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Paradox, King Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

After many adventures, Dr. Silvestre Paradox, a short, chubby man of about forty-five years, settles in a small Valencian town. Tiring at last of his quiet life, he announces one morning to his friend, Avelino Diz, his intention of taking a trip to Cananí, on the Gulf of Guinea. A British banker, Abraham Wolf, is setting out on his yacht Cornucopia with a party of scientists and explorers to establish a Jewish colony in Africa, and he has invited Paradox to go with him. Paradox suggests that Diz join the expedition.

In Tangier they meet several other members of the party, including General Pérez, his daughter Dora, and a disabled, scarred soldier named Hardibrás. They drink to the success of the venture with whiskey. When someone in the party feeds whiskey to a rooster, the fowl breaks into human speech and deplores what humans drink. Paradox declares that only nature is just and honorable. He is eager to go where people live naturally.

The group boards the yacht, Hardibrás swinging himself aboard by the hook he wears in place of his lost hand. There, Paradox and Diz meet others of the expedition: Mingote, a revolutionist who had tried to assassinate the king of Portugal; Pelayo, who had been Paradox’s secretary until his employer fired him for crooked dealings; Sipsom, an English manufacturer; Miss Pich, a feminist writer and former ballet dancer; and The Cheese Kid, a former French cancan dancer. Wolf himself is not on board. He is conferring with Monsieur Chabouly, a French chocolate king who also is emperor of Western Nigritia, in an attempt to establish peaceful diplomatic relations between Chabouly’s domain and the new state of Cananí.

The yacht heads out to sea. On the third day, stormy waves wash the captain overboard. The mate and the crew are drunk, so Paradox and two others are forced to take over the yacht. Paradox, alone at the wheel, converses with the wind and the sea, who tell him that they have wills of their own. Yock, his dog, admires his master’s resolution and strength and declares that he is almost worthy of being a dog.

As the storm increases in fury, the mast breaks and crashes upon the deck. Paradox calls the passengers together and suggests that one of them, Goizueta, be appointed captain because of his maritime experience. Goizueta is elected. His first act, after saving one bottle of brandy for medicine, is to throw the rest of the alcohol overboard.

For a week they sail through heavy fog that never lifts to reveal their position. At last the ship’s coal runs out, and they drift. One night some of the passengers and crew, Miss Pich, Mingote, and Pelayo among them, steal the only lifeboat and desert the ship.

When the fog lifts, the passengers see a beach not far away. The yacht strikes a rock, but all are able to save themselves on rafts that they load with supplies from the ship. The next morning the yacht breaks up, leaving the party marooned on an island. It is then proposed that Paradox be put in charge. After modestly protesting, he accepts and assigns jobs to all the survivors. Nevertheless, he fails to make provisions for their defense. The next night a band of islanders arrive in two canoes, surprise the sleepers, and take them bound to Bu-Tata.

The first demand made by Prime Minister Funangue is for rum. One of the party, Sipsom, explains that they can provide rum only if they are allowed to return to their base of supplies. In his greed, Funangue decides to ignore the advice of Bagú, the medicine man, who wants all the whites of the marooned yacht slain. A friendly islander, Ugú, is assigned to instruct the prisoners in tribal language and customs. From Ugú the captives learn Bagú’s prejudices and superstitions. When the witch doctor later appears, Sipsom declares that one of the prisoners is a wizard fated to die on the same day as Bagú. If Bagú sides with them, however, the white magician will help the medicine man to marry Princess Mahu, King Kiri’s daughter. Bagú accepts...

(The entire section is 1,229 words.)