The narrative focus of The Shipyard provides a closely detailed, agonizing, but simultaneously ironic inside view of Larsen’s doomed attempt to make a comeback and acquire respectability in the Santa Maria area, from which he was exiled five years earlier for his connection with a brothel there. Having returned to Santa Maria for a day at the beginning of the novel, Larsen goes upriver to Puerto Astillero and obtains the meaningless post of general manager of an idle shipyard. Its decayed plant is presided over remotely by its owner Jeremias Petrus. The only employees on hand are the administrators Galvez and Kunz, who do not receive their salaries and perform no work except occasional clandestine sales (for their own survival) of the rusted parts that remain from the days when Jeremias Petrus, Ltd., was a bustling enterprise.
Larsen throws himself into a senseless routine at the several degraded locales which provide the grotesque setting and the recurring chapter titles of the novel: Santa Maria, the shipyard, the summerhouse, the house, and the shack. At the shipyard, he pores over yellowing contracts and faded blueprints from times past and continually tells himself that a good managerial hand is all that is needed to set the phantom enterprise in motion again. Each afternoon, he visits the summerhouse of the Petrus estate in a comically decorous ritual of courtship with Petrus’s feebleminded daughter, Angelica Ines. From the grounds,...
(The entire section is 415 words.)