Why was Charlotte depressed about reaching Rhode Island in True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Charlotte is depressed about reaching Rhode Island because during her long journey, she has changed. The society in which she lives is highly ordered; there are strictly delineated roles which children, especially girl children, must play. Charlotte is a child of privilege, and her father is adamant that she be educated and act decorously. When she first begins her voyage on the Seahawk, she is an obedient, well-mannered little girl, but due to the circumstances on the sailing vessel, she discovers a very different life indeed.

Charlotte's first impression of the ship and its crew is very negative. Having had such a sheltered upbringing, she is at first insulted by the cramped and squalid quarters, and repulsed by the ragged crew, who are the type of people whom she has been taught to look upon as inferior. Because the Captain is in a position of authority, she looks up to him, but as time and miles pass on the sea, she discovers that things are not as they seem at all. Captain Jaggery is, in fact, a madman, while many of the crewmen are upright, reliable, and kind. When Charlotte's help is needed in the running of the ship, she rises to the task, putting aside her fancy clothes to don the garb of a common sailor. She learns and performs the work necessary to ensure the ship's safe passage over the sea, and revels in the excitement and freedom of this new way of life.

Charlotte's parents are aghast at the change in her when she rejoins them in Rhode Island. Her tanned skin and roughened hands are an affront to their sensibilities, and her father is particularly scandalized by the writings in her journal, which he considers to be the product of an overwrought and unguided imagination. Charlotte's father burns her journals and confines her to the house so that she can redirect her wayward spirit through study, but Charlotte is no longer the same child who left Liverpool alone so many weeks previously. Her voyage across the sea was also a voyage of self-discovery, and as a young woman with a newly-found identity of her own, Charlotte refuses to conform to the expectations of her previous life, and boldly runs away to sail again on the Seahawk.

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