Airborn Themes

This Study Guide consists of approximately 53 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Airborn.
This section contains 1,000 words
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Seeing Is Believing

As populated as the Earth has become, we who inhabit it tend to think that we already know all there is to know about the planet and the creatures who reside on it. Although there is some room for discovery in the insect world or perhaps even the avian world, no one imagines that a large creature such as Cloud Cats could go undiscovered for so long. Part of their ability to remain hidden exists in their camouflage. Spending most of their time in the air, Cloud Cats are almost invisible to those on land or at sea, having the same color as the clouds in the sky.

The first one to realize that Cloud Cats exist is Benjamin Molloy, a hot air balloon pilot who left Cape Town in an effort to circumnavigate the globe. After passing over Australia, the winds push him off course and he carefully documents his adventure. When he first sees the creatures, he is awestruck by their grace, their beauty, and agility in the air. They are curious, and seemingly intelligent, and Molloy spends a great deal of time watching and documenting their behavior. Despite his careful notes, and drawings, and his attention to detail, the existence of these creatures is ignored. Molloy's information is considered to be the work of an addled mind, sick and likely hallucinating the entire event.

As such, when Kate retraces her grandfather's trip, she is determined not to make the same mistake. When she and Matt discover the skeletal remains of one Cloud Cat, she insists on taking it home with her. Carefully numbering and labeling each bone as it is taken from its final resting place, she manages to reconstruct it when she returns home. Despite now overwhelming evidence of their existence, many scientists still refuse to believe and stubbornly avoid the debut.

Duty vs Discovery

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy aboard the Aurora who thinks of the ship and her crew as his family. His love for the ship and the time he spends in the air is comparable to nothing else. Part of that is because his father lost his life while working on the very same ship, and something about being aboard her makes Matt feel as though he hasn't lost his father at all. In fact, when he is in the air on Aurora, he often has vivid dreams of his father in which they fly together unaided by ship or propulsion of any kind. As he never dreams of his father while on land, being on land becomes more and more difficult for him. Matt's life is close to perfect until the day that Kate de Vries and her chaperone board.

Kate's grandfather discovers an entirely new species while attempting to circumnavigate the earth in his hot air balloon, and Kate is determined to retrace his steps and find them, in the process restoring her grandfather's reputation and good name in the scientific community. She ropes Matt into helping her using both her feminine wiles and his sense of duty against him. Her stubborn refusal to let the issue go causes Matt to be late for the very first time in his tenure aboard the Aurora. Her ongoing insistence that she retrieve the skeleton they found, and then a photograph of the live one they saw gets Matt into trouble over and over again. When she escapes on her own, having drugged her chaperone, the captain is more than just a little relieved to find Matt is still on board the ship. Matt comes to think of Kate and the Aurora as the two women in his life that are pulling him in opposite directions, but Kate's determination pays off. The discovery they share enables her to attend university, and allows Matt the financial freedom to attend the Academy while still supporting his mother and sisters.

Education and Status vs Experience and Service

In this story, as is in our life today, education and status often play a role in the kind of employment a person is able to get. It is a common misconception that an education, or relationship with someone in the hierarchy of a business will breed a better employee that the person who is not formally educated but has the benefit of experience on the job or in a related field, and has put time in. In the case of the educated applicant, a business owner may choose to believe that an education from an institute will better prepare a prospective employee to serve than an employee who is already part of the rank and file. This, of course, is not always the case. This story exemplifies favoritism when the owner of the fleet insists that his son Bruce be given a two year tenure on the Aurora as a sailmaker's apprentice. While Academy educated, Bruce has no practical experience, and is unprepared for the challenges that face them in flight. Matt, who has only the education he has gleaned from his time on board the Aurora, and as cabin boy was promised the next promotion that came available, is a far better candidate for the position. Not only is he able to maneuver himself about the rigging as though born to it, he is also displayed an avid interest in positions other than his own. Matt has spent countless hours in the Control Car, watching and learning, and participating whenever allowed, as well as learning to read charts, and plot a course. Matt, despite his missing formal education, is the candidate with the most skill, and highest aptitude for the job offered. Despite this, Bruce is given the position, and while determined to succeed, is clearly uncomfortable with a great deal of what the job entails. Education and status have little bearing on the ability a person has to accomplish a given task, providing the task is not that of a doctor/surgeon or similar such profession where schooling is a prerequisite.

This section contains 1,000 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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