Study Guide

In the Heart of the Sea Man vs. the Natural World

By Nathaniel Philbrick

Man vs. the Natural World

Given that In the Heart of the Sea depicts the most brutal whale-hunters who've ever lived, this is one of those rare instances when "Man vs. the Natural World" can be taken literally. In the red corner, you've got the crew of the Essex: humans dedicated to hunting sperm whales to near-extinction. In the blue corner, however, you've got the whales themselves: veteran heavyweights who are tired of being pushed around by these scrawny up-and-comers. Although the human race takes an early lead in this duel to the death, it'll take a lot more than that to put the natural world down for the count.

Questions About Man vs. the Natural World

  1. In your opinion, why does the whale attack the Essex?
  2. Is whale hunting ethical? Explain.
  3. Does the crew of the Essex commit any long-term environmental damage? Explain.
  4. How is the whaling industry related to industrialization?

Chew on This

Although the specific practices employed by whaleships like the Essex are certainly unethical, whale hunting can be considered acceptable in certain circumstances.

Given that sperm whales are highly intelligent beings, it is unethical to hunt them under any circumstances.