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Two Years Before the Mast Themes

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Much of Two Years before the Mast consists of Richard Henry Dana, Jr.'s observations about the nature of society, both aboard ship and on land in still-desolate California in the 1830s. With the mind of a lawyer-in-training, Dana accepts the unwritten law of the sea, which makes the captain of a vessel, commercial as well as naval, the absolute monarch, the only person whose word matters. In one telling episode, when a particularly cruel skipper reduces a sailor to calling out to Jesus Christ while being flogged, the captain declares that there is no savior aboard except himself. In the normal course of affairs, the captain gives general orders to the mate, the only other true officer aboard, who translates these into specific tasks and orders at his own discretion. In the captain's absence, the mate has full charge of the vessel. Both must be addressed as...

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This section contains 1,266 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Two Years Before the Mast Study Guide
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