The journal of Adam Ewing, begins on November 7th in the mid nineteenth century on the Chatham Island, southeast of New Zealand.
One day Adam Ewing, a Californian notary, happens upon Dr. Goose, “a White man,” (4) shoveling and sifting through sand on the beaches of Chatham Island. Goose explains he is looking for human teeth that had once belonged to the victims of cannibals. He hopes to collect enough to make a pair of dentures for a Marchioness who had blackened his reputation in London medical circles. Dismayed by the doctor’s odd behavior, Ewing departs.
Back in his temporary room at the Musket, Ewing watches from his window as the Prophetess, the ship he is traveling on, is fixed at the docks. He hopes they will make sail to Hawaii soon. The next day, Ewing has breakfast with Dr. Goose and recants his initial impression of the man, finding him to be both entertaining, good company, and one of the only other gentlemen on the Island. Goose is at the Musket awaiting passage on a ship set for Australia. Ewing spends most of his time with Goose, playing chess and taking walks. The young notary tells the doctor about his wife, Tilda, and their son, Jackson; of the gold fever that has taken over San Francisco, his hometown; and of his business in New South Wales, settling the estate of a client.
The following day Ewing and Goose set out for the local settlement after hearing a strange humming sound. The settlement is composed of huts fashioned from branches with dirt floors. The villagers are gathered in the center of the settlement where a public flogging takes place. Ewing is startled to realize the humming is coming from the villagers who hum in approval of the flogging. The prisoner is obviously in pain but he wears the face of martyr. He stares into Ewing’s eyes as is he whipped and there is a moment of recognition between them, yet Ewing has never seen the man before. Ewing inquires after the prisoner’s crimes but he is taken away by Goose who states “come Adam, a wise man does not step betwixt the beast and his meat” (7).
The following morning, Ewing awakes early to celebrate the Sabbath, only to find a rudimentary party had begun among some of the crew of the Prophetess including Mr. Boerhaave, the first mate. Local women were hired as prostitutes. Ewing is disgusted by Boerhaave and the “garter snakes” (8) of the Musket. He escapes to a nearby chapel.
The congregation is slim and their faith dictated more by the whims of Mr. Evans than of any set theology. Ewing accepts an invitation to dinner from Mr. Evans and his wife for later that night. Goose also attends and the dinner party speak of various topics including the decline of the Aboriginals of the Islands, which fascinates Ewing.
No one knows the true origin of the Moriori tribe and how they came to inhabit the Chatman Islands. Mrs. Evans suspects they were once of the Maori tribe but were lost or separated from their kin. Strong similarities and mythologies support her theory but Mr. Evans is not convinced. He relates that the Moriori had for centuries abided by their own faith-based moral code which dictated a strict set of rules and punishments. For instance, if one Moriori killed another, the murderer would be shunned from the tribe. The individual could not survive without the support of the group and would either die of exposure or commit suicide. The Moriori, as a whole were peaceful, their sole focus was the preservation of their soul or mana and had lived such an isolated life, knowing not the “white man” or his diseases, they welcomed the first English settlers. Later the sealers arrived and destroyed the Moriori’s seal population. The Whalers arrived soon after and the rats on their ships brought unheard of diseases to the Moriori, whose population began to falter.
The greatest blow to the peaceful tribe came when the Maori, a neighboring war-like tribe, provoked the Moriori by desecrating their holy sites. The Moriori refused to fight and were eventually overcome by the Maori and made into slaves. Only a hundred remained of the original tribe, the others brutally killed by the Maori, some of whom had been cooked and eaten. Deeply disturbed yet intrigued, Ewing was pleased to know the Evans were eager to help the Moriori when they were able to through prayer and their missionary.
Goose, who had acted as a physician in “FeeJee” at a Christian mission, felt the Moriori and other similar races were meant to die out instead of prolonging their existence with false promises. “More humane, surely & more honest, just to knock the slaves on the head & get it over with?” (17).
