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NAPOLEONIC WARS > 5. HF - MR. MIDSHIPMAN HORNBLOWER - CHAPTER V (117 - 139) (02/14/11 - 02/20/11) ~ No spoilers, please

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

Bentley | 44200 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 five - (February 14, 2011 to February 20, 2011)

Week Five: Feb 14 - Feb 20 -> Chapter V: Hornblower and the Man Who Saw God, pages 117-139 (23 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 14th 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 (last edited Feb 14, 2011 07:45AM) (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Chapter 5, Hornblower and the Man Who Saw God, begins with the boredom of life at sea due to the monotony of no action. Hornblower notices a couple of strange occurances that he can't quite figure out. Styles has little sores all over his face and the other men seem to snicker when Hornblower asks about it. Finch claims he sees God in the maintop and "the Devil's in the cable tier" (page 122). While ruminating over these oddities, Hornblower decides to check out the cable tier. There he finds a group of seamen betting as to how many rats Styles can kill with his hands tied behind his back. Sickened, Hornblower challenges them with violating the Articles of War by helping someone make himself unfit for service, i.e. Styles' injuries from the rat bites.

Days later, the boredome is relieved when sails are sited. The Indefatigable catches up with the French ship trying to run the blockade. Hornblower is in charge of a group of men in the mizzen top, where they can shoot down on the quarterdeck of the other ship. When the ships are close enough, Hornblower orders his men to begin firing. Hornblower and Finch fire the swivel gun successfully, then the two ships hit. Suddenly, the mizzen top is falling, with Hornblower and Finch on it. Hornblower sees they must leap to the safety of the maintop, but Finch is lost in his own little world. Finally Hornblower yells that God is waiting for him on the maintop, and Finch makes the jump. Hornblower quickly follows as the mizzen top falls into the sea. Hornblower then learns that during his adventures above, the French ship was boarded and taken. Everyone agrees that it'll be a while before boredom returns.


message 3: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Okay, this one is really, really weird. It is hard to imagine being bored enough to want to watch someone kill rats with his teeth. Much less be the guy who did it!

However, I did like that little piece of Hornblower cleverness, when he told Finch that God was waiting for him on the mainmast. It was especially fun because it was effective.


message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 14, 2011 09:13AM) (new)

Elizabeth S wrote: "Okay, this one is really, really weird. It is hard to imagine being bored enough to want to watch someone kill rats with his teeth. Much less be the guy who did it!..."

The idea of rat fights, rat vs rat, would not have surprised me; but man vs rat certainly did! Being a bacillophobe, that scene seemed particularly gross!

Now, we know what Finch saw when he saw the Devil during the dogwatch, but what could he have been seeing when he saw God?


message 5: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Tanya wrote: "...Now, we know what Finch saw when he saw the Devil during the dogwatch, but what could he have been seeing when he saw God? "

Very good question. Anyone else have any ideas?


message 6: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments You may be familiar with the phrase, "If you're hungry enough you'll eat anything." This chapter seems to support a different version, "If you're bored enough, you'll do anything." There's the whole rat thing, for instance. And later, on page 130, Hornblower observes how excited everyone is for battle. "Battle and the imminent possibility of death were a welcome change from the eternal monotony of the blockade."

Maybe if we could teach our kids what it means to be *really* bored or *really* hungry we could get the dishes done and vegetables eaten. :)

What is the weirdest thing you've ever done just because you were bored?


message 7: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Elizabeth S wrote: "Tanya wrote: "...Now, we know what Finch saw when he saw the Devil during the dogwatch, but what could he have been seeing when he saw God? "

Very good question. Anyone else have any ideas?"


When I read this passage I imagined the face of god appearing in the billowing sails. But thats just my read on it.


message 8: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Michael wrote: "When I read this passage I imagined the face of god appearing in the billowing sails. But thats just my read on it."

I like that--it makes sense and fits with the story. If anyone else has another idea, please share.

I wish Forester had given a little more information about it. Sometimes I like it when an author does not tell you everything, because it is fun to figure some things out for yourself. And sometimes it is even fun to have questions unanswered. (I think the most classic unanswered question would be Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger.") But if I can't even tell if it is supposed to be unexplained or something I have to figure out, then I long for more info.

The Lady, or the Tiger? (Creative Short Stories) by Frank Richard Stockton by Frank Richard Stockton Frank Richard Stockton


message 9: by Elizabeth S (last edited Feb 16, 2011 03:34PM) (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Here's a question for you: If you were caught in the mizzen topsail with Finch spouting his inanities, what would you have said? I really like some of Hornblower's replies.

"God's in the maintop, and the Devil's in the cable tier."

