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±µ
Melancholy, manhood, and modernist narrative
this is my son,™™ he proclaimed in a stentorian voice. ˜˜I have traded with your
fathers, and when I die he shall trade with you and your sons.™™
By means of this simple formality Stein inherited the Scotsman™s privileged
position and all his stock-in-trade, together with a forti¬ed house on the banks
of the only navigable river in the country. (LJ, pp. ±“)
Filial succession is rather less simple among the people of Patusan
themselves. In the outbreak of civil unrest after the queen™s death, Stein
˜˜join[s] the party of a younger son,™™ Mohammed Bonso, and ¬ghts to
defend the sovereignty of this ally who is also, once Stein marries his
princess sister, a brother-in-law. And comparable ˜˜wonderful adven-
tures™™ (LJ, p. ±) of war are replayed in the next generation by Jim and
Dain Waris, his own native ally and counterpart.
The advent of fratricidal war in Patusan suggestively coincides with
the ¬‚owering of brotherly love between individual native leaders and the
European men who come as colonialists to live among and trade with
them. Predictably, Marlow emphasizes the opportunities for equality
and reciprocity, not just for hierarchy and exploitation, presented by
these interracial bonds. He tellingly characterizes the quasi-fraternal
camaraderie that unites Jim to Dain Waris as ˜˜one of those strange,
profound, rare friendships between brown and white, in which the very
di¬erence of race seems to draw two human beings closer by some
mystic element of sympathy.™™ He explains that ˜˜mystic element™™: ˜˜I
seemed to behold the very origin of friendship. If Jim took the lead, the
other had captivated his leader. In fact, Jim the leader was a captive in
every sense. The land, the people, the friendship, the love, were like the
jealous guardians of his body. Every day added a link to the fetters of
that strange freedom™™ (LJ, p. ). The oxymoronically fettered free-
dom of Jim™s attachment to his adopted homeland evokes the distant
intimacies of the quasi-familial, good uncle guardians, and the para-
doxical status of home more generally in this novel.
In describing Jim and Dain Waris™s quasi-fraternal bond, Marlow
rhetorically makes their friendship into the ˜˜origin of friendship™™ itself,
into a kind of missing link to an imaginary prehistorical past. He also
sees Dain Waris himself as a missing link or simply as an atavism: ˜˜Such
beings open to the Western eye, so often concerned with mere surfaces,
the hidden possibility of races and lands over which hangs the mystery of
unrecorded ages™™ (LJ, p. ). In other words, when Jim emerges from
the ˜˜soft and sticky mudbank™™ in Patusan, the new life into which he is
symbolically reborn is, in fact, timelessly old: not merely traditional in its
family orientation, but primeval. As Dain Waris™s brother, Jim is reaf-
± Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
¬liated with a new family which is the ˜˜primitive™™ Family of Man. Such
a reinvention of home life via the social Darwinist evolutionary and
anthropological model of the Family of Man is a staple of late nine-
teenth- and early twentieth-century male adventure romance.
Despite the shift, persuasively described by Edward Said, in late
Victorian and modern European culture from ˜˜¬liation™™ (familial rela-
tions) to ˜˜a¬liation™™ (non-familial relations), ¬liation persists in adven-
ture romance and in colonialist ¬ctions more generally as ˜˜a metaphoric
afterimage.™™ Anne McClintock uses this evocative term to characterize
the insistent projection of the anachronistic, naturalized image of the
