Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 182

A central theme in A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes is natural disasters. In the story, two natural calamities occur: an earthquake and a hurricane. Both of these events have huge impacts—for example, houses are destroyed and Emily’s cat dies during the hurricane. The author implies that natural disasters are always accompanied by death and destruction. Moreover, the title of the book is based on a natural disaster. “A High Wind” refers to the hurricane described in the book.

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Another theme that is manifested in the story is how children think. The author sheds light on the way children reason and gives a view of the world from their perspective. For instance, he notes that John can remember his home in England. Hughes mentions the toys John remembers, showing the reader the types of things children value. In this case, John remembers playing with a milk-cart. He also remembers his sister, Emily, as a baby. Furthermore, Hughes highlights several aspects about Emily. He gives an in-depth description of the animals she collects and the way she perceives them.

Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 164

One major theme that carries through Richard Hughes’s novel is the loss of innocence. Even before the Bas-Thornton children are captured at sea, their initial trip off the plantation and the death of their cat, along with the destruction the hurricane inflicts, are presented as sudden disruptions to their idyllic childhood. After their capture, John’s death is the first truly tragic incident. Margaret and Emily then react in different ways to the need to grow up far too quickly.

Another important theme is the difference between revenge and justice. The trauma that the children endure has devastating consequences. Once they are rescued and reunited with their parents, both girls seem incapable of fully confronting reality. Emily’s hatred of Captain Jonsen and fear of punishment for killing the Dutch captain combine into the lies she tells in court, which result in the captain’s execution. The reader is left to decide if what the child endured is sufficient reason for his death.

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