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Transcript of Shipbreaker
The story begins in the wreckage of a ship. The main character, Nailer, works as part of a crew whose job is to pick up lighter scrap metal on wrecked vessels and sell it. A storm is approaching, so his boss sends him deep into the wreckage, in the hopes of meeting "quota" before the rain arrives. Nailer gets into an accident in the darkness and falls into an oil reservoir. One of his fellow crewman, Sloth, finds him drowning in the oil, but she refuses to help him, hoping she can keep the oil for herself. He manages to get himself free, injuring his shoulder severely in the process, and Sloth is chucked off the crew.
The injury Nailer sustained to his shoulder in the accident becomes infected, and, to make matters worse, his father and his buddies find and begin to take apart the wrecked clipper ship. They also find Nailer, Pima, and Nita's hiding place. Richard decides to keep the rich girl alive in the hopes of collecting a reward. However, as time wears on and no rescue party comes for her, Nita is forced to reveal that she is actually on the run and worth nothing. Nita, Pima, and Nailer decide to run for it.
In an attempt to escape from his father's crew, Nailer tries to slit the throat of the woman holding the keys to his friends' shackles. His plan fails, and he is about to lose an eye when Pima's mother arrives and rescues him. She tells Nailer and co. that Nita's pursuers have arrived on the beach. This forces them to flee with haste, accompanied by the half-man, Tool. They jump on a moving train and ride for the city that was once New Orleans. They arrive and head to the docks in hopes of finding one of Nita's father's ships. None appear, so Nailer decides to find work on the docks.
The promised storm strikes the beach, and it tears a path of destruction through the coastline. The people living on the water's edge are forced to flee to higher ground as their shelters are decimated. Nailer is forced to save his stone-cold drunk father. The next day, Nailer and Pima venture out into the water in the hopes of finding food when they stumble upon a wrecked clipper ship. Inside, they find a wealth of gold, silver, and jewels... as well as a living girl. After some deliberation, they rescue her and make camp for the night on an island.
Analysis by Shea Savage
The Atlantic Coast of North America
"Bright Sands Beach"
Dystopian, future world (shortage of oil and other modern conveniences due to changes in climate)
Nailer Lopez - Main Character
Described as small and slight enough to fit in collapsing ducts in the hulls of broken ships
Crew members are given swirling facial tattoos
A hard worker, reasonably intelligent and very competent at what he does
Fiercely loyal (once he considers you part of his crew)
Rather pessimistic (realistic?) view of life and the world
Pima - "Boss Girl" of Nailer's crew, and a longtime friend of Nailer's. She is described as being tall for her 16 years and very dark skinned, with a commanding presence. Nailer trusts her greatly, and believes her to be steadfast and dependable.
Sloth - another crew member. Skinny, pale, and blond, she is driven to desperation by lack of food and threat of job loss. A bit of a gambler. Clever, calculating, and ruthless.
1. a. the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning
b. a usually humorous or sardonic literary style or form characterized by irony
c : an ironic expression or utterance
2. a. incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result (2) : an event or result marked by such incongruity
b. incongruity between a situation developed in a drama and the accompanying words or actions that is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play —called also dramatic irony, tragic irony
An obvious example of irony is this story is the nickname Nailer's father gives him: "Lucky Boy". Nailer's dad is a drunk, his mother is dead, he will lose the job he is dependent on as soon as he gets too tall, and he gets into an almost-deadly accident within the first 50 pages. Lucky? Maybe not so much.
Man vs. Nature - The major storm that rips through the town (called a "city killer") is an example of a clash between man and nature. It kills many people, tears down the delicate shelters the inhabitants of the coast are living in, and chases away the people who buy scrap metal, which leads to a shortage of food.
A fight, battle, or struggle, especially a prolonged struggle; strife.
The wrecked clipper ship symbolized the randomness of luck and fate. It shows that the universe is blind and doesn't care how rich or poor one is; if your fate is to die blown away on a storm, no amount of riches can save you.
Quote (Page 99):
"Now, though, the dark reek of the oil room filled his mind - the memory of being up to his neck in warm death staring up at Sloth high above him... salvation if only he could convince her, if only he could reach out and touch that part of her that cared for something other than herself...
"He'd been so desperate to get Sloth to care."
This quote shows important development in Nailer; before his near-death experience, he would leave the girl in the ship to die and consider himself lucky for finding the ship at all. Now, he thinks twice, and sees himself in the person suffering. His accident gave him empathy that he didn't have before... the problem is, Nailer lives in a world where empathy can actually get you killed.
He saves the injured girl at extreme cost to himself.
Not only is Nailer extremely loyal to those he considers to be his crew; now he is also empathetic. This is a very dangerous combination.
Definition: (Noun) A prevailing emotional tone or general attitude.
There's a definite sense of stress, fear, and desperation throughout the book. It also makes you feel lucky to have what you've got.
Nita Chaudhury - also known as 'Lucky Girl'. Nailer and Pima rescue her from the wreckage of her clipper ship. Cleverer than Nailer expected, but soft and spoiled by her cushioned life of luxury. Well-educated and unaccustomed to the raw violence of life on the beach. She puts on a brave face but is actually very afraid of the people she is being forced to interact with.
