Study Guide

In the Heart of the Sea Fear

By Nathaniel Philbrick


In the Heart of the Sea is not for the faint of heart. In this book, you'll witness the awesome power of furious sperm whales. You'll feel the pure terror of being stranded thousands of miles away from human civilization. You'll watch in horror as friends and family are forced in desperation to eat each other. It's like watching Jaws, Open Water, and Silence of the Lambs at the same time. Okay, so maybe we're exaggerating (just a tad), but trust us on this one—this book just might make a Cetaphobiac out of you.

Questions About Fear

  1. Why does Chase become obsessed with the whale that attacked the Essex?
  2. How is Benjamin Lawrence able to manage his fear?
  3. In what ways does fear contribute to the Essex disaster?
  4. How is Chase able to keep morale high on his boat?

Chew on This

Ultimately, it's a fear of the unknown that prompts the crew to head to South America instead of the Society Islands—which is a bad decision with even worse consequences.

Throughout the book, we see how fear can literally kill a man, sapping him of the spirit he needs to keep trucking along.