Isn’t it interesting how a story’s setting subtly sets the tone and mood for the reader? Yes, I said for the reader. Readers are unconsciously affected by settings. They envelope the mind like a magical blanket and create feelings that are aligned with the place.
Jim Lynch writes, “As a writer, I’m driven by settings. Others are driven by characters or predicaments but with me, settings come first.”
To that point, I am slowly reading a book called Two Years before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana. It is a narrative that he wrote in 1840 which tells about his adventures aboard a merchant ship that specializes in the collection of hides. He leaves from Boston and takes time away from Harvard due to a case of the measles.
His ship, The Pilgrim, passes through Cape Horn at the bottom of South America. I was reminded of a bit of information from a dear writer-friend who once lived in South Africa. She told about healing effects of the horn or Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa which seems to blow away physical distresses.
The narrator’s health improves after he travels around Cape Horn. Once they return to North America, they spend over a year going up and down the California coast as they work in different ports.
Dana describes the ports, the people, the various tribesmen, the shipmates and daily work details. I feel as if I am aboard taking it all in because he writes with such precision and clarity.
I read just a little each night and just like the ship, I do not feel hurried or rushed to finish this tale. He has been traveling for over a year now. He has even changed ships and finally, they are about to head back to Boston. So, perhaps, I will pick up the pace with them as he anxiously heads home.
But, like the setting, this has been a book that I have stretched out over the months as I read other works with a greater sense of urgency. This one, however, has been a calm, insightful read and like the sea and those on the ship, I have taken my time to savor every word and wave!
Lynn M. November 5, 2017