After two years of training, Jim goes to sea, but finds, instead of the adventure he read and fantasized about, the "magic monotony of existence between sky and water."
Injured by a falling mast ("spar") Jim "spent many days stretched on his back, dazed, battered, hopeless, and tormented," eventually leaving the ship for a hospital in an "Eastern Port" (Singapore, where Conrad himself convalesced with a similar injury). While recovering, Jim comes to know the other sailors hanging around ("that gossiping crowd"), and feel disdain for their "determination to lounge safely through existence." Back on his feet and determined not to get soft like the majority of sailors around him, he decides to sail as chief mate on the Patna.
The Patna's commission: to transport a shipful of Muslim pilgrims across the ocean under less than luxurious conditions ("Look at dese cattle," said the German skipper to his new chief mate").
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Chapters 3 and 4