Let's face it: When Charlotte Doyle boards the Seahawk, she's a pretty big snob. With her nose in the air, she rejects poor Zachariah's friendship and chooses to join forces with the captain. How could she not? The captain is handsome. And charming! And has all those pretty things in his cabin. Over the course of the novel, however, Charlotte will find out that wealth and social status isn't all that it's cracked up to be. The fine furnishings in the captain's cabin come at a price. Jaggery drives his crew mercilessly – even endangering the ship by sailing it into the hurricane – all in the name of profit. (And to think we were charmed by all of his bowing and hand kissing!) What's more, Charlotte finds herself improved by breaking down (rather than building up) class barriers and communing with the crew.
Questions About Society and Class
Would the crew have treated Charlotte differently if she had been working class or poor? Do you think she would have been respected?
Let's pretend you're the new captain of the Seahawk. How would you furnish your cabin? Why?
Charlotte seems to think that people are freer in America. Is this true for a maid like Bridget?
Why does Charlotte, in the end, reject nineteenth-century society? Or does she?
Chew on This
Manners don't equal virtue.
The novel suggests that when an individual is in conflict with his or her society, that person must either conform or leave that society.