Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
It is a few years after World War I when experienced American sailor Gerard Gales sails as a deck hand aboard the cargo ship Tuscaloosa from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Western Europe. In Antwerp, Belgium, Gales leaves the ship for a night on the town. After carousing, he returns to the docks to find that the Tuscaloosa had left on its return voyage earlier than scheduled. He is stranded penniless in the foreign port. Worse, he had left his seaman’s card and other proof of identity aboard the ship. Picked up by local police, he is brought before a magistrate, who orders Gales to be deported under penalty of life imprisonment. In the dead of night, he is escorted to the border with the Netherlands, given food, and told to cross the border.
In Rotterdam, Gales approaches the American consul for assistance. However, without proper documentation—such as a passport, birth certificate, or sailor’s identification—he cannot prove he is a U.S. citizen, thus the counsel cannot do anything except provide Gales food and lodging for a few days. Once again, local police become aware of his presence. Threatened with imprisonment at hard labor for vagrancy, he is given enough food and money to return to Antwerp. Unwilling to do so, Gales hitchhikes around the Netherlands, surviving on the generosity of strangers.
When his money runs out, Gales begs passage on a British ship, which carries him as far as Boulogne, France. Traveling to...
(The entire section is 1120 words.)
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