The History Book Club discussion

27 views
NAPOLEONIC WARS > 4. HF - MR. MIDSHIPMAN HORNBLOWER - CHAPTER IV (95 - 116) (02/07/11 - 02/13/11) ~ No spoilers, please

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

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

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

Welcome to the historical fiction discussion of Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester.

This is the reading assignment for week four - (February 7, 2011 to February 13, 2011)

Week Four: Feb 7 - Feb 13 -> Chapter IV: Hornblower and the Man Who Felt Queer, pages 95-116 (22 pages)

This is the fifth 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 January 17th.

This discussion is being led by assisting moderator of historical fiction - Elizabeth S. We are glad to have her back for this selection.

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 either the weekend before or Monday, February 7th for discussion. This is a non spoiler thread.

Welcome,

~Bentley


TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester C.S. Forester C.S. Forester


message 2: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Chapter 4, Hornblower and the Man Who Felt Queer, begins with the Indefatigable chasing the French Papillon. The Papillon mananages to anchor under the safety of shore batteries. Pellew makes plans to send five small boats to take the Papillon. Hornblower is in charge of the smallest boat, holding only seven men. His charge is to wait until the fighting starts, then climb with his men up the main rigging to loose the main topsail. This will allow them to sail the Papillon away from the guns on shore. Hornblower finds himself unable to complain about his fear of heights and unsuitability for the task. When briefing his crew, a man named Hales complains of feeling "a bit queer-like" (page 103). In the jolly boat, rowing to the Papillon in strict silence, Hales begins having a fit. When the fit is over, Hales begins talking. As Hales gets louder, Hornblower is desperate to quiet him. Finally Hornblower hits Hales, hard, with the tiller. Hornblower thinks he may have killed Hales, but knows it was necessary.

The attack on the Papillon begins, and suddenly Hornblower is reminded of his task and his fear. He leads his men up the mast, only to discover that the footrope along the topsail yard is missing. The only way to set the sail is to walk along the top of the yard with no hand support. Hornblower's fear causes him to pause. Then he desides that if he was brave enough to hit Hales, he better be brave enough for this. He runs out, his men follow, and the sail is set as ordered. After the captured Papillon joins the Indefatigable, one of the men reports to Hornblower that the jolly boat is missing. No one had tied it up, and only the unconscious (or dead) Hales was aboard.


message 3: by Elizabeth S (last edited Feb 07, 2011 05:23AM) (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments I'm probably not the only one to be a little horrified at the idea of Hornblower perhaps killing one of his own men so callously. And then just loosing him because no one tied up the jolly boat. (I hate to admit that the loss of the jolly boat actually makes me laugh.)

And yet Hornblower seems to be the only character who feels any of that regret. When reporting the lose of the jolly boat, Jackson says the lose of Hales was no big deal because he wouldn't have made a good seaman anyway (page 116). Which makes me wonder, was Hales one of those who was pressed into service? How ironic to be dragged against your will to serve on a ship, then to be abandoned and counted no lose because you aren't a good seaman!

I remind myself that the times were different. Is this a situation where the needs of the many truly outweigh the needs of the few? How does this chapter change your opinion about Hornblower? Do you think less of him for hitting Hales? Or do you think more of him for acting decisively and overcoming his fear?


message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
That is odd Elizabeth that there was sort of caste system which actually made some of these men seem less than worthless.

I am not sure how I felt about it except maybe some disappointment at some level for Hornblower for being so dismissive.


message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) In context of the era I think this incident is a sign a Hornblower growing into his role. Yes it was a callous act but his overriding duty was to the safety of the other men and the mission.

As we know as keen historians making such decisions and carrying out such actions is the burden of a leadership role.

As to your reference Elizabeth to the Jolly boat it does leave me to a bad pun, probably best left unsaid.

My favorite passage of this chapter is as follows:

Seawater was the seaman's cure for every ill, his panacea; seeing how often sailors had not merely wet jackets but wet bedding as well they should never have a day's illness.

