Ship Breaker Short Essay - Answer Key

Paolo Bacigalupi
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1. What is Nailer doing as the novel opens?

The novel opens with an image of Nailer, the protagonist, crawling through a thin tunnel while tugging on copper wire to collect it from the belly of an old tanker. He has phosphorescent gel smeared on his forehead for light.

2. What does Nailer do and what is the work like?

Nailer works on light crew in the futuristic world where everything from oil to metal is precious. Teams, known as crew, work to scavenge whatever metals they can find from ancient tankers. They sell those materials to the highest bidder. The world is dangerous, and only the smallest of children can fit in to the tiny tunnels and crevices to strip the metal cables and wires.

3. What type of mask does Nailer wear and who checks in with Nailer occasionally?

Nailer uses a mask to protect his lungs from the asbestos and rat droppings. The mask says 'Discard after 40 Hours', but he's been using it for years, and it is a hand-me-down at that. As Nailer scuttles deeper and deeper into the tanker, his crew girl Sloth calls down to check his progress.

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