Richard Lopez - Nailer's father. A drunk and a junkie, he is well known on the beach for his speed and his fighting abilities. After his wife passed away, he began to beat his son, and tends to explode into fits of anger while "sliding high". However, he is also calculating and reasonably intelligent. A dangerous man.
It is never directly addressed, at least not in explicit language, that climate change is the reason for the dramatic differences between Nailer's society and our own. However, it is certainly mentioned that rising sea levels destroyed cities and that stronger storms are a constant fear of the people living on the coastline. These are problems we face today, though they are not as immediately present. Global warming is a very real problem in our society. What's to say we won't end up scouring the wrecks of ships for scavenge if we don't change?
3rd Person Perspective, but all from the thoughts and ideas of the main character, Nailer. The narrator is not omnipotent. We see and hear only what Nailer sees and hears, only what Nailer thinks about, etc.
Similar to 1st person perspective, but with use of 'he said' instead of 'I said.'
Tool - a "half-man" (a being artificially created in a lab with the egg of a human and the DNA of a dog). Worked on shipyard as part of Nailer's dad's crew. Decides to leave and help Nailer and Nita because he owes a life debt to Pima's mother. Intelligent, cunning, rather cruel. Too independent and strong willed to be used as a mindless slave like the rest of his people.
"More jungle ruins flashed past, an astonishing amount of wealth and materials left to rot and fall back to the green tangle of the trees and the swamps.
'Why did they give up?' Nailer asked.
'Sometimes people learn,' Tool said." (Pg 203)
Not only does this exchange provide a necessary explanation for the ruins of New Orleans; it also reveals something very telling about the world that Nailer and Tool live in. By saying "Sometimes people learn," Tool really means that mostly people don't. Both men have a very negative view of the world and of people in general, and together they are learning that they have a lot more in common with each other than they thought they did.
"At one time in the past, New Orleans had meant many things, had meant jazz and Creole and the pulse of life, had meant Mardi Gras and parties and abandon, had meant creeping luxurious green decay. Now it meant only one thing.
"Loss." (Pg 203)
This shows a narrative perspective rather different from Nailer's own. Though the narration usually follows his thoughts and actions, that paragraph comes from a different place. The boy who this story follows was never educated. He would have no way of knowing about Mardi Gras or jazz music or any of that stuff. This illustrates the separation between the narrator and Nailer (effectively ruling out the possibility of unreliable narration, etc.).
(Noun) A warning or indication of a future event.
"'You think I'll get an infection?'
...'I'm not sure, Nailer,' she said. 'You took a lot of cuts. Skin's supposed to protect you, but the water's dirty here, and you were in oil.' She shook her head. 'I'm not a doctor.'" (Pg 39)
This type of foreshadowing is fairly obvious; Nailer asks Sadna, Pima's mother, at the very beginning of the book whether she thinks that his wounds will become infected. She responds that she doesn't know, but she doesn't sound very hopeful. And, sure enough, a few chapters later Nailer gets an infection.
Nailer and Lucky Girl get jobs on the docks in New Orleans, but it's not long before Richard Lopez shows up, hired thugs in tow. Tool is caught, so Nailer takes a chance on the crew of the
a ship that Nita claims belongs to her father. He lucks out and discovers that the crew remains loyal to Nita, but when he returns to her room to tell her the news, she's gone. Nailer ships off with the crew, following a schooner that they suspect is holding Nita. While they sail, Nailer begins work on the ship in the hopes of being allowed to stay on, and is soon told that in order to be helpful, he must learn to read.
Use of Voice/Tone
Voice is used frequently in this book to illustrate the enormous gap between the ship breakers and the 'swanks' (rich people). It is especially apparent in dialogue between characters like Nailer, raised on the beach, and the captain of the
, born into money.
The cast of this book comes from a vast range of different worlds. The voices of the characters help to show that.
"She's got the fates with her. She came through a city killer and everyone else on that ship was dead. Doesn't get much luckier than that."
"And your people value luck," the captain said.
"My people? Yeah, ship breakers like the lucky eye. Not much else to hang on to when you're on the wrecks."
"Skill? Hard work?"
Nailer laughed. "They're nice. But they only get you so far." (Pg 253)
One of the most significant, overarching ideas in this book is that of luck and chance. Luck dictates whether you're born a swank or a ship breaker. Fate decides if you're going to be too big for light crew or too small for heavy crew. Will you get sick and die young? Will you hit it big and find oil or gold or silver?
The contrast between rich and poor is stark in Nailer's world, but it is stark in ours, as well. Who decides if somebody will be born in a third world country, or disabled, or a genius? Luck and fate are random and blind. This is true in
, and it is true in life, as well.
