Study Guide

Ship Breaker Violence

By Paolo Bacigalupi

Violence

In Ship Breaker, might very often makes right; just look at Bapi, Lucky Strike, Richard Lopez, and Pyce. Violence can be classified into two broad categories: Violence with purpose, and violence for the sake of violence. Richard Lopez is violent without purpose, and that's what makes him truly unpredictable and scary. On the other hand, there is purpose behind a lot of the violence in the novel: Nailer kills Blue Eyes to save Nita's mom, and Tool uses violence to survive and protect Nailer and Nita.

Even with purposeful violence, though, we have to wonder why we think it's okay for one character to use violence but not for another. We often expect characters to respond to violence with more violence, and this just goes to show that when violence enters the picture, it can quickly spiral out of control.

Questions About Violence

  1. How is Richard Lopez's use of violence different from Nailer's? What does each character's use of violence indicate about what they value?
  2. Is any character's use of violence—think of Richard Lopez, Tool, Nailer, Captain Candless, and Pyce—justified? What makes you say this?
  3. How do Nailer's life experiences affect how he views violence and killing?

Chew on This

Tool and Nailer can't help being violent because violence is in their genes.

Swanks' use of violence (think Captain Candless, Nita's father, Pyce) is no different from the violence present in ship breaker society on Bright Sands Beach.

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