Study Guide

In the Heart of the Sea What's Up With the Ending?

By Nathaniel Philbrick

What's Up With the Ending?

After what was surely the most trying ordeal of their lives, the surviving crew of the Essex have returned home to America. Huzzah! Rah rah rah! Additional shouts of joy!

So they all lived happily ever after, right? Well…

Despite having seemingly groovy lives, the survivors will always bear scars from their ordeal. For example, although Chase has a stellar career as a captain, "his personal life [...] proved less fortunate" (14.22). Then there's Pollard, who quits whaling to become Nantucket's night watchman. He loves his job, but his scars are plain to see, too: "once a year [...] on the anniversary of the loss of the Essex, he locked himself in his room and fasted" (14.22).

Though the younger survivors have an easier time readjusting, they too carry gnawing memories of the ordeal up until their deaths. The disaster haunts the whaling industry as well: suddenly, "an increasing number of sperm whales were fighting back," and in less than thirty years, Nantucket becomes a veritable ghost town (14.61).

Although the Essex tragedy might not have directly led to Nantucket's downfall, it's hard not to see the shadow of that fateful day hanging over the tiny island town.