Vandover and the Mazatlan (Group 1)

In the slides, I brought up Vandover’s time at sea on Mazatlan, but there’s much, much more to say about that trip.  It’s the most dramatic action in the novel and is a pivot, sitting near the middle of it. Like the Imperial, the Mazatlan is, in part, a physical manifestation of Vandover’s consciousness, a chamber of his mind brought to vivid life in the world of the book.  Pick a paragraph or so where you learned something about Vandover’s frame of mind from his time on the ship. Include that brief passage from Vandover in your post and tell us in a paragraph what you found in it.  If people want to write about the same passage, that’s fine, but everyone who does that should offer new observations.

2 thoughts on “Vandover and the Mazatlan (Group 1)

  1. Madison Brito

    “She started to follow him and the boom of the foremast, which the accident had in some way loosened, swung across the deck at the same moment. Vandover was already out f its path but it struck the young woman squarely across the back. She dropped in a heap on the deck, then her body slowly straightened out, stiff and rigid, her eyes rapidly opened the shut, and a great puff of white froth slowly started from her mouth. Vandover ran forward and lifted her up, but her back was broken; she was already dead. He rose to his feet exclaiming to himself, “But she was so sure – she knew she was going to be saved,” then suddenly fell silent again, gazing wonderingly at the body, disturbed, very thoughtful.” (Kindle version, 85-86)

    First and foremost, I think Vandover’s frame of mind regarding death comes through in this passage; he gazes with ‘wonder’ at the body, and yes he is disturbed, but also thoughtful? When I read this, I felt nauseous. If I were in this situation, I would probably throw up. And yet, it makes Vandover pensive and seemingly ponder at life with awe, not with horror. He seems to be looking at her like she is a thing of beauty, and it is as if being disturbed in this instance would be referring to him being a ‘disturbed,’ generally bothered person rather than in a transient state of terror. There also seem to be some parallels here to his reaction to Ida’s death. He was only capable of thinking about himself and was more concerned with how he’d be implicated. He was not really thinking about the loss of this woman (or even his potential child, for that matter). Perhaps there is something Freudian about all of this, as his mother died when he was a child. Can he not process grief regarding women in a proper manner? (But then again, what is the ‘proper’ way to process death). Maybe wonder is how the ‘primal’ man reacts to death?

  2. Karianne Laird

    “It surprised him that he could find occasion to be bored so soon after what had happened; but he no longer wished to occupy his mind by brooding over anything so disagreeable and wanted some sort of amusement to divert and entertain him. Vandover had so accustomed himself to that kind of self-indulgence that he could not go long without it. It had become a simple necessity for him to be amused, and just now he thought himself justified in seeking it in order to forget about Ida’s death. He had dwelt upon this now for nearly four days, until it had come to be some sort of a formless horror that it was necessary to avoid.”

    I think Vandover’s ability to ignore this terrible thing he has done says much about his character. To him 4 days agonizing about his part in the death of Ida, is enough. Despite wanting to become a better person after realizing the horrible thing he has done, he does not seem disciplined enough or willing enough to actually follow through. When he is faced with reality, he is too self indulgent to ever make a sacrifice for anyone else. He even surprises himself with how quickly he is over his period of mourning – but it no longer surprises the reader. At this point I was past hoping for Vandover’s character to develop. He seems to only care about his own animalistic impulses, despite knowing the harm he creates. He very much seems to use Darwinism to justify his own poor actions. This can be seen in his logic that if he doesn’t sleep with Ida (making Ida a ruined woman), someone else will. Similarly, the scene on the sinking boat where he grabs the life vest for himself is emblematic of his “survival of the fittest” mentality.

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