Letters from the Samantha

Topics: Sail, Sailing ship, Captain Pages: 4 (1446 words) Published: October 8, 1999
An interesting short story is "Letters from The Samantha" by Mark Helpin. This story tells the fascinating tale, in the form of never sent letters, of an ape brought aboard an iron-hulled sailing ship in 1909 by Samson Low, the ship's captain. Although the author makes a point to tell the reader, through Samson Low, that the animal does not symbolize anything or mean anything, in fact, "He stands for nothing" (280), several arguments can be made to contradict this. One could argue that the ape symbolized the untamed and rarely used wild side of Samson Low through a comparison of their personalities, appearances, and the way they are treated by others. Samson Low was a captain of a ship owned by the Green Star Line. He is a stickler for rules and the proper code of conduct. When writing to his company, he reminds them of "the complete absence of disciplinary action against me" (271). This serves to highlight that he has never been in trouble or broken the rules. He is comfortable and comforted by his pattern of obedience and thinks others must be as well: "Though my subordinates sometimes complain, they are grateful no doubt, for my firm rule and tidiness" (271). His ship is always on time or even ahead of schedule. The picture painted is of a steady, reliable, conservative man who always does the appropriate thing in a situation. However, a typhoon the ship sails through reveals a different, less predictable side. When describing the typhoon, Samson thinks, "I confess that I have wished to be completely taken up by such a thing, to be lifted into the clouds…" (272). This is hardly the thought of a truly buttoned-down man. He also imagines surrendering to the seas, "But I have not, and will not." (272). While he seems content with his life, Samson Low's secret yearnings sometimes show through. It is because of this Samson seems jealous of the ape and the things it has experienced. Samson has only dreamed...
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