Study Guide

The Perfect Storm

by Sebastian Junger

The Perfect Storm Themes

Themes

Like a good novel, The Perfect Storm returns to a series of general ideas evoked by the particular situations endured by its characters. The main theme might be summed up in the old cliche, "men against the sea," but Junger imbues this venerable idea with numerous contemporary relevancies. Primary is the aforementioned stress on the unchanging danger of fishing at sea and the unrecognized continuity between the days of sail and modern steel and diesel technology. Quotes from Samuel Johnson, Melville's Moby Dick, and the Bible make this point by linking the ancient and the new: the human risks and terrors endured by fishermen have changed little if at all. Nature is still unconquerable by the pitiful efforts of men; though the connection is established only indirectly, the confidence and even arrogance that declared the Titanic unsinkable is still at work in captains like the owner of the Sartori, who insists his small sailboat can survive hurricane force winds and waves. In the case of Bob Brown, the owner of the Andrea Gail, such confidence in human power is entangled with the profit motive, which dictates scores of small decisions (Should stability be risked against extra fuel-carrying capacity?) which cumulatively can put a boat in an irrecoverable situation. Part of Junger's argument against the conventional idea that "fate" governs deaths at sea is that in fact fate is shaped by countless small choices, most of which seem trivial at the time they are made.

Like Brown, captain Billy Tyne is sure...

(The entire section is 632 words.)