In The Slave Dancer, why is one chapter called "Nicholas Sparks Walks on Water" if he is pushed overboard at the end?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Nicholas Sparks is dropped overboard, Jesse swears that "before he disappear(s) beneath the water...he (takes) three steps".  The Biblical allusion here is to Christ walking on the water, but in this case, it is Sparks, the embodiment of evil in the book, who accomplishes the feat.   It is supposed to be God in the person of Christ who has the ability to "walk on water", but on the Moonlight, it is not goodness that has power, but evil. The author's purpose here is to emphasize that, no matter how one tries to rationalize it, the doings on The Moonlight, and in the slave trade in general, are evil, and a perversion of Christianity.  Like a demonic spirit, or perhaps the Devil himself, Nicholas Sparks, in a chilling aberration, appears to "walk on water" before he drowns, ironically sentenced to death by even more evil, the lust of the Captain for profit. 

There is no rationalization for Nicholas Sparks's brutal behavior.  The Captain is motivated by greed, but Sparks's actions can only be attributed to a deep-seated, basic depravity.  It is Sparks who deals "a mighty blow" to the slave child who will not at first stand and dance, and who, with Stout, throws the fever-stricken slave woman overboard.  He is "untouched by the suffering of (the) cargo", and Jesse concludes that he is "entirely brainless and evil only in the way that certain plants are poisonous".

Sparks's evilness ties into the theme which runs through the chapter, that of attempting to reconcile the opposing concepts of slavery and Christianity.  Ned Grime, one of the crewmen, calls himself a Christian and claims not to support the business of slave trading, yet he is in a position where he will profit from the malicious endeavor.  Ned hypocritically says that, as a Christian, he will not "corrupt his tongue by learning a single word" from any of the slaves, and says the African tribal leaders have become "depraved by a desire for the material things debased traders".  Ned calls the whole business "the Devil's work", and holds himself above it all, even as he is intimately involved with the proceedings.  The author's message is that Christianity and the slave trade cannot be reconciled, and that the action of human trafficking is powered by evil ("Nicholas Sparks Walks on Water").