Study Guide

Ship Breaker Fate and Free Will

By Paolo Bacigalupi

Fate and Free Will

Fate isn't just predetermination or destiny in Ship Breaker. It takes on tones of religiosity, especially we see how ship breakers invoke the Fates as religious beings and when characters make offerings and give thanks to the Fates. Tangled up in the idea of fate is luckā€”that good and bad happen by chance instead of choice.

All of this becomes confusing when characters attribute what they can control to fate: Sloth thinks Nailer's survival is up to fate, but his choice and a little luck help him find a way out of the oil. And really, that's one of the major ideas in the novel: What's in a person's control, what's beyond it, and what we do with the luck that we're given.

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. How much of Nailer's journey is determined by luck? By fate? By choice?
  2. Why is it comforting for some characters to believe in fate or the Fates? Why might the swanks not have the same opinion of fate as the ship breakers?
  3. Which characters invoke fate to justify their actions, moral or immoral? Why might they do this?
  4. How does Nita's view of fate change over the course of the novel?

Chew on This

Sloth and Richard use fate as an excuse to justify their betrayals and immoral behavior.

Nailer has no control over his future; he's simply a creature of fate.

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