Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Frederick Marryat wrote from experience, having been a captain in the British navy, and his book gives a fully detailed account of life aboard a war vessel, including vivid accounts of several battles at sea. Unlike many other stories about the British or American navy in the early nineteenth century, he did not charge the naval system of discipline with being too harsh. Rather, he tried to show that it developed the best that was in a man. Marryat thought poorly of the theories of equality that had been popularized in France during the French Revolution.

MR. MIDSHIPMAN EASY is an action-filled tale of adventure on the high seas, abounding with beliefs and assumptions from the conservative end of the spectrum of Victorian values. Captain Marryat’s most avid audience was the British schoolboy population, which imbibed certain notions of class, religion, and sexual roles along with the exciting fare of Jack Easy’s adventures.

MR. MIDSHIPMAN EASY is in many ways an antidemocratic tract. Marryat dramatizes his conservative stance by making the Royal Navy a microcosm of English society, which serves as the school where Jack grows to be both a man and a gentleman. Although born into the landed gentry class, Jack is nevertheless reared on the egalitarian principles of his father, Nicodemus Easy, whom the author makes into an absurd and imbecilic figure in order to ridicule his ideas. When the hero runs off to join the Navy,...

(The entire section is 577 words.)