14 August 2010

Pluperfect Tense...

I recently bought a copy of Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad. Angus & Robertson was having a sale of "5 books for $25" on their Wordsworth Classics editions. I have read Lord Jim before, more accurately I was forced to read it in high school.

I could not find a copy in my collection of books, and I am keen to read it again on my own terms. As one gets older, I find myself thinking more about the dilemmas of conscience, honour and loyalty.

However, this is not a book review.

I figured that I would start at the beginning and just read the whole book from page 1 through to the last page. This edition starts with a "General Introduction" by the general adviser to the classic series. This is then followed by an introduction by a selected expert or teacher.

Now, here is the funny part, and the part that gives rise to the title of this post. The general introduction states that the purpose of the introduction is to assist readers in gaining a deeper understanding of the work by not attempting to provide any analyse or allude to a dominant reading. The idea being that readers can read it any way that they want and make of it as they will. This, we are reliably informed is going to be done through getting rid of all the jargon.

Well, this little gem from the introduction puts paid to that idea (and I quote):

The grammatical construction of Jim's confession is significant. It suggests a dislocation of consciousness at the very moment of action. He describes his action - 'the leap' - in the pluperfect tense, located in the distant past of his memory, while the use of the intransitive '"seems"' introduces present equivocation, suggesting a sense of ambiguity about his knowledge of, responsibility for, and reluctance to 'own', his deed.

Hopefully, that jargon free introduction to one of the main themes of Lord Jim enlightened you somewhat.


pj said...

Contructions like that are probably why I went for a degree in Engineering rather than Liberal Arts. Suprising that it made through the editors review. "use of the intransitive" indeed. Harumpph!

Rob Baiton said...

@ PJ...

I still smile every time I think about it. The silliness of it really appeals to me.

muebles navalcarnero said...

Surely, the guy is totally just.