"Very appropriate," said Hornblower cynically...


and

"The Devil's in the cable tier during the dogwatches," said Finch again to no one at all. "God stays in the maintop for ever."

"A curious timetable," was Hornblower's
sotto voce comment.

(See page 122.)

I hope it isn't too sacrilegious for me to say that it tickles my funny bone to think of God and Satan making themselves a schedule like this.


message 10: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments For anyone who is as ignorant as I am, I thought I'd share what I just learned about the Bay of Biscay, mentioned in the first sentence of this chapter. I was thinking it was some bay close to some French city. Ha. Turns out it is the whole section of ocean to the west of France and north of Spain. So my scale is a little off. :)

Here's a map from worldatlas.com:
description
See http://www.worldatlas.com/aatlas/info...

They also say that the bay is known for rough seas, particularly in the winter.


message 11: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments In this chapter we also get a good look at Hornblower's propensity to analyze situations even as he lives through them. There are a couple of good examples of this on page 133.

As the Indefatigable and the French blockade-runner sail side-by-side, but not yet in range for Hornblower's guns, Hornblower "gazed curiously at the men it was his duty to kill." He isn't just figuring out how to do his job well, he's also thinking about his duty and its results.

The men on the French ship begin shooting before range is reached. Of course Hornblower's men are a big worried, but Hornblower simply says, "Let 'em." And then he analyzes again, "It was interesting to see how the two calm words steadied the men."

I can see why Hornblower became a good officer. He is constantly analyzing himself and his circumstances, sometimes just because things are interesting and sometimes to help himself decide which actions are the mark of a good or bad officer. Of course he also has problems with being a perfectionist. He could probably afford to loosen up a little.


message 12: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Elizabeth S wrote: "For anyone who is as ignorant as I am, I thought I'd share what I just learned about the Bay of Biscay, mentioned in the first sentence of this chapter. I was thinking it was some bay close to som..."

A very interesting and important body of water is the Bay of Biscay, scene of many a great naval battle.

As for Hornblowers propensity to analyze I feel it shows us his natural leadership skills. To be a good leader one must be able to play out scenarios and their predicted outcomes in ones head very smartly. Hornblower being able to remain calm in the face of battle and to make clear informed decisions makes me think that this lad has a bright future in front of him. That is if he can stay alive.


message 13: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments We do learn in this chapter that he was "born to be hanged." He just doesn't know when. :)


message 14: by Vincent (new)

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments Elizabeth S wrote: "In this chapter we also get a good look at Hornblower's propensity to analyze situations even as he lives through them. There are a couple of good examples of this on page 133.

As the Indefatig..."



just a comment as we go thru this and other books I have found Goggle Earth very good to give me a perspective on where places are.

The other thing I note as this 18 year old progresses into adult officerdom (is that a word?) is that he can take authority/power positions with the seamen. I know that the authority aboard a vessel empowers him but I got curious is the English class seperations might not have made it much easier for the men to accept this young man/old boy bossing and leading them.


message 15: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments Vince wrote: "Elizabeth S wrote: "In this chapter we also get a good look at Hornblower's propensity to analyze situations even as he lives through them. There are a couple of good examples of this on page 133...."

Interesting observation about the class system and leadership. I think a big part of his effectiveness is that he is a "follow me" type of leader rather than a "go on" person. He also is decisive, he isn't asking everyone their opinion and his internal debates are over with quickly.

I once read that after the British army did away with the purchase of commissions and went to a more merit based system they actually found that the leadership in their lower levels declined. while the Navy didn't sell commissions it certainly was a who you knew type of system and seemed to be able to generate quite competent leadership.


message 16: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Vince wrote: "...The other thing I note as this 18 year old progresses into adult officerdom (is that a word?) is that he can take authority/power positions with the seamen. I know that the authority aboard a vessel empowers him but I got curious is the English class seperations might not have made it much easier for the men to accept this young man/old boy bossing and leading them. "

I approve of the coining of the word "officerdom." Sounds appropriate to me. :)

The thing that impresses me is not just that this young kid is assigned to lead these older men, but also that Hornblower still has so much to learn about how a ship runs, and there are many experienced seamen under him who know so much more.


message 17: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Patricrk wrote: "...I think a big part of his effectiveness is that he is a "follow me" type of leader rather than a "go on" person. He also is decisive, he isn't asking everyone their opinion and his internal debates are over with quickly. ..."

I like your list of qualities that make Hornblower a good leader of men. I'm remembering back to "Hornblower and the Cargo of Rice" where he needed to rely on the experience of the seamen under him, and he was so careful to do it in such a way that he got the wisdom he needed without sacrificing his leadership position. To some extent, such success is also due to the seamen. They probably could see through some of it, but they supported Hornblower and filled in the gaps.


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