Captain Blood: His Odyssey Themes
by Rafael Sabatini

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Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

For Peter Blood, scholar and doctor, the quest for justice is not an idle or abstract discussion. He is confronted with injustice of the most terrible kind: slavery. The terrible irony is that he is sentenced for performing an act of compassion, healing the wounded after a battle. "My business, my lord, was with his wounds, not his politics," he tells the judges. But bloody Lord Jeffreys, the King's judicial representative, will have none of it. He sentences Peter Blood to work in the plantations of the New World. Utilizing his medical skills, Blood escapes the worst of the sentence, and eventually, he organizes an escape and takes to the open sea as a pirate.

America and England have long had a love-affair with the outlaw, the individual who defines himself beyond the institutions of society. In England, Robin Hood is a prime example, as are the highwayman legends of Tom Evans and Dick Turpin. In the United States our outlaws have taken a decidedly western turn: Jesse James, the Lone Ranger, and Zorro. More modern examples are Bonnie and Clyde and Jimmy Valentine. With Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk (1915), Sabatini added immeasurably to the history of the outlaw ideal in literature.

In retribution for his suffering, Captain Blood, as he comes to be called, becomes the scourge of the Caribbean. "For what he had suffered at the hands of Man he had chosen to make Spain the scapegoat," Sabatini says. Thus, he who began as a peaceful doctor becomes a feared outlaw. His experiences as a slave have left him a bitter man. "It came to Mr. Blood . . . that man — as he had long suspected — was the vilest work of God, and that only a fool would set himself up as a healer of a species that was best exterminated." Fool or not, however, he continues to exhibit compassion. "It is not human to be...

(The entire section is 482 words.)