Hugh Garner Claude T. Bissell - Essay

Claude T. Bissell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[A] realistic novel that makes use of an accumulation of small, precise detail and concentrates on the plight of the little man is Hugh Garner's Storm Below. It is the account of the last four days of the voyage of a Canadian corvette, part of the escort force of a convoy proceeding from Londonderry to Newfoundland during the early spring of 1943. Although this is a war novel, Mr. Garner does not look outward to the big sensational facts of the conflict…. Rather, Mr. Garner wants to reveal to us the tiny, but intricate world of the corvette. To this end, he gives us an abundance of technical description and, more to the point, a full gallery of human portraits, embracing almost every naval rank and a wide assortment of Canadian types. In order to give movement and depth to what might have been an extended exercise in description, he has, first of all, devised a central situation that reaches out and touches the life of the entire ship. A young ordinary seaman is accidentally killed, and the captain decides to set aside the tradition of the sea and to keep the body on board for burial at St. Johns. The decision is an unfortunate one: ancient superstitions are aroused; the esprit de corps of the crew is endangered; and conflicts and antipathies long latent are brought with naked ugliness into the open. These conflicts and antipathies are not merely personal; they are entangled (here we have the second means of enriching the material) with...

(The entire section is 520 words.)