Captains Courageous

by Rudyard Kipling

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Here are some quotes from Captains Courageous:

Once more the door banged, and a slight, slim-built boy perhaps fifteen years old, a half-smoked cigarette hanging from one corner of his mouth, leaned in over the high footway. His pasty yellow complexion did not show well on a person of his years, and his look was a mixture of irresolution, bravado, and very cheap smartness.

At the beginning of the novel, Harvey Cheyne conducts himself with superficial bravado but is actually insecure and untested.

Like many other unfortunate young people, Harvey had never in all his life received a direct order—never, at least, without long, and sometimes tearful, explanations of the advantages of obedience and the reasons for the request. Mrs. Cheyne lived in fear of breaking his spirit, which, perhaps, was the reason that she herself walked on the edge of nervous prostration. He could not see why he should be expected to hurry for any man's pleasure, and said so.

When Harvey first is hauled aboard the We're Here, he is unaccustomed to taking orders and to hard work, and he reacts with rudeness to Dan and to the captain, Disko Troop. Harvey's parents have never requested anyone of him, and he is not used to listening to others.

Last boat to the south'ard. He fund you last night," said Dan, pointing. "Manuel rows Portugoosey; ye can't mistake him. East o' him—he's a heap better'n he rows—is Pennsylvania. Loaded with saleratus, by the looks of him. East o' him—see how pretty they string out all along—with the humpy shoulders, is Long Jack. He's a Galway man inhabitin' South Boston, where they all live mostly, an' mostly them Galway men are good in a boat. North, away yonder—you'll hear him tune up in a minute is Tom Platt. Man-o'-war's man he was on the old Ohio first of our navy, he says, to go araound the Horn. He never talks of much else, 'cept when he sings, but he has fair fishin' luck. There! What did I tell you?

When Harvey first comes on board the We're Here, Dan tells him about the different crew members. They come from all corners of the world and represent the types of people to whom Harvey was not introduced before. By being on board the ship, he is introduced to different types of people and becomes more tolerant as a result.

The same smartness that led him to take such advantage of his mother made him very sure that no one on the boat, except, maybe, Penn, would stand the least nonsense. One learns a great deal from a mere tone.

Harvey is an astute observer and realizes that his foolishness and arrogance will not be tolerated on board Disko Troop's boat, as everyone must work.

He's a good boy, an' ketches right hold jest as he's bid. You've heard haow we found him? He was sufferin' from nervous prostration, I guess, 'r else his head had hit somethin', when we hauled him aboard. He's all over that naow. Yes, this is the cabin. 'Tain't in order, but you're quite welcome to look araound. Those are his figures on the stove-pipe, where we keep the reckonin' mostly.

Disko Troop explains to Harvey's parents how much the boy has developed on board the We're Here. In a humorous way, the captain attributes Harvey's former arrogance to a hit on the head, though in actuality it was a result of having been spoiled by his wealthy parents.

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