"Everyone hoped it would be the
was more than a match for that soft target, but the other ship,
, everyone feared. Candless was too good a leader to admit that he was frightened, but Nailer could tell from the way his face turned stony at the mention of the cross-global schooner that it represented an unequal fight." (Pg 257)
It seems pretty likely to me that they wouldn't plant this seed if it wasn't going to be important in the future. Especially since they go on to talk about the
in great detail, and if that didn't turn out to play into the end of the book, the editor would've had the author cut it out. Irrelevant materials are often the first things scrapped in novels.
Important Characters (continued)
Captain Candless- captain of the clipper ship Dauntless, sails for Nita's father's company. One of the few captains to remain loyal to Mr. Chaudhury after the clashes between the higher-ups in the company. A steady man and a good leader, very protective of Nita and her family. Shows a surprising interest in and kindness towards Nailer, offers him advice and even work.
Narrative point of view in the creative writing of fiction describes the narrator's position in relation to the story being told.
Picture: Nailer Lopez
catches up to the ship they had been chasing, the one they hope is holding Nita. It turns out to be the
after all, but their relief is short-lived when they discover upon boarding that they have walked straight into a trap. The Pole Star is approaching quickly, and they have no choice but to flee.
gives chase, but a storm strikes and Captain Candless decide to sail into it, heading for a sunken city on the coast of Bright Sands Beach called the Teeth, where many a ship has been wrecked and they hope to shake of their pursuers. With the help of Nailer's expertise, they succeed in wrecking
and are able to board the ship as it sinks in an attempt to rescue Nita. Nailer manages to find her, but she is being held by his father. The two men fight, and Nailer is forced to shove Richard into the gears of the ship. Richard dies and Nita and Nailer flee. The story ends with them back on Bright Sands Beach, reunited with Pima and her mother.
"It's not about my dad. It's Lucky Girl. She's good, right? She's worth a hundred of some of my old crew. A thousand of my dad... I have to get her back."
The captain studied Nailer thoughtfully. Silence stretched between them.
"You poor bastard," the captain murmured finally. (Pg 252)
Those it is never stated outright that Nailer is falling in love with Nita, it is strongly implied here and elsewhere. His loyalty to her goes deeper now than hoping he'll get some kind of monetary reward for his troubles. In addition, though his response is by no means angry or mocking, the captain makes it clear that he thinks Nailer's basically got no chance with her. The two of them come from entirely separate worlds. The gap between those two worlds is going to be a tough one to bridge.
The two storms that hit Bright Sands Beach over the course of the book (the one in the beginning that wrecks Nita's clipper ship, the city killer, and the other at the end) are symbols for the inevitability of fate. Both storms have an enormous impact on the characters in the book; the first nearly kills them all and prevents Nita from escaping to safety, and the second saves the lives of the crew of the Dauntless and allows for Nita's rescue to happen. In both cases, there was nothing for the characters to do but watch the hammer drop, and hope that this time, it would be them who would get lucky, them who would survive. Luck is basically the common denominator of this story. Every person's life is hinged on whether or not they've got the fates with them.
Nailer Lopez, the main protagonist of Ship Breaker, began the story as a member of a light crew. His entire being was defined by his job, by whether or not he'd stay small enough to keep working, by whether he'd make quota or get kicked off the crew. He is dedicated solely to living to see tomorrow. How could he not be? Survival is most important. However, after his near-death experience falling into the oil well, Nailer is given something he had little of before: empathy. Empathy is what drives him to rescue Nita Chaudhury, to leave the scavenge of a lifetime to pull the half-drowned swank out of the wreckage of a ship that is worth more than Nailer will ever earn. Though he still has hopes of collecting a reward, that is not why he defies his father for her. That's not why he leaves the only home he's ever known, jumps on a moving train, follows her kidnappers into a hurricane. Nailer is changed by his accident, and he is also changed by Nita. She gives him hope, something to live for besides the simple fact of living.
Important Quotations (Continued)
"Once again, Nailer wondered at his capacity for suicidal stupidity. Betraying his father had been colossally stupid, but hunting around in a sinking ship topped it. If he'd been smart he would've let the whole thing go when Lucky Girl disappeared in the Orleans. He could have found other work. He could have walked away without a problem. Gone up the Mississippi. Anything. But instead he'd been swept up in the loyalty her people displayed...
"Nice going, hero.
This quote is significant because it illustrates how important loyalty is to Nailer. His life depends on whether or not his crew stays loyal to him. If Sloth had helped him out in his accident, he would not have been injured, would not have almost died from infection. He displays tremendous dedication to the people he cares about, over and over again, towards Pima and Lucky Girl and even his jerkward of a dad. The protectiveness of Nita's crew makes Nailer feel safe. But getting sucked into it just makes him feel stupid.
Picture: Nita Chaudhury
I imagine this would be what New Orleans II looks like.
Man vs. Man - the struggle between Nailer and his father is a perilous one. Richard Lopez is not a good guy, and Nailer finds himself many times having to balance the blood ties he feels towards his father and his own sense of morality. By rescuing Nita, killing Blue Eyes, and making the decision to run for his life, he pits himself against his father. The constant threat of violence and fear of retribution (the law equivalent exchange is something that is accepted as fact among ship breakers) is something that Nailer must deal with as a consequence of this decision.