The History Book Club discussion

NAPOLEONIC WARS > 10. HF - MASTER AND COMMANDER - CHAPTER 10 (336 - 372) (07/05/10 - 07/11/10) ~ No spoilers, please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

Welcome to the historical fiction discussion of Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian.

This is the reading assignment for week ten - (July 5th, 2010 to July 11th, 2010)

Chapter Ten - pages 336 - 372

This is the second historical fiction group selected book.

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers if you are catching up.

This book was kicked off on May 3rd.

This discussion is being led by assisting moderator of historical fiction - Elizabeth S.

We always enjoy the participation of all group members. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle.

This thread opens up Monday, July 5th for discussion. This is a non spoiler thread.




Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin Book 1) by Patrick O'Brian Patrick O'Brian Patrick O'Brian

message 2: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments This week the Sophie demonstrates how she does without some of her luck. Again we begin the chapter with Stephen's diary. He is still concerned about Jack and Dillon. The Sophie returns to her cruising ground. Dillon shows Stephen how they will now pretend to be a snow, rather than a brig, by making it look like they have a third mast.

They see a tartan, who pretends to be a neutral. But Jack sends men aboard to speak Italian, and they see through the deception and take the prize. They hear gun shots and hurry north. The take the privateer Felipe V, but find themselves penned in by at least eleven gunboats. Unable to get the privateer repaired fast enough, and unable to get the crew of the privateer aboard as prisoners fast enough, they plan to transfer the other prisoners later.

They manage to avoid the gunboats, but Jack is convinced the boats were trying to lead them to some trap. The next day, they plan to face off again with the gunboats, but instead find their "old friend" the Cacafuego. A fierce battle ensues. Jack's rigorous training of the Sophie's shows as they are able to get off more shots, faster and more organized. They avoid being boarded several times. The Sophie, however, is getting hit enough that they must do something, so Jack gathers every man to board the frigate. Only Stephen refuses to go, but helpfully mans the steering of the Sophie. By fighting like wildmen, Jack's men (about 50) overcome the 300 Spaniards. The Sophies hustle the survivors below as fast as they can, before their lesser numbers are figured out. When gathering the wounded, Jack discovers both Dillon and Ellis among the dead.

message 3: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Although Dillon's death is the last thing discovered in the chapter, it seems fitting to discuss it first. He had concerns about honor earlier. Is this an honorable death? Perhaps the kind of death he would have wanted?

During the chapter, Dillon expressed excitement to be fighting the king's men, rather than just the privateers. Stephen points out the either one can kill you just as well. Why does it seem different to one man, but not another?

message 4: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) To further your question Elizabth,is Dillon’s death bought on by concern of Honor. Was Jacks attack on the Cacafuego driven by the Dillon's comments last time the Sophie and Cacafuego met. Dillon's perceived slight on Jack's Honor over the last coming together of these ships was weighing heavily on Jack's mind. Did pride kill Dillion?

Also I think your question naturally leads to another one. What is considered an honorable death?

message 5: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Good, tough, questions. I don't think there are any easy or absolute answers, either.

message 6: by Erick (new)

Erick Burnham | 244 comments Elizabeth S wrote: "Although Dillon's death is the last thing discovered in the chapter, it seems fitting to discuss it first. He had concerns about honor earlier. Is this an honorable death? Perhaps the kind of de..."

King's men are soldiers that fight with honor, which makes them distinct from the privateers which are not much more than criminals. While both can kill you just as dead, to men who must count on each other honor is of the first importance. There is no honor in fighting criminals.

Dillon's death was to be expected; it was the only way out for him. Ellis, however, was a an unexpected tragedy. So young and intelligent, O'Brian shows us how war can take away someone with so much potential before they are able to realize it.

message 7: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments I've been going back and forth with myself about Erick's statement that "Dillon's death was to be expected; it was the only way out for him." Is that meant in a literary sense, as in that was the only thing for O'Brian to write? Or in the real-life sense that Dillon felt so trapped by his broken honor that he sought out death?

I think I'm deciding that it is true in both ways. O'Brian gave his character such a difficult and tragic situation that some sort of meaningful death was the best way to redeem Dillon. And I think we saw plenty of signs in the last several chapters that Dillon was seeking reckless, head-on fights, perhaps unconsciously seeking death.

