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Ship Breaker Study Guide & Plot Summary

Paolo Bacigalupi
This Study Guide consists of approximately 64 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Ship Breaker.
This section contains 911 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Ship Breaker Study Guide

Ship Breaker Summary & Study Guide Description

Ship Breaker Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Plot Summary

Ship Fever is the story of young ship breaker, Nailer, who has one last chance to save his existence on Bright Sands Beach, a lucky strike, a find all ship breakers dream of. After finding a wrecked clipper ship after a massive storm, Nailer must figure out a way to save the scavenge, thus providing a future for himself. What he finds on the ship tests his loyalty, his strength, and ultimately, his love.

Set in the dystopian society on Bright Sands Beach, Ship Breaker opens with scenes of young, dirty ship breakers working on abandoned ships with their crews, stripping the metal beasts of any copper wiring, metal staples, or other materials that can be sold as scavenge. Nailer is getting too big to climb through the thin ducts in the ship, and knows that his time on light crew is drawing to a close. He's not big enough for heavy crew, and without a crew to protect you, someone like Nailer could easily be pulled into the underbelly of Bright Sands Beach: drugs, violence, sold sex. One day while stripping an old oil tanker, Nailer falls through the rusted siding and into a pool of oil. Such a find, unmarked by the scavenge crew, could make Nailer the richest man on the island, if he could find a way of getting the oil out undetected. Because Nailer belongs to Bapi, the crew leader, he knows that rightfully, the oil is Bapi's, so he calls to his crew girl, Sloth, to help him out of the oil. As soon as Sloth hears about the Lucky Strike, she decides to let Nailer drown, to claim the oil for herself. Nailer pleads with Sloth, begging her to honor her allegiances to crew and save his life, but life on Bright Sands Beach is every man for himself, regardless of crew markings, and Sloth will not be swayed. After resigning himself to death, Nailer makes one last effort to save himself by swimming through the oil, searching for an outlet. He succeeds, and escapes death. Sloth is slung from crew, out to the Fates of the beach, while Nailer is regarded as a Lucky Boy, one who has the favors of the fates.

After a storm destroys Bright Sands Beach, Nailer and his friend, Pima, scavenge for food and unexpectedly come across a wrecked clipper that had been damaged in the storm. The clipper is well hidden from the rest of the beach, and the two youngsters quickly realize that they can claim the scavenge for themselves, if they work quickly and no one challenges them for the find. Aboard the ship, Nailer and Pima find more wealth than they've ever imagined: gold, silver, diamonds. They also find a young girl, about their age, pinned beneath the furniture in her bedroom. Pima wants to kill the girl so she cannot claim the scavenge - a completely acceptable reaction in a dystopian society - but Nailer cannot bring himself to kill an innocent girl, even if it means giving up the fortune. He decides to let the girl live in the hopes that when her family comes searching for her, she will take Nailer with her, away from the beach to a world of luxury. Nailer befriends the girl, Nita, and takes a blood oath to protect her until her family arrives. Soon after, Nailer's father, Richard, and the rest of his bloodthirsty gang discover the wreckage and claim it. Richard plans to kill Nita so she cannot reclaim her wealth, but Nailer convinces his evil father to keep Nita alive and hold her for ransom. Later, Nailer attacks his father's gang, killing one of his father's friends, and runs away with Nita, Pima, and a turncoat from his father's gang, Tool. They run to Orleans, the drowned city, in the hopes of finding a ship that belongs to Nita's father's fleet. Unfortunately for Nita, there has been an upheaval in her father's shipping business, and they don't know which captains can be trusted, and which would return Nita to her evil uncle, the one she was trying to escape in the storm. Always trailing the kids is Richard Lopez, and his desire to kill the children, even his own son, as revenge.

Many times throughout the exciting journey, Nailer's loyalty and friendship is tested. He knows that he has given up everything to protect Nita, and he often wonders if he has done the right thing: can Nita be trusted as well? In the final days, Nita is finally captured by Richard, who has ganged up with Nita's evil uncle, and taken to the fastest ship in the sea. But Richard is unsatisfied and cannot leave the waters without exacting his revenge on Nailer for betraying him. Nailer, desperate to save Nita, manages to find the one captain still loyal to Nita's father, and engage him in pursuit of the ship that holds Nita hostage. A massive fight breaks out, and sees Nailer face off man-to-man with his father in the belly of the ship. When it is clear that Richard will not leave until he sees Nailer dead, Nailer has no choice but to kill his father first. In a desperate move, Nailer starts the engine of the ship, crushing his father's body in the metal mechanisms. In the end, Nita is returned to her father, and Nailer is given a position working as crew on one of her father's fleets.

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This section contains 911 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Ship Breaker Study Guide
Ship Breaker from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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