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Lobby 2. Welcome The Reading Room Reading Challenges, 2010 topic #6
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Subject: "3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat" Previous topic | Next topic
Mesg #162 "3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Dec 31st 2006
1631 posts
Date Mon Jan-18-10 01:04 PM
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Fiction - Nautical, 344 pages.

First published in 1836, this novel is set in the same time as the Napoleonic Wars and focuses on the adventures of "our hero," Jack Easy. The story begins like this: "CHAPTER I - Which the reader will find very easy to read." I burst out laughing when I read this, and can say that I was similarly amused by the whole novel. It is written in a whimsical style that includes references to the reader (e.g. "the reader will remember that..."), humorous understatements/overstatements, ridiculous circumstances and a large quantity of not-so-subtle but very amusing puns. For instance, after the hero has literally fallen into a well: "...all's well that ends well; but how the devil am I to get out of the well?" (Chapter 6). I suspect that this is a brand of humor that many people would find stupid, but I still giggled and chuckled a lot.

The basic essence of the story is that Easy gets into a ton of scrapes, gets out of them and has a bunch of arguments about morals with almost everyone he meets. "We shall argue the point" must be the phrase that he repeats most often. I found this repetition funny, rather than tiresome! In short, Easy can out-wit most anyone he meets and is loved by everyone who he hasn't chosen to humiliate. He's a sort of rascal that can get away with anything because he commands peoples' favor, including his commanding officers who tolerate more bad behavior than they should.

Humorous entertainment is the novel's strong point. The weakest point was plot, I would say. As I mentioned before, the plot consists of one adventure after the next, with a little breathing room in between. The novel is set during the Napoleonic Wars, but I couldn't tell. (Granted, I know next to nothing about the history of this period.) It seemed to me that all of Jack's adventures were isolated events because I never got an understanding of the context. This didn't bother me very much, though.

There is a heavy-handed theme of "equality" throughout the entire novel--and I say heavy-handed meaning that the author is very obvious about it. In Chapter XXI, Marryat breaks the narrative to say: "And now we must be serious. We do not write these novels merely to amuse,--we have always had it in our view to instruct, and it must not be supposed that we have no other end in view than to make the reader laugh." He describes novel-writing "...as a channel through which we may convey wholesome advice in a palatable shape." (I find authorial asides like this very interesting in the context of fictional literature, and will be writing a paper about this soon.) The problem is, I am not sure what Marryat intended to teach with this. The literary criticism I've read on this so far (not much) holds that Marryat is promoting imperialism by arguing against equality and human rights. However, because the whole story is so farcical, I have a hard time taking it at face value.

"Equality Jack's" father taught him all he could about equality and the rights of man. In the beginning, Jack spends his time asserting his rights by stealing and trespassing, and arguing the point with anyone who would confront him. He goes into the service teaching people around him about equality, but he comes out of the service almost four years later arguing the opposite side. He returns home briefly: only long enough to declare his father insane, take over the estate through power of attorney and then leave after his father's accidental death. The purpose of this brief episode seems to be the final show-down with his father, in which Jack wins the argument by pointing out how the father's ideas of equality have led to waste and squander because none of his tenants pay their rent, none of his servants are obedient, etc. However, I can't help but feel that Jack's argument undermines itself in some spots, especially since he only wins because his father is portrayed as feeble and unwilling to argue against his son.

So, Jack seems to be converted from one who believes in equality to one who believes that each man is awarded his share according to his own abilities (citing the story of the ten talents in the Bible). The question is, is the reader supposed to agree with him at the beginning or the end? I have to think about it more, but I might argue that the novel portrays a reality of inequality and injustice that doesn't necessarily rule out human rights as the ideal standard.

As you can tell, I find this novel very thought-provoking even though I spent most of the time laughing mindlessly while reading it. I only wish that the theme wasn't so heavy-handed--that is the part that grew a little tiring after Jack's seventeenth (I didn't really count) confrontation about equality. The ending in particular was unsatisfactory in terms of the theme, but still entertaining.

