Study Guide

Ship Breaker Morality and Ethics

By Paolo Bacigalupi

Morality and Ethics

Nailer thinks that perhaps each life is worth something. Sadna recognizes that killing takes away a piece of a person's humanity. Tool believes that humanity isn't defined by genetics and that the worth of a person is decided by actions. No matter which way we look at Ship Breaker, we run into questions of morality and human worth. Is any kind of killing justified? How do class differences factor into a person's worth? Can a person be bad through and through, or are there redeeming qualities in everyone? How is greed connected to moral decisions?

Though we can't really answer these questions by the end of the novel, the plot and characters definitely help us figure out ways we can approach these questions. And when we deal with morality and ethics, sometimes that's as good as it's going to get.

Questions About Morality and Ethics

  1. How does Sadna decide a person's worth? Tool? Captain Candless? Richard Lopez?
  2. How does a person's class level change a person's worth for Nita and Nailer at the beginning of the novel? At the end?
  3. As a person kills and does morally "bad" things, do they lose some of their humanity and overall morality? Think of Sadna, Nailer, Tool, and Richard Lopez when considering this question.
  4. Who's more human—Tool or Richard Lopez? Why?

Chew on This

Richard Lopez is worth nothing as a human being.

Nailer shouldn't feel bad for killing Blue Eyes or his father.

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