Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim shared many features in common with one of his other books, Secret Sharer. Both stories were told in the same style. In Lord Jim, Jim's story is told almost completely through the mouth of Jim's friend. In Secret Sharer, the persona, a ship's captain, encounters a mysterious man. The story is then told by an extended dialogue between the two characters. By using this method of presenting the story Conrad could emphasize the character development instead of the plot of the story.
Because of his experience on sailing ships, it was no surprise that most of Conrad's works are based on ships of the sea. In both Secret Sharer, and Lord Jim, the action started with someone sailing off the cost of Malay. While all of Secret Sharer took place in this setting, the action in Lord Jim also took place in other settings, including ship-yards and lands of the native Malayan. The final setting allowed Jim to advance as a character in a new setting.
In Lord Jim, Conrad used some of the same devices that he used in Secret Sharer. The protagonists in both stories were great men who each made one seemingly small mistake, which haunted them for the rest of their lives. In Secret Sharer the protagonist was a strong character, with a high position on his boat. Because of his strength, he disliked the person who refused to earnestly carry out his duty, and ended up killing him. Jim also was highly respected on his ship, but as the ship was going down, he found himself in the one life- boat, while hundreds of people were dying inside.
Character development played a key part in Conrad's literary style. Lord Jim focused on Jim's growth and development as a character. At the novels beginning, Lord Jim was an honest, valiant and hard working man. Then he found himself abandoning the ship while many innocent people are drowning. This event played heavily on his conscience, and marked the nadir of Jim's life. From there, Jim's life slowly climbed the sinuous path upward, but the instant before he would reach a new apex, his life would start to fall down another abyss, where only the wings of his friend could save him. Finally, he found himself while living with Malayan villagers who revered him as Lord Jim.
At it's beginning, Lord Jim proceeded at a very slow rate partially due to the many descriptive details presented. After the introduction, the novel began to proceed at a faster rate, but it still appeared to be a short story that got out of hand. On the other hand those weaknesses were almost required in order for Conrad to bring out the strengths of the novel. Jim's character development is one of the exemplary features of this novel, and is portrayed realistically and in detail. As he progressed through the book, the reader began to feel an attachment to Jim's character, and he also begins to feel sorry for his hardships. Also, Conrad's literary skills were a great asset to this novel. Conrad had the ability to pick exactly the right word for the situation. This enables him to bring out the maximum detail in the shortest amount of space. Lord Jim, with its highly intellectual manner of speech and superb characterization is one of the best books ever written in the English language.