family onto emerging a¬liative institutions of the late nineteenth-cen-
tury, a projection that served to naturalize the policy and practices of
˜˜new orders of industrial bureaucracy, nationalism, and colonialism.™™¹²
McClintock elucidates the ways that the naturalized image of the
Family of Man suppresses the role of women, and particularly mothers,
either by excluding them altogether or abstracting them as nature or as
˜˜dark continents.™™ This reading gives point to Lord Jim™s use of quasi-
fraternal and quasi-¬lial ¬gures in its reconstitution of an e¬ectively
all-male family.¹³ In her analysis of the imaginary constitution of an
all-male family in the authorship, narration, and plotting of Rider
Haggard™s ±µ King Solomon™s Mines, McClintock draws upon Ma-
cherey™s insight that the trope of the journey to origins is ˜˜not a way of
showing the absolute or beginning but a way of determining the genesis
of order, of succession,™™ a way of justifying the gendered and racial
hierarchy of the Family of Man which is also operant in Lord Jim™s
plotting and narration.¹⁴ In Lord Jim, as in the adventure romance
tradition more generally, home is not the literal point of origin but an
imaginary vanishing point from which the ordering of the present and
the justi¬cation of the future must be extrapolated.
The primeval origin, or home, to which Jim returns is uncanny, both
heimlich and unheimlich. Patusan is unheimlich because it is not Jim™s literal
place of origin. Jim™s sojourn in Patusan epitomizes, in fact, the ˜˜tran-
scendental homelessness™™ that Georg Lukacs describes as the de¬ning
´
condition of the modern Western mind. If going to Patusan is like being
transported backwards in time, to ˜˜the original dusk of . . . being™™ (LJ,
p. °), then it is also tantamount to being launched into outer space:
˜˜had Stein arranged to send him into a star of the ¬fth magnitude the
change could not have been greater™™ (LJ, p. °“). A spatial and
temporal remove of this magnitude is necessary for Jim to escape from
what Marlow calls the ˜˜earthly failings™™ (LJ, p. °) of his past.
±·
Melancholy, manhood, and modernist narrative
Marianna Torgovnick contextualizes Lukacs™s theory by noting that it is
´
no coincidence that ˜˜a state of exile “ literal or metaphoric “ often
accompanies an interest in the primitive™™: ˜˜Whatever form the primi-
tive™s hominess takes, its strangeness salves our estrangement from
ourselves and our culture.™™¹µ One can too easily make the leap from this
observation to Conrad™s own exilic, expatriate, colonialist, and modern-
ist subjectivity, ¬nding in the novel™s author a source, or origin, of his
characters™ transcendental homelessness.
The unheimlich, however, is only half of the uncanny “ Patusan is also
heimlich, strange in its very familiarity. Following Macherey™s observa-
tion that the trope of the journey to origins ˜˜cannot be an exploration in
the strict sense of the word but only discovery, retrieval of a knowledge
already complete,™™ McClintock notes that in King Solomon™s Mines ˜˜the
return to prehistory is not a moment of origin but rather the beginning
of a historical return and regression for the journey has already been
made.™™¹⁶ If Jim discovers a new life of heroism in Patusan, it is because
this new life resembles “ repeats, but also revises “ the old life he is trying
to leave behind. Marlow, too, attempts to recover from the alienation of
the present by returning to his own past, to the home which is England.
For Marlow, as for Jim, home is uncanny, located both distantly beyond
and intimately within:¹·

