USS Neversink. U.S. naval frigate that is the novel’s primary setting. The narrator describes its crew and the vessel in great detail, delineating the various roles of the seamen and the functions of different parts of the ship. The narrator devotes entire chapters to character sketches, each of which not only delves into the psychological make-up of the individual described but also in some instances includes detailed descriptions of his physical labors, the tools of his trade, and his working environment. Through these character sketches, the narrator outlines the distinct hierarchical structure upon which life on the ship is based, an organizing principle that he decries as being fundamentally undemocratic and inhumane.
As the narrator works his way through the ship’s colorful and diverse crew, he points out that each crew member has not only specific and limited duties but also a well-defined physical space in which to fulfill those responsibilities. Consequently, a seaman may typically work in only one part of the ship and have little or no knowledge of what goes on in other parts of the vessel. The officers have free run of the entire ship and therefore know more than most, but they impose their own limits, preferring to remain among fellow officers rather than mixing with those beneath their rank. Common sailors, on the other hand, have no choice but to accept their boundaries, and thus their...
(The entire section is 551 words.)