Study Guide

Ship Breaker Loyalty

By Paolo Bacigalupi

Loyalty

No matter how we look at it, loyalty and betrayal permeate Ship Breaker. It's pretty easy to see that Nailer is a loyal person—to Pima, to Nita, to everyone but his father, who is his blood. Tool, as a half-man, is genetically engineered to be loyal, though he's the first to admit that he isn't, while Nita's people are incredibly loyal to her and her father.

And loyalty is tied up with class, too, as the whole plot is driven by swank betrayal and political maneuvering. The most valuable commodity in the novel isn't oil or copper or even a person—it's loyalty. So when loyalty is called into question or trust is betrayed, it's a big deal.

Questions About Loyalty

  1. Why does Nailer betray his own blood—his father—and become loyal to Nita, who isn't even a ship breaker and not of his own class?
  2. Among Nailer, Pima, Nita, and Tool, who is the least loyal character and why? The most loyal character and why? Consider in particular who or what each character remains loyal to.
  3. What inspires characters' loyalties in the novel?

Chew on This

Richard Lopez inspires true loyalty among crew through fear and violence.

Nita only trusts Nailer and Pima because they can help her to survive.

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