Critical Analysis of The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger Essay

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The author introduces the book with a dramatic beginning that makes the book ‘unputdownable’ till the last page. Death arrives at the most unsuspected moment, but for a group of sailors, to see the impending death, to experience death while ‘living, is rarest of the rare experiences.  To some persons, the call of duty is more than the call of death. Junger describes that heartrending reaction of one of the sailors thus: “How do men act on a sinking ship? Do they hold each other? Do they pass around the whisky? Do they cry? This man wrote; he put down on a scrap of paper the last moments of twenty men in this world. There is not a chance in hell, he must have thought. And then he went below again. He breathed in deep. He tried to calm himself. He readied himself for the first shock of sea.”(p. 2)

The “Perfect Storm”:

The October 1991 storm that struck North America’s seaboard was an extraordinary ‘event’ of the century! The meteorological conditions were rare. Andrea Gail, the swordfish boat with six crew members, was one of the unfortunate victims of the onslaught of the storm. The book gives the rare description of human courage against the grave watery onslaught of the Nature. Andrea Gail also takes this opportunity to describe the history of the fishing industry and scientific facts related to predicting storms.

Andrea Gail’s writing style:

Description of the impending death on the boat being tossed and tumbled on the fury of the storm on the high seas has been penned in a clinical and emotionless style by the author. The heart rending theme of the novel and the author’s attitude towards it both evoke continuous curiosity. The level of detachment achieved by the author in the novel is commendable. Without giving room for too much sentimentalism, the grim situation manifests clearly, grows and moves towards the expected conclusion. The new dimensions towards which the novel is heading for is not unexpected, yet it becomes unique. The novel deserves an outstanding position on account of this peculiar approach of the author. The mutual interactions over the situation between different characters reveal in he most natural way, the human craze and convictions for which the novel stands for. This is the uniqueness of the novel. The touchy narrations have a beauty about them and therefore this novel becomes a rare creation. As the story develops, it becomes poignant, without losing its ground and reality. Throughout, it reads like an adventurous story, but the reader knows that it is not a story—it is the stark reality. The lives which the stormy waves consumed for ever were the real ones, not of the make-believe world of the movies, in which the actors were paid dollars ‘to act death.’

Point of view:

The inevitable fate that awaited Andrea Gail is the central theme of the book, but the ancillary details related to this main event are also of importance to Junger. Junger has shown how men of guts and grit faced the tragic situation of the stormy day. Junger takes this opportunity to give the graphic description of the people who work on the high seas, for those whom it is the bread-earning vocation– fishing industry–what it means for those who have to meet the challenge of sea everyday. Andrew Gail was normally part of that industry. The marine behavior and tidal patterns are also discussed in a scientific style.  The sea was not extra-kind for the men who were engaged in the rescue effort. They were out to save those lives; in the process they faced death at every moment of the desperate struggle called rescue effort!


This is a book based on facts. No imaginative heroes and villains are created by the author.  Junger depicts how ordinary men acquire extraordinary courage in extraordinary situations. It was a desperate situation for the men on the seventy-foot commercial boat, fishing for swordfish at the end of the season near the Georges Bank. The persons involved in the tragedy were Capt. Billy Tyne and five other Gloucester fishermen. They were caught in the combination of three major storms. Junger makes brief mention of the maritime history of Gloucester, and that shocking information since the fishing industry began — 1650 men have perished! That sets the stage for the tragic story to follow. To have the realistic assessment of the fishing industry, Junger stayed at Gloucester and did research. The impact of the storm was so severe; three members of the Coast Guard almost lost their lives. Every attempt at the rescue was beaten back by waves of over hundred feet high. The storm struck without a warning. “She’s comin’ on, boys, and she’s comin’ on strong,” radioed Captain Billy Tyne of the Andrea Gail off the coast of Nova Scotia, and soon afterward the boat and its crew of six disappeared without a trace. Long after reading the book, it is impossible to forget many characters involved in the novel, the Captain of the ship and his men, the rescuers of the Coast Guard, the strange feeling about the final resting place of Andrea Gail, whether she will be hauled back from the bosom of the sea, and the tragic suffering of the members of the family of the sailors!

Then lucrative trade of dollars had ended in a tragedy. The huge waves danced the death dance around and over the boat, return or aid preventing! Nature’s message to six of them was, ‘your work is done and you have run your race on the sea water!’

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