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Quotes

Quote #1

All the time he lived with us the captain made no change whatever in his dress but to buy some stockings from a hawker. One of the cocks of his hat having fallen down, he let it hang from that day forth, though it was a great annoyance when it blew. I remember the appearance of his coat, which he patched himself upstairs in his room, and which, before the end, was nothing but patches. He never wrote or received a letter, and he never spoke with any but the neighbours, and with these, for the most part, only when drunk on rum. The great sea-chest none of us had ever seen open. (1.12)

The captain in this passage is Billy Bones. The funny thing about his appearance is that he's living this incredibly miserly existence and trying to keep a low profile. But how much more obvious can you be as the only sailor in a small town? Of course his buddies are going to find him.

Quote #2

Well, mother was upstairs with father and I was laying the breakfast-table against the captain's return when the parlour door opened and a man stepped in on whom I had never set my eyes before. He was a pale, tallowy creature, wanting two fingers of the left hand, and though he wore a cutlass, he did not look much like a fighter. I had always my eye open for seafaring men, with one leg or two, and I remember this one puzzled me. He was not sailorly, and yet he had a smack of the sea about him too. (3)

Jim's observations of people's appearances are intriguing because they are often indecisive. How can a man be both sailorly and not sailorly at the same time? This kind of description engages our curiosity and keeps us reading.


Quote #3

A strong smell of tobacco and tar rose from the interior, but nothing was to be seen on the top except a suit of very good clothes, carefully brushed and folded. They had never been worn, my mother said. Under that, the miscellany began--a quadrant, a tin canikin, several sticks of tobacco, two brace of very handsome pistols, a piece of bar silver, an old Spanish watch and some other trinkets of little value and mostly of foreign make, a pair of compasses mounted with brass, and five or six curious West Indian shells. I have often wondered since why he should have carried about these shells with him in his wandering, guilty, and hunted life. (4.17)

Jim can see Billy Bones's material possessions, but he can't see inside his head. By focusing on appearances instead of on psychology, Jim's narration is leaving much more room for the reader's imagination to work. It's pretty exciting to join Jim in wondering why Billy Bones carried these shells with him "in his wandering, guilty, and hunted life."

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