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Jim, the well-loved son of an English parson, goes to sea to make a name for himself. Just how he is to become "Tuan Jim" or "Lord Jim," however, remains to be told. With his youthful, romantic aspirations for the sea, he is physically powerful; he has "Ability in the abstract." He roams the Asian south seas as a water-clerk, moving from place to place, always trying to outrun, it seems, a particular fact of his past. The story then cuts to an early incident where Jim lost an opportunity to prove his mettle: he "leapt" too late, missing his chance. Then, after a long injury and hospital stay, instead of deciding to return to England, Jim accepts the position of chief mate of the Patna, an old local steamship carrying 800 Muslim pilgrims to Mecca.