Study Guide

In the Heart of the Sea Suffering

By Nathaniel Philbrick

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You thought the Titanic was a catastrophic tragedy? Just wait until you hear the story of the whaleship Essex. After the ship is attacked—and sunk—by a rogue whale, the surviving crew is forced to make a desperate trek across thousands of miles of open sea. That's no easy task. They face starvation. They face madness. Heck, things get so freaky out there that a few guys even end up eaten. For real. More tension-filled than an episode of Breaking Bad, In the Heart of the Sea teaches us a lot about the triumphs—and limits—of the human spirit.

Questions About Suffering

  1. Was it wrong of the sailors to eat their dead companions? Why or why not?
  2. What are some instances of mental and emotional suffering in the book?
  3. Why does Pollard fast on the anniversary of the Essex disaster?
  4. Do the surviving crewmembers still suffer after they return home? Explain.

Chew on This

Although physical suffering takes the focus in In the Heart of the Sea, it's emotional suffering that is most powerful.

Despite being rescued, the surviving crewmembers of the Essex always remain scarred by the suffering they experienced at sea.

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