Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Java Head is a historical novel, set in the 1840’s, about Salem, Massachusetts, shipowners who had grown wealthy from trade with the Far East, especially China. The novel consists of ten chapters, reflecting the viewpoints of nine different characters. As a result of these changing perspectives, Java Head is a complex novel based on a fairly simple plotline.
At the beginning of Java Head, the primary concern of the wealthy Ammidon family is that Gerrit Ammidon’s ship, the Nautilus, is months overdue. There are, however, tensions within the family—some of them trivial, like the squabbling between Laurel and her prissy sister Camilla; others more serious, like the frequent confrontations between the elderly Jeremy Ammidon, who spent most of his life at sea, and his son William Ammidon, whose only experience is in the countinghouse of the family firm. William’s wife Rhoda rebukes her husband for arguing with Jeremy about replacing their ships with the speedier clippers and about the profits to be derived from the opium trade. Either suggestion sends Jeremy into such a fury that Rhoda fears for his health. However, she sees no harm in the flirtation between her oldest daughter, Sidsall, and a middle-aged family friend, Roger Brevard.
The Ammidons are also troubled about the bad feeling between their family and that of another former ship captain, Barzil Dunsack. Jeremy has had nothing to do with his old...
(The entire section is 666 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Definitive Revised Edition)
In Salem, Massachusetts, one spring in the early 1840’s, there was concern because the ship Nautilus, owned by Ammidon, Ammidon, and Saltonstone, was seven months overdue. The captain of the ship was young Gerrit Ammidon, son of Captain Jeremy Ammidon, senior partner of the firm. Nettie Vollar grew more disturbed as the weeks passed. On the day the Nautilus left Salem, her grandfather had ordered Gerrit from the house before he reached the point of announcing his love for Nettie and asking her to marry him. The old man’s reason for his action had been that Nettie was an illegitimate child and, as such, did not deserve to be married and lead a normal life. His theory was that the girl had been placed on earth only as a punishment for her mother.
Old Jeremy Ammidon also awaited the return of the Nautilus, for Gerrit was the favorite of his two sons. The other son, William, was primarily a tradesman interested in making money. Old Jeremy and William clashed regularly over the kind of trade the firm was to take, the liberty to be given its captains in trading, and whether the ships of the firm should be replaced by the swift new clippers that were revolutionizing the Pacific trade. William had never told old Jeremy that the firm had two schooners engaged in carrying opium, a cargo the older man detested. The atmosphere at Java Head, the Ammidon mansion in Salem, was kept more or less in a state of tension because of the disagreements between the father...
(The entire section is 1081 words.)