Study Guide

Captains Courageous

by Rudyard Kipling

Captains Courageous Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Harvey Cheyne is a rich, spoiled fifteen-year-old boy, bound for Europe aboard a swift ocean liner. He is so seasick that he hardly realizes it when a huge wave washes him over the rail of the ship into the sea. Luckily, he is picked up by a fisherman in a dory and put aboard the fishing schooner We’re Here. The owner and captain of the boat, Disko Troop, is not pleased to have the boy aboard but tells him that he will pay him ten dollars a month and board until the schooner docks in Gloucester the following September. It is then the middle of May. Harvey insists that he be taken to New York immediately, asserting that his father will gladly pay for the trip, but the captain, doubting that Harvey’s father is a millionaire, refuses to change his plans and hazard the profits of the fishing season. When Harvey becomes insulting, Disko promptly punches him in the nose to teach him manners.

The captain’s son, Dan, is glad to have someone his own age aboard the fishing boat, and he soon becomes a friend of the castaway. Harvey’s stories about mansions, private cars, and dinner parties fascinate him. Dan recognizes that Harvey is telling the truth and that he could not possibly make up so many details of a wealthy person’s life.

Harvey begins to fit into the life aboard the schooner. All the fishermen take an interest in his nautical education, and Long Jack teaches him the names of the ropes and the various pieces of equipment. Harvey learns quickly, partly because he is a bright young lad and partly because Long Jack whips him with the end of a rope when he gives the wrong answers. He also learns how to swing the dories aboard when they are brought alongside with the day’s catch, to help clean the cod and salt them away below the decks, and to stand watch at the wheel of the schooner as they move from one fishing ground on the Grand Banks to the next. Even Disko admits that the boy will be a good hand before they reach Gloucester in the fall.

Gradually, Harvey becomes accustomed to the sea. There are times of pleasure as well as of work. He enjoys listening while the other eight members of the crew talk and tell sea yarns in the evenings or on the days when it is too rough to lower the dories and go after cod. He discovers that the crew members come from all over the world. Disko and his son are from Gloucester, Long Jack is from Ireland, Manuel is Portuguese, Salters is a farmer, Pennsylvania is a former preacher who lost his family in the Johnstown flood, and the cook is a black man who was brought up in Nova Scotia and swears in Gaelic. These men fascinate Harvey, for they are so different from anyone he ever knew. What pleases the boy most is that they accept him on his own merits as a workman and a member of the crew and not as the heir to millions. Of all the crew, only Dan and...

(The entire section is 1158 words.)