I did have a chuckle at this and received looks from my wife as I was a deranged sea monkey. I would quote the page number but as I am reading this on my kindle I feel a percentage would look pretentious, and that would not do.


message 6: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Michael wrote: "My favorite passage of this chapter is as follows:

Seawater was the seaman's cure for every ill, his panacea; seeing how often sailors had not merely wet jackets but wet bedding as well they should never have a day's illness. ..."


I loved that one as well, so it has a prominent smiley next to it. :) Page 106 in my copy. It reminded my of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the dad goes around spraying Windex on everything because he says it is the universal cure.

Isn't it funny how superstitions like this are sometimes so accepted by people that it seems an a priori fact to them.


message 7: by Vincent (new)

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1246 comments I think the growth for Hornblower is that he grew to accomplish this task. He overcame his fears.

I think for Hales he had no other path to protect his shipmates (on all the boats) and the mission.

I am wondering a bit how they find the confidence in these young men such as Hornblower to delegate such responsibilities to them.

Again I wonder about Pellew and his leadership & motivations. Was Hornblower sent to go up the masts, only after the attack had "gained a foothold" to insulate him from having to hurt/kill opponents with his limited experience and as he was somewhat untried?


message 8: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Vince wrote: "...Was Hornblower sent to go up the masts, only after the attack had "gained a foothold" to insulate him from having to hurt/kill opponents with his limited experience and as he was somewhat untried?"

Now that is an interesting thought. Makes some sense, doesn't it. In the chapter, Hornblower is so worried about performing on the masts that he doesn't think of what might have been hard with another assignment. I suppose it is also possible that Pellew was aware of Hornblower's unfamiliarity with climbing the masts and was either forcing him to deal with it or giving him the opportunity to gain experience.


message 9: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments I think the best part of this chapter is the little exchange between Midshipman Hornblower and Midshipman Kennedy at the beginning of the chapter. They crack me up. It also helps balance the more grim aspect of Hornblower's character that we see later in the chapter. Here at the beginning, we see Hornblower has made friends and knows how to be silly.


message 10: by Elizabeth S (last edited Feb 09, 2011 05:27AM) (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Ready for a weird one?

In this chapter we see the British referring to the French as "frogs" (top of page 99). Where and when and why did that start?

According to what I can find online, no one really knows. There are a number of stories, from something as far back as Charlemange (9th century) to something during World War II. It seems to me that it should be easy to tell if anyone used that term between the 9th and 20th centuries, and therefore narrow down the choices of stories. Either way, here's the best website I could find that summarizes all the stories:

http://allaboutfrogs.org/weird/genera...
http://allaboutfrogs.org/weird/genera...


message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
That is really an interesting tidbit Elizabeth S. I always wondered about this too.


message 12: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Great links Elizabeth, I love info like this. Only it always seems to push out more important information, but at least I can enthrall a dinner party for hours with my wealth of interesting facts. Or so I like to believe :)


message 13: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments By the way, this chapter has one of those small hints about Hornblower's background. On page 107 there is a reference to Hornblower's "doctor father," which is why Hornblower could recognize that Hale had an epileptic fit.


message 14: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments One of the positive things that we learn about Hornblower in this chapter is his work ethic. Knowing that he would be sent up the masts, and knowing that his assignment was essential to the mission, he practiced and rehearsed everything twice.

I think that Forester helps us understand how tricky these maneuvers were when he says "similar feats in a circus at home would be received with 'ohs' and 'ahs' of appreciation" (page 101). So you take the circus trapeze and put it on a randomly rocking ship... not my idea of fun. :)


message 15: by Veronika (new)

Veronika  Sprague (veronikasprague) Yeah, exactly, Elizabeth. Hornblower understands what is required of him as an officer, I think, and because he lacks confidence in his own abilties, I think he tries to overwork to make sure he does it right. This is definitely an admirable trait, and part of what makes him such a good sailor.


back to top

unread topics | mark unread


Books mentioned in this topic

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

C.S. Forester (other topics)