THE VOYAGE OF THE NARWHAL The voyage of the narwhal is a novel by Andrea Barrett, who reveals many aspects of the search for fame and glory, versus search for the truth. When the characters leave for the voyage with the same mission, it is the drive of their different motives for the expedition that separates their destiny on the trip. It was the commander that in blindness of fame led the expedition to tragedy and loss. Through out this novel the author reveals through the characters that the search for the truth is more important than the search of fame and wealth. Barrett begins the novel with the crew loading the ship for the expedition, to search for the famous British explorer Sir John Franklin and his men, lost in the artic.
It was said that any man to find him would have been assured of fame and glory. The expedition’s youthful commander, Zachariah Voorhees also called Zeke, is determined to search for the men, lost now for nearly a decade. As being the captain of the merchant ship for years, he now is planning for a voyage through the Arctic and to discover places never seen before. The story is told from an omniscient point of view where different people’s personal feelings and thoughts are revealed in many ways.
Erasmus Wells, a middle aged man is the Philadelphia naturalist. He joins the expedition partly because he hopes to make up for the miserable failure on an earlier expedition, then secondly because his sister Lavinia is engaged to marry Zeke, so he serves as a protégé, as he promises. He hopes that in this expedition, he could gather enough information from the regions natural history. He plans this time to bring something home from the trip. In Erasmus’ earlier expedition of Wilkes he is not credited with any of his efforts, when Wilkes writes a book and doesn’t even mention him there.
Erasmus also fails after being engaged to his fiancé when shortly before marriage she dies of a heart disease. He grew up studying plants and animals with three older brothers and a younger sister. His mother passed away short time after the birth of Lavinia, And since being the youngest of three he was left to care for her. After so many failures in his life maybe this expedition was another chance for him to succeed. Once they leave for the voyage it will be the women who stay at home, and only dream and imagine what an expedition to the arctic would be like. Alexandra, Lavinia’s friend is now staying at the Well’s house to keep Lavinia company, while Erasmus was gone.
As the women can only dream the things that Erasmus and Zeke now experience; although they themselves are longing for some glory or recognition. In this part of the novel the author expresses through the characters that the women didn’t have much rights because they were counted lower than men and one could have little chance to earn the glory and fame as much as men did. As she read a book from one of the Franklin voyages to Lavinia she herself felt sort of “locked up” while the adventurous explorers traveled through the seas. Lavinia too, could only imagine herself there, on the ship with Zeke.
She would give anything to be there. The author reveals more and more about Zeke’s hungry ambition for fame and glory. Zeke’s goal as Erasmus discovers to his cost, is not just to find the Franklin party but be the man who did. He being the commander he was in charge of everything. Now they sailed further through the arctic. There was glaciers every where.
Zeke so far guided the ship with captain Tyler. Everyone has been dependent on his knowledge of the maps. Some of the previous whaling men remembered these grounds from when they went with the whaling vessels.But as they drew nearer they were amazed at the scenes of enormous ice bergs and at the nature in here. They were to make their way through some land passages pulling the ship and between the ice burgs squeezing between, and head up to King William Land, where it is believed that Franklin Ships had gotten lost. The men were already getting tired and worked out by the days work in the below freezing temperature.
Although Zeke lifted their spirits by telling them, stories about Franklin’s men and their adventures, it was the hope of future success that kept them going from day to day. Some times they stopped at some places, to hunt, gather specimen or study the landscapes. The Ships surgeon Dr. Boerhaave, turned out to be a naturist himself.
As Erasmus soon found out he was better educated then him. He said that at one point he had the two jobs on a ship, the surgeon and ship naturist. But he admitted that it was a relief to have one job to focus on better. As they both became friends things on the ship got harder and harder. Soon they found contact.