I might have had another motive which had
±
Melancholy, manhood, and modernist narrative
in¬‚uenced me a little. I was about to go home for a time; and it may be I
desired, more than I was aware of myself, to dispose of him “ to dispose of him,
you understand “ before I left. (LJ, pp. °µ“)
The literal distance between them, however, enables rather than pre-
cludes their bond. Thus Marlow experiences his most ˜˜real and
profound intimacy™™ with Jim at the moment that he thinks they are
parting company forever:
Jim and I, alone as it were, to leeward of the mainsail, clasped each other™s
hands and exchanged the last hurried words. My heart was freed from that dull
resentment which had existed side by side with interest in his fate . . . On that
occasion the sort of formality that had been always present in our intercourse
vanished from our speech; I believe I called him ˜˜dear boy,™™ and he tacked on
the words ˜˜old man™™ to some half-uttered expression of gratitude, as though his
risk set o¬ against my years had made us more equal in age and in feeling . . . He
exerted himself to soothe me as though he had been the more mature of the
two. (LJ, p. °)
Having been identi¬ed by Marlow several pages earlier as ˜˜my very
young brother™™ (LJ, p. °·), Jim undergoes an accelerated rhetorical
maturation in this passage, rapidly progressing from being a ˜˜dear
boy,™™ to ˜˜equal in age,™™ to ˜˜the more mature of the two.™™ The new
maturity that Marlow attributes to Jim signals the easing of the ˜˜resent-
ment™™ that Marlow feels against Jim. Marlow is able to feel closer to a
Jim who can take care of himself, a Jim who is on the verge of going
away for good.
The distant intimacies of Marlow™s role as ˜˜good uncle™™ to Jim are
reinforced by Marlow™s sharing with other men the open secret of Jim™s
past and the responsibility for ¬nding him employment. The ¬rst in this
series of secret sharers is an unnamed friend whom Marlow describes as
˜˜a cynical, more than middle-aged bachelor, with a reputation for
eccentricity™™ (LJ, p. ±·). This bachelor takes Jim on, ¬rst as an em-
ployee in his rice-mill and then as a housemate:
˜˜Not having been able so far to ¬nd more in my heart than a resigned toleration
for any individual of my kind, I have lived till now alone in a house that even in
this steaming climate could be considered as too big for one man. I have had
him to live with me for some time past. It seems I haven™t made a mistake.™™ It
seemed to me on reading this letter that my friend had found in his heart more
than tolerance for Jim . . . (LJ, p. ±°)
Like Captain Anthony with Flora, this bachelor virtually adopts Jim as
he would a child; as Jim tells Marlow later, ˜˜I was called Mr. James
there as if I had been the son™™ (LJ, p. ±). The bachelor also takes Jim as
± Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
a kind of child bride, at least in a metaphorical sense. This enactment of
the ˜˜bachelor and the baby™™ plot is suggested by the bachelor™s com-
parison of Jim to a girl: ˜˜Had he been a girl “ my friend wrote “ one
could have said he was blooming “ blooming modestly “ like a violet,
not like some of these blatant tropical ¬‚owers™™ (LJ, p. ±°). Whether as a
son or a lover, Jim and his youthful ˜˜freshness™™ (LJ, p. ±°) rejuvenate
this old bachelor:
He had been in the house for six weeks, and had not as yet attempted to slap
him on the back, or address him as ˜˜old boy,™™ or try to make him feel a
superannuated fossil . . . ˜˜The dew is yet on him, and since I had the bright idea
of giving him a room in the house and having him at meals I feel less withered
myself. The other day he took it into his head to cross the room with no other
purpose but to open a door for me; and I felt more in touch with mankind than
I had for years. Ridiculous isn™t it?™™ (LJ, p. ±°)

While Jim™s respectful solicitude puts the old bachelor back ˜˜in touch
with mankind,™™ his sudden departure breaks the spell and returns the
bachelor to his characteristic cynicism, a reversion to type indicated in
his next letter to Marlow: ˜˜Allow me to say, lest you should have some
more mysterious young men in reserve, that I have shut up shop,
de¬nitely and for ever™™ (LJ, p. ±±). ˜˜Shutting up shop™™ nicely captures
the emotional and professional nuances of the bachelor™s disappoint-
ment in both Jim and Marlow.
The last ˜˜good uncle™™ with whom Marlow shares the open secret of
Jim™s past and consults about his future is Stein, a ˜˜solitary, but not
misanthropic™™ (LJ, p. ±µ) widower who, like Marlow™s bachelor friend
before him, takes Jim into his house. But Stein™s house is, as Marlow
points out, really his business: ˜˜[h]is ˜house™ (because it was a house,
Stein & Co.)™™ (LJ, p. ±±). In helping Marlow to help Jim, Stein revisits
his own past and thereby ful¬lls his own sense of ¬lial and professional
obligation: ˜˜Stein characteristically enough had a sentimental motive.
He had a notion of paying o¬ (in kind, I suppose) the old debt he had
never forgotten . . . [of ] passing on to a young man the help he had
received in his own young days™™ (LJ, pp. ±“±). Marlow recounts the
story of how Stein had gotten his start in Patusan from an ˜˜old Scots-
man, the only white man allowed to reside in the country at the time™™:
I often heard Stein relate how that chap, who was slightly paralysed on one
side, had introduced him to the native court a short time before another stroke
carried him o¬ . . . He dragged his leg, thumping with his stick, and grasped
Stein™s arm, leading him right up to the couch. ˜˜Look, queen, and you rajahs,

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