Study Guide

Ship Breaker Family

By Paolo Bacigalupi


There are tons of pithy sayings about family: Blood is thicker than water, home is where the heart is, blah blah blah. None of these is true in Ship Breaker, however. Family is a far more complex concept, and characters, especially Nailer, wrestle with how to define family, how big a role genes play in dictating one's destiny, and how a person can find his or her own path despite the pressures of family. Pima and Sadna's close bond, Nita's father's devotion to finding her, and even Tool's lack of family all help Nailer come to terms with his own definition by the end.

Questions About Family

  1. Will Nailer ever really understand why Nita's father searches for her and how she can inspire such loyalty? Why or why not?
  2. In what ways is Nailer his father's son? Consider the emotions that families engender, the experiences families share, and characteristics Nailer shares with his father.
  3. How might Pima define family? What about Nita? How are their definitions different from Nailer's, and what experiences might cause these differences?

Chew on This

Pima and Sadna are the only family that Nailer has.

Nailer hates his father, and that's why Nailer kills him.

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