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Master and Commander

In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Empire, government bureaucracy greatly expanded its powers and nationalism became the guiding political and social foundation of the Western world. In Patrick OÆBrianÆs (1990) Master and Commander, we are treated to the adventures of an English Royal Navy officer, ôLuckyö Jack Aubrey and his good friend, the shipÆs doctor, Stephen Maturin. The book is short on plot, basically consisting of the tale of friendship between these two men as they cruise around the French/Spanish coast looking for ôprizes,ö i.e. Spanish and French ships bigger than AubreyÆs old, slow H.M.S. Sophie. In sharing these adventures, OÆBrien provides us with a history of the dawning 19th century, a time of violence, brutality and death from disease and natural disasters to human indifference to the suffering of others. Likewise, the rigid hierarchy and command and control nature of the shipÆs crew expose the qualities of honor and corruption prevalent in society and government of the era. In fact, this bureaucracy is very similar to the one described by Melville in his novel of ship society, Billy Budd. However, even though this era appears to be before the dawn of humanitarianism, it is the deep friendship forged by Aubrey and Maturin that remain the connecting thread that weaves the adventures of these two men together in Master and Commander.

OÆBrianÆs characterization of Commander Jack Aubrey and His MajestyÆs Sloop ôSophieö and his characterization of Dr. Stephen Maturin is achieved in a number of ways, from their initial awkward meeting to their lasting bond that develops over time and shared experience. OÆBrianÆs provides us with greater insight into the psychology of each of these characters through a number of means, from dialogue and description to commentary of the other characters. Both men are married but Aubrey is also married to the sea and ôSophie,ö which he refers to as his ôbaby,...

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Master and Commander. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 11:20, May 28, 2020, from