Excerpt: A Thematic Review of Ship Breaker by Maddie Collart

The dystopian novel ¨Shipbreaker¨ by Paolo Bacigalupi takes place in the futuristic society of the United States. Nailer is a teenager who scavenges ships on Bright Sands Beach. He has always known a rough life. He has the bare minimum of supplies and safety in his life, and most importantly, he has an abusive father. Throughout this book, the author puts emphasis on the theme that every person’s perception of ‘family’ can vary, and can affect how people treat each other. This concept is shown through the different perceptions of the diverse characters in the story and how they change. These characters have lived in different conditions than each other and have grown up with different threats and people around them. All of these issues factor into their perception of ‘family’ and how this important theme is woven throughout the story.

Excerpt: Thematic Essay — Ship Breaker by SL. GG

Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi, is set in a dystopian version of the Americas. The main character, a young boy named Nailer, and his friend Pima are on a scavenge crew. They scour shipwrecks to find anything worth selling. After a hurricane, Nailer and Pima find a ship that has been washed ashore. As no one else has spotted it, they decide to scavenge it and take the loot for themselves. They find many expensive things, a dead crew, and a girl. The girl, Nita, turns out to be alive, and Nailer and Pima rescue her from her ship. Nita proves to be unbelievably wealthy. This difference in social class provides an insight to one of the many themes of this story. Ship Breaker shows that money, or lack thereof, changes the way that people think, perceive the world, and act on these perceptions. This is important to acknowledge because, when interacting with others, we must remember that their backgrounds and the way they view money and class changes the way they behave towards us and others.

Excerpt: Ship Breaker vs. Legend by Solo

In both Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi and Legend by Marie Lu, one major theme is the world that our parents are leaving us is not one anyone should have to live in.

Both texts take place in a world where global warming and destruction of land have significantly affected the day to day routine. In Legend large chunks of America are missing, submerged under floods. The floods are a result of the ice caps melting, something that is most likely going to happen in the near future for the real world. In Ship Breaker hurricanes bombard every shore of the world, caused by an increase in ocean temperature. New Orleans specifically has been destroyed and rebuilt more than 3 times after being destroyed by hurricanes. The gulf islands would usually protect New Orleans, but they were destroyed by companies drilling for oil. Both these examples show what could happen to our world if we keep treating it the way we are right now. Another thing that both the dystopian novels share is the significant poor population. The

impoverished people that we meet in Legend live in a place called the Lake district. We also hear of large impoverished populations in many other districts, but there are only several wealthy districts. The large majority of people in the world are impoverished in today’s world, but Marie Lu makes it seem like the ratio in Legend is far more one sided. To add on to that, the government in Legend manufactures plagues, and tests them on the poor people, rapidly killing thousands. In Ship Breaker we meet there is one main population of poor people we hear about. The majority of people there work scavenging ships for any precious metal and barely scrape by, usually going without meals several days. Companies buy the metal and transport it different places for money, which is very profitable, while the people in the ship breaking yards get fraction of fraction of what the companies earn. At one point, Nailer finds a wealthy girl in a crashed ship who is still alive. One of her earrings alone would cost years of work in the ship breaking yards. This shows how willingly the wealthy people throw around their money, while the poor are barely surviving.

But something both texts do differently is the relationship between the rich and the poor. In Legend the rich and the poor share borders living in close proximity. The wealthy people are educated about the poor and know they exist, and are extremely impoverished and often barely surviving every day. But they still do nothing. The rich people often completely ignore the poor, not helping them, and often hurting them, not caring about their lifestyle. In Ship Breaker the relationship is the opposite. The wealthy are completely uneducated about the blood work that goes on in the ship breaking yards. The most wealthy person in Bright Sands Beach, the place where Nailer lives, is someone who was part of the yards until they found and extremely valuable pocket of oil, and snuck it out for himself and sold it. Besides that, no one even remotely wealthy knows about what goes on, or lives nearby. Nita, the wealthy girl Nailer finds, shows complete ignorance to what goes on. She is the daughter to the man who owns one of the companies that buys the scrap for recycling, and think that the company is completely clean, even though they are theoretically buying blood. Both living in range of a large impoverished population and not doing anything, and living in complete ignorance are detrimental and negatively impact society.

In their dystopian texts, both Paolo Bacigalupi and Marie Lu do a phenomenal job highlighting what our world can become. It’s important to remember that the health of the earth is fast approaching a steep decline, and doing whatever you can do stop that is beneficial and needed.