Study Guide

Columbus Sails

by Cyril Walter Hodges

Columbus Sails Essay - Critical Essays

Analysis

Although Hodges’ format is fictionalized, rather than conventional, biography, what emerges from his text is a soundly convincing portrait of a strong-principled, dedicated man. Hodges’ Columbus is a leader who commands respect of people of all ranks through sheer force of his clear conviction, unpopular though it was, that a route to India could be found by sailing west. Hodges offers Columbus not as a flawless hero but as a phenomenon of history to be observed and understood rather than to be judged or worshipped.

All three of his narrators are barely more than teenagers. Brother Antonio de la Vega, Miguel Pericas, and the Native American Coatta (Brother Ignacio) are close to the action of their respective sections, but none of them is an intimate of Columbus. Thus, Columbus’ firmness of character is revealed slowly, from the outside, as a young person comes to know a leader or an adult.

Vega’s account dramatizes Columbus’ persistence in seeking backing for his project despite philosophical and economic opposition. When Columbus arrived at La Rabida, he had already been turned down by the Spanish court at Salamanca, but he was prepared to ask again. Young Vega registers the impact of Columbus’ beliefs on important members of the local community. Prior Perez, whose interest in science predisposed him to listen and whose position as the former confessor to Queen Isabella influenced the reversal of the Spanish monarch’s refusal of Columbus’ demands, saw to it that Columbus met members of the shipping industry. He introduced Columbus to Pinzon, who as sailor himself was impressed with the meticulousness of Columbus’ mapmaking and the thoroughness of his plans. Vega also reports the...

(The entire section is 705 words.)