Study Guide

Ship Breaker Man and the Natural World

By Paolo Bacigalupi

Man and the Natural World

In Ship Breaker, nature is not the benevolent Mother Nature that we often see in Earth Day posters, and instead it's almost an antagonistic force. There are storms called city killers that have ravaged the Gulf of Mexico; the storm that wrecks Nita's clipper ship also kills several of Nailer's light crew members; and Nailer, after having battled his father, must battle the elements to survive. Yikes all around, right?

Implicit in the role nature plays in the plot is the assumption that the uptick in natural violence is the result of global warming—the melting of ice, the rising of the oceans to drown cities, the increased intensity of natural events. So man and nature? Not friends here. Not in the least.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. How are industrialism (oil development) and greed related to natural events (storms, the destruction of New Orleans) in the novel?
  2. How are natural events related to the concepts of luck and fate in the novel?
  3. Does Nailer think that the natural world is superior to developed civilization? What about Nita? Tool? Why might these characters think this way?
  4. Which is more powerful in the novel—nature or human technology? What makes you say this?

Chew on This

Nature is getting her revenge for global warming by becoming more destructive in the novel.

The natural world is far more powerful than Nita's father's corporation.

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