Study Guide

Cloud Atlas Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (Chapters 1-15)

By David Mitchell

Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (Chapters 1-15)

Chapter 1: Thursday, 7th November

  • This first journal entry details Adam Ewing's first meeting with London doctor Henry Goose.
  • Ewing and Dr. Goose are on a South Pacific island, and Dr. Goose is digging around for teeth—human teeth that had been spit out by cannibals. Totally normal.
  • Ewing "fanc[ies] [Goose] is a Bedlamite" (1.1.8).

Chapter 2: Friday, 8th November

  • Ewing is stranded on the island for a bit, because it will take a week to repair the Prophetess, the ship he rode in on, back into sailing shape after the brutal tempest it went through.
  • In the Musket, an inn, Ewing meets Dr. Goose again and modifies his first impression. He now finds him amiable and a good conversationalist. They talk of Ewing's native San Francisco and play chess.

Chapter 3: Saturday, 9th November

  • On a walk, Ewing and Goose come across a large gathering of natives. One of them is whipping another, while a huge crowd watches and hums.
  • Ewing watches the lashing and swoons. Then, he writes "the beaten savage raised his slumped head, found my eye & shone me a look of uncanny, amicable knowing" (1.3.3). What could that be about?

Chapter 4: Sunday, 10th November

  • Adam Ewing has had a bad morning. On his way to church, he realizes he has left his journal (the one we're reading) in his room at the inn.
  • Ewing goes back to get it, only to find Mr. Boerhaave (whoever that is, but Ewing knows him well) "astraddle his Blackamoor Goldilocks in [Ewing's] bed in flagrante delicto!" (1.4.3). That's a classy way of saying "with a woman of negotiable affection." We hope the maids at the Musket wash the sheets regularly...
  • After church, Mr. Evans, one of the parishioners, invites Adam Ewing, Dr. Goose, and the preacher, Mr. D'Arnoq, to a meal at his house.
  • At lunch, Ewing is told about the history of the Maori and the Moriori, and he says he will write about it after a good night's sleep.

Chapter 5: Monday, 11th November

  • Ewing provides a detailed history of the Maori and the Moriori tribes. Long story short: the Maori are warlike people. The Moriori are peaceful. Or were. With the help of white traders, the Maori took over the Moriori, slaughtered most of them, and took the rest into slavery.
  • The moral: "Peace […] is a cardinal virtue only if your neighbors share your conscience" (1.5.19).
  • Continuing this lovely discussion, all the whites get together over dinner and talk about how the world is a better place with fewer brown people in it. Ugh, what is this, the 1800s? Oh, yes, it would seem to be.
  • Goose suggests that it is the white man's duty to hasten the extinction of darker tribes. Why "prolong a dying race's agonies" (1.5.23)?
  • Ewing is troubled, but he can't put his finger on why...

Chapter 6: Tuesday 12th November

  • Captain Molyneux of the Prophetess has proposed that Dr. Goose accompany the ship to Hawaii.
  • Goose is unsure if he will or not, but Ewing hopes he will come along.

Chapter 7: Wednesday 13th November

  • On a hike, Ewing stumbles into a crater (don't you hate it when those craters come out of nowhere?) and falls into a strange "heathen shrine" (1.7.8).
  • Ewing is surrounded by hundreds of faces carved into trees, which he calls dendroglyphs. It would be all cool and peaceful and stuff if it weren't for the human heart covered in flies hanging on a tree branch nearby. Yikes.
  • Ewing makes it back to Ocean Bay in one piece, but he decides not to tell anyone about the shrine for fear that white people will take the dendroglyphs and sell them.
  • After a bath, Ewing tells Goose about his "Ailment," with a capital A. This is the first we've heard of it, but it seems to have been bothering him for a while. Goose suggests it is a tropical parasite. That does not sound pleasant.

Chapter 8: Thursday, 14th November

  • The Prophetess sails again. Ewing is unsatisfied with his small "coffin." No, they're not burying him; that's what he calls his room aboard the ship.
  • However, Ewing is happy that Goose has decided to accept the post of Ship's Doctor. Goose has promised to attend to Ewing's Ailment.

