Monday, April 21, 2014

Building Pressure

Lansing's choice to start the book in the middle of the action struck me immediately; in a tale of survival under some of the most pressing conditions possible, what could be more fitting than beginning with the image of a ship being crushed under enormous pressure from all sides? The first line--"The order to abandon ship was given at 5 PM."-- immediately establishes the complex theme of time. On the one hand, by starting the book in the middle of a crisis, Lansing instantly establishes a dire sense of urgency, but on the other, the crisis is not instantaneous, but rather gradual. The catastrophe does not occur at once, but over three days of frantic attempts to save the boat: "She was being crushed. Not all at once, but slowly, a little at a time." This line epitomizes the essence of Shackleton's adventure: its glacial, yet consistent, sense of urgency. Shackleton and his men battle against time as much as the elements in this tale of heroic perseverence. Lansing's use of this image to open the text foreshadows the pressures to come for the crew of the Endurance.

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