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Two Years Before the Mast - Study Guide Chapters 1-4 Summary & Analysis

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Richard Henry Dana, Jr., signs up for a 2-3 year voyage aboard the brig Pilgrim, hoping to cure his reading-weakened eyes and strengthen his body. They leave Boston on 14 Aug. 1834, bound for the west coast of North America. Writing years later, Dana naturally uses the rich jargon of the sea while describing his utter bewilderment at the chaotic order on deck. He mocks his own scrupulous performance of his first duties. In Chapter 2 Capt. Thompson lectures about the men's obedience determining their fate under his command. Dana meets first-timer Stimson and balances the beauty of the sea against leaving everything familiar. A storm brings three days of seasickness, through which Dana fights to climb the high rigging. Purged, he feels like a new person and enters into full duties.

In Chapter 3 a "spell" of fine weather lets Dana describe shipboard organization. The Captain...

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