Carry on, Mr. Bowditch Essay - Critical Essays

Jean Lee Latham


Bowditch is presented as a person who values the care and support that he receives and returns it in kind. He responds to his educational opportunities and shares what he has learned; like Chaucer’s scholar, “gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” On board ship, he finds that teaching the cabin boy, the common sailors, and the second mate engages him, clarifies his thoughts, and creates skilled and self-respecting individuals as well. Responding to acts of love and care, as well as of friendship and encouragement, young Bowditch returns the love and care offered by his sisters and the two women he marries—Elizabeth and, after her death, her cousin Polly—thus enriching both his life and theirs.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch is especially valuable for young people because, while the concrete detail and the drama of the evolving personality never allow the book to seem didactic, it touches the moral consciousness of the reader. Latham describes the way in which Bowditch’s positive attitude shapes his direction. Instead of submitting to despair at the setback of his dream, Bowditch follows good advice and learns what is presented to him. His appetite for learning grows, revealing how one idea of discovery leads to another. For the author, Bowditch personifies the evolution of a scientific discovery, as well as the development of character. The young reader is shown that learning is exciting and transforming: It makes life interesting, and it...

(The entire section is 414 words.)