Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1094
Allie “Father” Fox is an angry man, living in a valley in western Massachusetts with his wife and four children and working on Tiny Polski’s asparagus farm while continuing to invent machines. Earlier, the family had lived in Maine, where Father had tried organic farming and creating solar energy, both of which were failures. He had considered the move to Massachusetts a chance to start over.
Father and his oldest son, Charlie, visit Polski with one of Father’s new inventions, a self-contained box that makes ice out of fire and ammonia. Polski makes fun of the invention. Father, already fed up with American culture because of its pornography, religion, materialism, drugs, and waste, plans to move—unknown to the rest of the family. He takes the family shopping, railing at the flimsiness of the merchandise and its prices. Charlie is full of foreboding, which is intensified when he later visits Polski, who warns him that Father is the most obnoxious man he has ever met.
The family sets sail from Baltimore on the ship Unicorn. Aboard, they meet the family of the Reverend Spellgood, whom Father baits and toys with. Charlie learns from Emily Spellgood, the reverend’s daughter, that the Unicorn is headed for the coast of Honduras. Reverend Spellgood has a missionary church in Guampu, upriver from the Mosquito coast. The Foxes land on the coast at La Cieba, where Father buys the deed to a remote town, Jeronimo, from a drunk he meets. He hires Mr. Haddy’s motor launch to ferry them upriver to Jeronimo, which turns out to be a muddy area in the forest with one rusty, tin-roofed shack.
The locals, the Zambus, help Mr. Haddy unload his launch while the Foxes are greeted with gifts of food by the Maywit family, also consisting of two parents and four children, who inhabit the shack. Father immediately visualizes the town he will create here and hires all the men present, including Mr. Maywit, to help him build it. Soon, with Mother working alongside the men, the land is cleared.
Mr. Haddy returns from the coast with a missionary whom Father soon forces to leave. Over the next few weeks, they build a house, plant crops, pave paths, and build a pump wheel on the river that supplies water. Father then has the men build a huge plant of sorts filled with strange plumbing—a tall replica of the ice-making machine that Polski had spurned. Charlie names the machine Fat Boy.
When Fat Boy is finally operational, Father decides to bring ice up the river to the most primitive town he can find, to “enlighten” the indigenous people of the village. He wraps a block of ice in banana leaves and sets off with Charlie, Mr. Haddy, and a few Zambus to Seville, the last town up the river. After getting lost and then slogging through swampland, they come upon the empty village. The villagers creep out of the woods, and Father finally shows the leader the ice. Father soon discovers that the leader knows the word “hice” and becomes infuriated. He also finds out that the villagers are Christians as well. He stomps away from the group leaving only his angry smell behind.
After Jeronimo becomes a successful settlement with comfortable living quarters and successful crops, Father builds a huge block of ice and straps it to a sled. He brings Charlie and his younger brother, Jerry, along with the sled pulled by Zambus, and sets out to cross the mountains to a village more primitive than Seville. By the time they arrive at the remote Indian village, the block of ice has melted to a sliver. The Indians are more impressed with Father’s missing finger than with the ice, but Father refuses to leave the village until his party is fed. They are finally fed by three ragged white men, assumed to be slaves. Father brags to them of his settlement in Jeronimo.
The party returns to Jeronimo and finds that...
(The entire section contains 1094 words.)
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