Study Guide

In the Heart of the Sea Violence

By Nathaniel Philbrick


Though this might come as shocker, we're going to drop a bomb on y'all—hunting animals can get a little violent. And that goes double when the animal in question is a skyscraper-sized sperm whale. In many ways, you can read In the Heart of the Sea as an investigation into the brutality of the whaling industry—an industry that quite literally fueled the Industrial Revolution. Although the sailors who dedicate their lives to hunting whales do some nasty things to their prey, it's nothing compared to how nasty things get when the whales start fighting back.

Questions About Violence

  1. Does the crew of the Essex enjoy violence? Explain.
  2. In your opinion, what causes the increasing frequency of whale attacks?
  3. Does the Nantucketers' love for the hunt contradict their ardent pacifism? Why or why not?
  4. Are there any psychological ramifications of hunting whales?

Chew on This

Although they love earning money, the crewmembers of the Essex don't love committing violence on whales.

Although they use money as an excuse, it's clear that the crew of the Essex feels pleasure while hunting whales.