Chapter 9: Friday, 15th November

  • A crewman named Torgny asks Ewing about the gold rush in San Francisco. It appears a lot of the crew are planning to desert the Prophetess once is arrives in California.
  • Ewing tells Torgny he doesn't know much about the gold rush, but he sketches a map of the rumored El Dorado (which eventually leads to this).
  • Boerhaave busts in, bullies the map away from Torgny, and threatens to throw Ewing overboard to the sharks. We can only hope something will happen to Boerhaave first.

Chapter 10: Saturday, 16th November

  • Ewing is troubled. It turns out that the slave he made eye contact with back in Chapter 3 has stowed away in Ewing's quarters.
  • The man, Autua, says he is an able-bodied seaman and wants Ewing to get him a job aboard the ship.
  • Ewing says he can't do that, so Autua holds a dagger up to his own throat. "You no help I, you kill I, just the same" (1.10.8).
  • Before Autua can do anything, there's a commotion on deck. A man has fallen from the rigging to his death. Hmm, that's tragic, but it looks like there might now be a job opening for Autua.
  • While he thinks this through, Ewing snags some food from the cook to take to Autua.
  • Autua tells Ewing the story about how he became a sailor and a slave. It's a gripping tale. If you're curious, check out his "Character" page.
  • Ewing tells the captain about the stowaway—and about how Autua wants to prove his worth to the ship.
  • A challenge is set up for Autua. He's supposed to lower the mizzen royal, after which he'll be shot away. However, he's just so good that they decide to keep him. The captain isn't going to pay him or anything, but at least he won't kill him. Whew.

Chapter 11: Wednesday 20th November

  • Goose's diagnosis: Ewing definitely has a parasite, and it has a name: Gusano coco cervello.
  • Goose is prepared to administer a series of mixtures to Ewing to kill the parasite. It must be precise: not enough will not harm the parasite, but too much will kill Ewing.
  • Also, "as the Parasite dies, its poison sacs split & secrete their cargo, so [Ewing] shall feel worse before [his] recovery is compleat [sic]" (1.11.2). Nasty.
  • Goose also suggests that Ewing keep this a secret from Boerhaave and the others; he's afraid they will prey on Ewing in his weakened state.

Chapter 12: Saturday, 20th November

  • According to Goose, the treatment is working. The worm has retreated into Ewing's cerebral canals. Um, that's a good thing?

Chapter 13: Monday, 2nd December

  • Autua swears his loyalty to Ewing for saving his life.
  • Meanwhile, Ewing ruminates about a crewman named Rafael, whom he met on October 15th (before we started the reading this journal).
  • He's amazed at how Rafael, once spritely and eager, has become glum and sullen.
  • Ewing participates in a singing of "Shenandoah." The sailors on the Prophetess add a few, er, bawdier verses to the song.
  • Ewing asks another crewman, Finbar, if Rafael was fitting in well. "Fitting what in well" (1.13.5) is Finbar's reply, leaving Ewing puzzled.

Chapter 14: Saturday, 7th December

  • The Prophetess is near land, and Ewing's eyes look gross and sore. Goose says that is a good sign for Ewing and a bad sign for the parasite.

Chapter 15: Sunday, 8th December

  • Ewing decides to conduct a Bible reading on the Sabbath and... hey, wait a minute. The chapter cuts off mid-sentence and moves on to the next part. What gives? This must be a misprint. We want a refund.
  • Okay, we're not the only ones tricked—this isn't a misprint. Amazon has received so many complaints, they had to put a disclaimer on the book's product page: "This book does not contain a misprint on page 39: We have received complaints from customers that they have received misprinted editions because of the way the story changes direction in the middle of a word on page 39 (for Kindle readers, the end of the first section). This is not a misprint or error. It is the way the author has written the book. He returns to the seemingly abandoned storyline later in the book" (source).