Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Grand Banks

Grand Banks. North Atlantic Ocean region off the coast of Newfoundland that is the novel’s primary setting. Once the richest fishing area in the world, the 150,000-square-mile region mixes the frigid waters of the Labrador Current from the north with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream from the south. The mixture fosters a heavy plankton growth that makes it an ideal habitat for the fish such as cod, haddock, herring, and mackerel that Kipling’s schooner catches. At the time Kipling wrote, thousands of schooners from New England and Canadian ports annually converged on the Grand Banks, creating what Harvey calls in the novel a city on the sea. The southern part of the Grand Banks straddled the late nineteenth century shipping lane between Europe and North America, making plausible the premise of the novel’s plot. Indeed, collisions and close calls among ocean liners and fishing schooners were a common occurrence.

We’re Here

We’re Here. Gloucester, Massachusetts, fishing schooner that rescues Harvey and transforms him into a seaman. Much of the novel’s action occurs within the cramped quarters of the boat. Built for both speed and cargo-carrying capacity, the We’re Here leaves little space for its crew’s living quarters. When Harvey first boards the boat, its hold is almost empty. Three months later, when it returns to Gloucester, it may hold as much as 150 tons of salted fish. The schooner’s deck is equally crowded with fishing dories, tackle, and other paraphernalia. Harvey’s world is thus suddenly transformed from spacious luxury to a few square feet of living space in which privacy is nonexistent. Although the boat’s captain maintains a well-disciplined and clean boat, the contrast between the boat and the fastidious upper-class milieu from which Harvey comes is wrenching to him.