As to whether or not his death was meaningful or honorable, from Dillon's standpoint it certainly was. Life had lost its honor to him, so dying in a fight against the Enemy was preferable to that life. To Stephen it might be different. Stephen being the one who pointed out that whether king or privateer, you get just as big a hole in you. But even Stephen recognized that Dillon was in some sort of hell.

message 8: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Some funnies from this chapter:

Page 337, Stephen lists three great tragedies: "A slaughtered crew, a sunken ship, and my collections destroyed." I think most of the others on the ship would have disagreed on that third one. :)

Page 356, after many of the crew have blackened their faces, and then there isn't enough soap and water to clean up, Jack says, "The only respectable-looking fellows are the black men....They are all still aboard, I believe?" I love that Jack wasn't quite sure, cause at the moment everyone was black.

message 9: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) I liked that quote in regards to Stephen's three great tragedies! Another section I enjoyed was this bit from the book:

"The first shot sent up a white plume of water topmast high, right between the two vessels. Infernally good practice for a ranging shot, thought Jack, and a damned great heavy ball.
The Gunboats were still over a mile away, but they were coming up surprisingly fast, straight into the eye of the wind. Each of the three foremost carried a long thirty-six-pounder and rowed thirty oars. Even at a mile a chance hit from one of these would pierce the Sophie through and through. He had to restrain a violent urge to tell the carpenter to hurry. ‘If a thirty-six-pound ball does not hasten him, nothing I can say will do so’, he observed, pacing up and down, cocking an eye at the dog-vane and at the gunboats at each turn……”

message 10: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Good one, Aussie Rick. I think it also speaks to one of Jack's strengths as a leader. Most of us, I think, would still be bugging the carpenter to hurry up, rather than leaving him be to work as well as he can.

message 11: by Erick (new)

Erick Burnham | 244 comments Elizabeth S wrote: "I've been going back and forth with myself about Erick's statement that "Dillon's death was to be expected; it was the only way out for him." Is that meant in a literary sense, as in that was the ..."

Elizabeth - I did mean in the literary sense but I agree that it was true in the other sense as well.

message 12: by Rodney (new)

Rodney | 83 comments I have been thinking about this chapter in regards to the discussion. I think Dillion did die an honorable death in the literary sense. He had to know when he went into the attack what the outcome would be, but he did so for his shipmates.

I know there is a lot of literary history about the dishonored person regaining their dignity and honor in their death. Even back to the Biblical story of Sampson shows that technique.

message 13: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Erick wrote: "Elizabeth - I did mean in the literary sense but I agree that it was true in the other sense as well. "

Thanks for sharing. I was curious, even after I decided it worked both ways. :)

message 14: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments You make some good points, Rodney. There is a lot of history of people dying honorably, even redeeming themselves from past sins by some great deathly sacrifice. It can make for a great story. And it can help soften the death by explaining it and giving it meaning and purpose. Giving meaning to death is one of those things we humans really like to do.

message 15: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Stephen brings up some interesting philosophical points in a discussion with Jack in the middle of this chapter (pages 354-356). Of course Jack doesn't really get into the discussion as deeply as Stephen does, which adds to the fun of such discussions.

Stephen says near the beginning, "I am coming to believe that laws are the prime cause of unhappiness." He talks about how man is born with so many laws, and different types of laws, that conflict and create "double loyalties" and tension and pain. How much truth do you see in what Stephen is thinking?

Later in his thought process, Stephen says, "So much pain; and the more honest the man the worse the pain." I think he is saying that the more a man tries to obey all these laws, the worse is the conflict and pain. Any other interpretations?

Reread the whole discussion and think about it. I'm curious what comes to all of your minds.

message 16: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments On page 364 there is another example of Jack being, I think, a great leader. I like the inspirational speech he gives his men when he realizes they will have to fight the Cacafuego. It is short, and assumes courage and victory. And the men respond. Well done, Jack.

message 17: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments I think Jack is a master of deception, and the details necessary for that deception. Just the little thing of asking Stephen for how to say "fifty more men" in Spanish, then shouting that in the fight. Jack really knows how to play on the psychology of his enemy.

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

At Elizabeth's suggestion, I'm adding some comments. In some ways, I think this book is about Dillon's search for honor. He has such incredibly high standards for himself, and, I suppose, Aubrey, which is why he's so hard on Aubrey for Aubrey's ostensible quest for money. At the same time, Dillon thinks that he just really doesn't measure up. He sees himself as very badly damaged goods. The scene where he and the gay sailing master go aboard the American merchantman and meet up with the other Irish revolution conspirator clinches it for Dillon. As you'll recall, Dillon fails to report the revolutionary's presence and has to blackmail the sailing master into keeping quiet about it by threatening to reveal to Aubrey the sailing master's sexual preference and/or his affetion for Aubrey (I haven't read this in a while)It confirms his own dire view of himself. I think Erick's comment about Dillon's death being expected is right on. After the event with the American merchantman, his conflict with himself mushroomed. He was hard on himself before, at that point, it went way beyond the point that any human being could tolerate. Dillon's death is, in a way, redemption, because he dies honorably.

message 19: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Good points, Christopher. Thanks for sharing them.

That conflict you describe for Dillon is something I think everyone goes through to some extent. But Dillon had a really intense version. When you have expectations or goals or ideals, but just can't live up to them. Or maybe some people aren't bothered by it, and it is only the perfectionists who struggle.

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

I also thought Dillon was in a really high stakes game. Sure, for you and I, having high expectations might mean not getting the job we want or something like that. He had participated in a national revolt for which he would have been summarily executed. And, his day job was a lieutenant on a warship actively engaged in combat. The choices he made affected his survival.

message 21: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Good points. :)

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