Monday, April 29, 2013

The Boat as a Character

"She was being crushed. Not all at once, but slowly, a little at a time. The pressure of ten million tons of ice was driving in against her sides. And dying as she was, she cried in agony. Her frames and planking, her immense timbers, many of them almost a foot thick, screamed as the killing pressure mounted." (Lansing, 2) Before we learn about any of the characters, we meet the boat in the full-blown agony of the last moments of her life. In "In the Land of White Death" we discussed how Albanov seemed to care more about his equipment than about his fellow adventurers. Lansing, and by extension Shackleton and his crew, takes his personification to a whole new level. Feeling an emotional connection to your boat is not a new idea, however. Throughout history we hear boats with names referred to as "she", boats with whom we sail, travel, and experience the wide oceans we could not experience by ourselves. However it is an interesting technique to open the book with her, seeing as she, almost the mother figure, dies within the first chapter. This, along with the dramatic writing technique, reminded me of a Disney movie, where a beloved character dies at the beginning and the characters have to struggle on without her help. Still, relationships have been a vital part of our discussions, both in terms of how we define adventure, how we define leader, and most certainly how we evaluate morality. Shackleton had to make the decision to abandon the boat; he as a leader sacrificed "her" in order to save themselves. Yet we don't think of this as immoral. The personification goes on for the rest of the chapter, making us feel more sympathy for the boat than for the characters themselves. "Sometimes she simply quivered briefly as a human being might wince if seized by a single, stabbing pain. Other times she retched in a series of convulsive jerks accompanied by anguished outcries... But most agonizing for the men were the times when she seemed a huge creature suffocating and gasping for breath, her sides heaving against the strangling pressure" (6). This, of course, could be viewed simply as a dramatic literary technique. But I could also see that these emotions being true, especially when the crew was already in such a fragile state.

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