And then, I repeat, I was going home “ to that home distant enough for all its
hearthstones to be like one hearthstone, by which the humblest of us has the
right to sit . . . [E]ven those for whom home holds no dear face, no familiar
voice, “ even they have to meet the spirit that dwells within the land, under its
sky, in its air, in its valleys, and on its rises, in its ¬eld, in its waters and its trees “
a mute friend, judge, and inspirer . . . I think it is the lonely, without a ¬reside or
an a¬ection they may call their own, those who return not to a dwelling but to
the land itself, to meet its disembodied, eternal, and unchangeable spirit “ it is
those who understand best its severity, its saving power, the grace of its secular
right to our ¬delity, to our obedience. (LJ, p. °)

Marlow envisions home both as a place and a person, but most import-
antly as an intangible yet inspiring ˜˜spirit,™™ both within and beyond the
lone wanderer. The paradoxical status of home for these ˜˜thousands™™ of
wanderers is epitomized by Jim™s a¬liation with the ˜˜house™™ of Stein. In
acknowledging Jim as ˜˜one of us,™™ Marlow and Stein provide a quasi-
familial source of non-abjected male selfhood whose e¬ectiveness de-
pends upon its ability to take Jim light-years away.
The ˜˜spirit™™ of home in the passage cited above bears a striking
± Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
rhetorical resemblance to another ˜˜spirit™™ that Marlow describes ear-
lier:
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. It is as if loneliness were a hard
and absolute condition of existence; the envelope of ¬‚esh and blood on which
our eyes are ¬xed melts before the outstretched hand, and there remains only
the capricious, unconsolable, and elusive spirit that no eye can follow, no hand
can grasp. (LJ, p. ±)
The ˜˜disembodied, eternal, and unchangeable spirit™™ (LJ, p. °) is the
spirit of home and the ˜˜capricious, unconsolable, and elusive spirit™™ (LJ,
p. ±) is the spirit of ˜˜another man.™™ Both of these spirits are forceful yet
ethereal, proximate but also de¬nitively out of reach, self-de¬ning yet
located within an ˜˜incomprehensible™™ and untouchable other. The
existential alienation evoked by both of these passages is grounded in an
unrelieved and essentially unrelievable nostalgia for an imaginary past,
a past associated with the concretely knowable, with domestic certainty,
and with masculine integrity. Marlow™s sense of an intolerable epi-
stemological indeterminacy coincides with his recognition of ˜˜another
man™s intimate need™™ and the masculine lack that it signi¬es. Precisely
because he is ˜˜fated never to see him clearly™™ (LJ, p. ±), Marlow is
driven to tell the story of this other man: ˜˜I cannot say I had ever seen
him distinctly “ not even to this day, after I had my last view of him; but
it seemed to me that the less I understood the more I was bound to him
in the name of that doubt which is the inseparable part of our knowl-
edge™™ (LJ, p. °). Marlow contends that ˜˜for each of us going home
must be like going to render an account™™ (LJ, p. °), but his own
fragmented and disrupted narrative account bears witness to the im-
possibility of a coherent rendering and an authentic return to origins.
Believing in Jim allows Marlow to retain membership, however
tenuously, in a masculine community of belief, ˜˜an obscure body of men
held together by a community of inglorious toil and by ¬delity to a
certain standard of conduct™™ (LJ, p. °), a community whose very
standards Jim™s dishonor disrupts. The indiscernable yet ˜˜infernal alloy
in [Jim™s] metal™™ (LJ, p. ·) a¬ronts the manly standard of conduct that
Marlow wants to believe is absolute, non-negotiable, de¬nitively not
open to interpretation. It threatens the stability of the system of belief,
and ultimately of signi¬cation or meaning, that Marlow assumes or
quasi-inherits. Marlow™s own a¬liative self-de¬nition as a ˜˜good uncle,™™
as one who knows the right stu¬ when he sees it, is thereby undermined:
±
Melancholy, manhood, and modernist narrative
I liked his appearance; I knew his appearance; he came from the right place; he
was one of us . . . He was the kind of fellow you would, on the strength of his
looks, leave in charge of the deck “ ¬guratively and professionally speaking. I
say I would, and I ought to know. Haven™t I turned out youngsters enough in
my time, for the service of the Red Rag, to the craft of the sea . . . I would have
trusted the deck to that youngster on the strength of a single glance . . . and it
wouldn™t have been safe. (LJ, pp. ·“)

The undetected ˜˜soft spot, the place of decay™™ (LJ, p. µ) in Jim blights
Marlow™s manhood as well as Jim™s: ˜˜If he had not enlisted my sympath-
ies he had done better for himself “ he had gone to the very fount and
origin of that sentiment, he had reached the secret sensibility of my
egoism™™ (LJ, p. ±µµ). Motivated by a desire for self-preservation as much
as by a sense of ˜˜jealous guardian™™-ship (LJ, p. ), Marlow a¬rms that
Jim ˜˜achieved greatness,™™ much as in Heart of Darkness he a¬rms that
Kurtz was a ˜˜remarkable man™™: valiantly or perhaps desperately main-
taining as true what he has seen and shown to be patently false.
The ˜˜sheer sentimentalism™™ (LJ, p. °) of Marlow™s a¬rmations is
¬nally comparable to Jim™s romanticism.¹⁸ Where Jim fails to relinquish
his faith in the realism of romance, Marlow doggedly maintains the
¬ction of masculine plenitude in the face of obvious masculine lack.
Marlow fetishizes the su¬ering of his other men in the novels he
narrates, simultaneously avowing and disavowing the loss to which his
telling repeatedly returns. This bachelor™s melancholy testimony insists
upon the sovereignty of Lord Jim while exposing him as a pretender to
the throne. Understanding the impossibility of ˜˜full utterance™™ and the
fragmentary e¬ect of his ˜˜stammerings,™™ and recognizing that ˜˜there is
never time to say our last word,™™ Marlow pronounces his ˜˜last words
about Jim™™ (LJ, pp. °“).


