29 September 2018
The book of choice was “In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathaniel Philbrick. Set the early 1800’s, the Essex, a sperm whale hunting ship, was attacked and sunk in the Pacific Ocean. Crew members had to travel by small rescue boat suffering the forces of nature until a small party of survivors were saved in February of 1821. The book being told in third person helps to give many perspectives on the real story and plot. This book complies with many themes from man versus nature to greed. However, the main theme I want to focus on is the repetition of violence throughout the entire book and how violence is a necessity for survival in the common predator versus prey society we see.
The book is based off of violent acts from the beginning. From the beginning, the ship captain speaks of violent plans for his crew if they misbehave. Chapter one, the captain quotes, “Come down here, you young rascal. I’ll kill the whole bunch of you together and then bang up northwest and go home.” The captain must act tough as to achieve power and respect. In disguise, the pent-up feelings of violent life are restored as he has regained his spot on the ship as a leader. Not being told what he can and cannot do give him the power to behave as violent as he wishes on the waters to get the job done. Now, the ship must hunt whales to use them as resources to sustain life. Through the book we are crossed with Nantucketer’s (people of the Nantucket coast area, aka the heart of the whaling industry in the early 19th century) ways of violence. We find the Nantucket people are most violent as they bring out the worst in each crew member. In chapter one we read about these people as the author states, “There was a savagery about this island, a bloodlust and pride that bound every mother, father, and child in a clannish commitment to the hunt.” Ironically, the vast majority of the town is Quaker people. On the other hand, the Nantucketer society loves hunting and murdering whales. Easy to say, these two mindsets did not mix well. Although, the Nantucket people had a keen way of swaying the Quaker people to violence. Chapter three states near the beginning, “They all coaxed and cajoled their crews with words that evoked… the almost erotic bloodlust associated with pursuing one of the largest mammals on the planet.” Soiled by the Nantucketer’s social ways, these Quaker people built up aggression by following example. This pent-up anger could only seem to be solved by whale hunting in violent ways such as stabbing. In the book we see the violence comes as quite the shock to new whale hunters. Even the most novice sailors became disgusted by the violent ways of whale hunting. In certain instances, it appears the whale hunt is similar to a ritual. The Essex begins as a humble sailing ship and in moments turns to a brutal butchery.
We follow this theme of violence as it switc...