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Alissa's 2010 Book List [View all] , alissaameth, Wed Dec-16-09 04:20 PM
  1. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck, alissaameth, Jan 03rd 2010, #1
2. King Lear by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 12th 2010, #2
RE: 2. King Lear by William Shakespeare, RavenCorbie, Jan 21st 2010, #5
      RE: 2. King Lear by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 23rd 2010, #8
3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat, alissaameth, Jan 18th 2010 #3
RE: 3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat, Stavechurch, Jan 26th 2010, #10
      RE: 3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat, alissaameth, Jan 30th 2010, #13
4. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 20th 2010, #4
RE: 4. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, blzrgurl71, Jan 21st 2010, #6
      RE: 4. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 23rd 2010, #7
5. Households and Holiness by Carol Meyers, alissaameth, Jan 24th 2010, #9
6. Awakening Genius in the Classroom by Thomas Armstron..., alissaameth, Jan 29th 2010, #11
7. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 30th 2010, #12
8. With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray, alissaameth, Jan 31st 2010, #14
9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, alissaameth, Feb 05th 2010, #15
RE: 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, RavenCorbie, Feb 06th 2010, #16
      RE: 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, alissaameth, Feb 06th 2010, #17
           RE: 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, RavenCorbie, Feb 07th 2010, #18
10. Music as a Way of Knowing by Nick Page, alissaameth, Feb 08th 2010, #19
11. Confessions of a Thug by Captain Meadows Taylor, alissaameth, Feb 10th 2010, #20
12. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Feb 10th 2010, #21
13. And Sarah Laughed by John H. Otwell, alissaameth, Feb 12th 2010, #22
14. The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano, alissaameth, Feb 12th 2010, #23
15. The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Feb 18th 2010, #24
16. Drama as a Way of Knowing by Paul G. Heller, alissaameth, Feb 26th 2010, #25
17. She by H. Rider Haggard, alissaameth, Feb 26th 2010, #26
RE: 17. She by H. Rider Haggard, tianne, Mar 24th 2010, #35
      RE: 17. She by H. Rider Haggard, alissaameth, Mar 24th 2010, #36
18. Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Mar 01st 2010, #27
RE: 18. Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare, tianne, Mar 23rd 2010, #34
19. Dance as a Way of Knowing by Jennifer Donohue Zakka..., alissaameth, Mar 10th 2010, #28
20. The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner, alissaameth, Mar 16th 2010, #29
RE: 20. The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner, RavenCorbie, Mar 16th 2010, #30
21. All's Well that Ends Well by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Mar 17th 2010, #31
22. Guanya Pau by Joseph J. Walters, alissaameth, Mar 19th 2010, #32
23. Releasing the Imagination by Maxine Greene, alissaameth, Mar 20th 2010, #33
24. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, alissaameth, Mar 31st 2010, #37
25. Hard Times by Charles Dickens, alissaameth, Mar 31st 2010, #38
RE: 25. Hard Times by Charles Dickens, tianne, Apr 16th 2010, #40
      RE: 25. Hard Times by Charles Dickens, alissaameth, Apr 18th 2010, #44
26. Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah by Eli..., alissaameth, Apr 07th 2010, #39
27. Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf, alissaameth, Apr 18th 2010, #41
28. Pericles by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Apr 18th 2010, #42
29. Visual Arts as a Way of Knowing by Karolynne Gee, alissaameth, Apr 18th 2010, #43
30. The Missionary: An Indian Tale by Lady Morgan, alissaameth, Apr 20th 2010, #45
31. The Book of Leviticus by Gordon J. Wenham, alissaameth, Apr 21st 2010, #46
32. Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Apr 27th 2010, #47
33. Walk Leviticus! by Jeffrey Enoch Feinberg, Ph.D., alissaameth, Apr 27th 2010, #48
34. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fa..., alissaameth, Apr 27th 2010, #49
35. The Real Me: Being the Girl God Sees by Natalie Gra..., alissaameth, May 13th 2010, #50
36. The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck, alissaameth, May 21st 2010, #51
37. Arrow Book of Poetry by Ann McGovern, alissaameth, May 21st 2010, #52
38. Joshua by Joseph F. Girzone, alissaameth, May 21st 2010, #53
39. How to Search the Scriptures by Dr. Fuchsia Pickett, alissaameth, May 26th 2010, #54
40. Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb, alissaameth, Jun 04th 2010, #55
41. Skate by Michael Harmon, alissaameth, Jun 10th 2010, #56
42. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, alissaameth, Jun 10th 2010, #57
43. Let Me Out! I'm a Prisoner in a Stained-Glass Jail ..., alissaameth, Jun 14th 2010, #58
44. Under Pressure by Frank Herbert, alissaameth, Jun 18th 2010, #59
45. The Lonely Now by Nicky Cruz, alissaameth, Jun 23rd 2010, #60
46. A Child is Born by Lennart Nilsson, alissaameth, Jul 01st 2010, #61
47. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers, alissaameth, Jul 05th 2010, #62
48. The Harvest Gypsies by John Steinbeck, alissaameth, Jul 05th 2010, #63
49. A Hilltop in Tuscany by Stephanie Grace Whitson, alissaameth, Jul 12th 2010, #64
50. Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath b..., alissaameth, Jul 21st 2010, #65
51. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, alissaameth, Jul 21st 2010, #66
XX. 3 Charlie Brown comics by Charles M. Schulz, alissaameth, Jul 21st 2010, #67
XX. The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watters..., alissaameth, Jul 31st 2010, #68
52. No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, alissaameth, Aug 11th 2010, #69
53. Scottish Highlanders in Colonial Georgia by Anthony..., alissaameth, Sep 02nd 2010, #70
54. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, alissaameth, Sep 02nd 2010, #71
55. The White Plague by Frank Herbert, alissaameth, Sep 17th 2010, #72
56. The Oresteia of Aeschylus trans. by Robert Lowell, alissaameth, Oct 02nd 2010, #73
RE: Alissa's 2010 Book List, Erin_M_H, Nov 19th 2010, #74
RE: Alissa's 2010 Book List, alissaameth, Nov 19th 2010, #76
      RE: Alissa's 2010 Book List, bpratt, Dec 05th 2010, #77
           RE: Alissa's 2010 Book List, alissaameth, Dec 07th 2010, #78
57. To Teach: The Journey, in Comics by Ayers & Alexand..., alissaameth, Nov 19th 2010, #75
58. The Rainmaker by John Grisham, alissaameth, Dec 09th 2010, #79
59. Hidden Empire by Kevin J. Anderson, alissaameth, Jan 01st 2011, #80
60. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, alissaameth, Jan 01st 2011, #81

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