® ¤
   ° ® ¤ µ ¬µ   ¦          ®: T H E G OO D S OL D IER
T H E GR E AT GA T SBY

The ambivalent oscillation between avowing and disavowing another
man™s goodness, or even his greatness, links Conrad™s turn-of-the-
century Lord Jim to Ford™s The Good Soldier (±±µ) and Fitzgerald™s The
Great Gatsby (±µ). Critics have long noted the a¬nities among these
writers and their novels; Ford and Fitzgerald themselves made a point of
their indebtedness to Conrad.¹⁹ My purpose here is not to trace the
borrowings, obvious and obscure, among these writers although some-
times I will not be able to resist this temptation. Rather, my aim is to
±° Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
elucidate the striking similarities among these novels™ articulations of
melancholic longing for non-abjected manhood from the perspective of
a bachelor narrator. These narrators and their narratives are melan-
cholic, ¬rst, because the non-abjected, or heroic, manhood that they
interminably lament never existed in the ¬rst place and hence can never
come again. Melancholia is also their lot because their imaginary
attempts to exalt an idealized manhood are confounded by their am-
bivalent repudiation of the other men whom they interminably mourn.
Their ambivalence towards these other men is organized around the
sentimentality they attribute to their lost male objects, a sentimentality
that is at once the imaginary source and, paradoxically, the compromis-
ing a¬ront to a whole and non-abjected manhood. The sentimental
nostalgia of these narrators reveals their melancholic incorporation of
their sentimental other men, an imaginary relation to these male ¬gures
which spurs their melancholic dreams of a return home and yet ensures
these bachelor narrators™ ˜˜transcendental homelessness.™™
The quasi-familial persists as a ˜˜metaphoric afterimage™™ projected
onto the male-male a¬liations in these bachelor-narrated novels as in
Conrad™s Marlow-narrated ones. John Dowell and Nick Carraway are
less ˜˜bachelor uncles™™ to the other men of their narratives than meta-
phorical little brothers, who feel themselves both imposed upon and
elevated by their responsibility for preserving the memory of their other
men. In fact, Dowell explicitly compares his narrative™s other man to ˜˜a
large elder brother,™™ though his erotic identi¬cation with Edward Ash-
burnham crosses over from ¬liation into the realm of shared identity:
For I can™t conceal from myself the fact that I loved Edward Ashburnham “ and
that I love him because he was just myself. If I had the courage and the virility
and possibly also the physique of Edward Ashburnham I should, I fancy, have
done much what he did. He seems to me like a large elder brother who took me
out on excursions and did many dashing things whilst I just watched him
robbing the orchards, from a distance.²°
˜˜Robbing the orchards™™ is an episode recounted in St. Augustine™s
Confessions, but Ford lifts this image directly from the passage in Lord Jim
in which his bachelor friend writes to Marlow: ˜˜I declare I am unable to
imagine [Jim] guilty of anything much worse than robbing an orchard™™
(LJ, p. ±°).²¹ As Dowell describes his own deviations from the ideal of
married male sexuality, these deviations mirror yet also revise those of
his other man:
In my fainter sort of way I seem to perceive myself following the lines of Edward
Ashburnham. I suppose that I should really like to be a polygamist; with Nancy,
±±
Melancholy, manhood, and modernist narrative
and with Leonora, and with Maisie Maidan, and possibly even with Florence. I
am no doubt like every other man; only, probably because of my American
origin, I am fainter. At the same time I am able to assure you that I am a strictly
respectable person. I have never done anything that the most anxious mother
of a daughter or the most careful dean of a cathedral would object to. I have
only followed, faintly, and in my unconscious desires, Edward Ashburnham.
(GS, p. ·)

Dowell, I note here, is no more a bachelor than James™s Strether is, but I
am according him the honorary title of bachelor narrator here partly in
recognition of his unconsummated marriage, a state of married celibacy
which, he hints in places, might really be married virginity. Nick
Carraway gives an equally psychological-sounding explanation for his

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