Two days later Captain (Cpt.) Molyneux asks Goose to travel on the Prophetess as the ship’s physician to the great delight of Ewing who suffers from a mysterious stomach ailment and hopes the doctor will treat him aboard the ship. The following day Ewing falls during his exploration of the island and stumbles down a steep incline and into a crater full of hundreds of faces made from tree bark. Frozen and distorted the faces disturb Ewing greatly as he theorized he was probably the only white man to have ever come across the ancient idols. He chose to leave the place and the idols behind, untouched. Before he could gain his footing on the steep climb up, he saw a pulsating heart impaled on a pike, as if in warning. A salamander was the cause of the pulsing but Ewing was too frightened to investigate and quickly ascended the hill.
A footnote from Jackson, Ewing’s son, who published his father’s journal, indicates that his father never spoke of the idols he found on the island and that the Moriori race is now extinct.
Soon after Ewing is in his “coffin” or his cabin onboard the Prophetess set out for Honolulu with Dr. Goose, who has agreed to travel with them and to diagnose Ewing’s mysterious ailment which has begun to trouble him daily. The crew, led by Torgny from Sweden, asks Ewing to draw them a map of California and indicate where all of the gold is hidden. Boerhaave interrupts their discussion, punishes Torgny and threatens to throw Ewing overboard into shark filled waters if he ever interferes with the crew again. Ewing vows not to get on the wrong side of Boerhaave, the bully.
The next night Ewing discovers a stowaway in his cabin, Autua, the same Moriori who had been flogged. Autua pleads with Ewing, who he considers a good and honest man, to help him. Autua is an able seamen but feared the crew of the the Prophetess would throw him overboard. Ewing brings Autua food and asks why he was being flogged to which Autua says he has seen too much of the world and is not a good slave. He had traveled as a sailor away from his people only to return to find his family enslaved by the Maori. Beaten into submission, he had strength of spirit and escaped several times. His most recent acts of disobedience had earned him the flogging Ewing witnessed. Autua believes Ewing can save him and asks him to talk to Cpt. Molyneux, which Ewing does with much reluctance.
As a result, the captain tasks Autua with lowering the midmast, a difficult feat for one man, but he is able to do and demonstrates his prowess as a crewman. The captain is impressed and after some negotiation, Autua is accepted into the crew.
In the meantime Dr. Goose diagnoses Ewing’s ailment as a parasite and beings to administer a treatment making Ewing sicker than ever before. Goose makes a remark about Ewing’s birthmark, in the shape of comet on his chest. Autua is grateful to Ewing and hopes he will have the opportunity to save Ewing’s life some day. Goose believes races should not mix in friendship and deters Ewing form interacting with Autua.
Rafael, a sixteen-year-old Australian, joined the crew of the Prophetess six weeks previously. Ewing notices that the once joyful and excited teen has grown sullen and withdrawn. Ewing sympathizes with Rafael as he too was once sponsored by others in the hopes of obtaining a better future. Ewing wants to be a mentor to Rafael but the youth is acting strangely. He asks Finbar, another crew member, if Rafael is fitting in well with the others and Finbar cryptically replies “Fitting what in well, Mr. Ewing?” (39).
Goose’s treatments have turned Ewing’s eyes yellow. He begins to take vermicide in larger doses but his aliment still troubles him.
Sunday December 8th marks the last passage of Ewing’s journal in the first section of Cloud Atlas. The journal entry details Ewing’s morning with Goose during a Bible reading and is cut off mid sentence with no explanation.
Analysis of The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing Section One
The whole of Cloud Atlas begins and ends with Ewing’s journey from the Chatman Islands to Hawaii. The novel’s untraditional structure emphasizes the importance of the setting of Ewing’s sections as a reflection of the changes his character undergoes as the story progresses. Ewing begins his journey from San Francisco to New South Wales as a naive notary who works hard for the benefit of his family. Once he arrives on the Chatman Islands he is an outsider observing his surroundings with a curious eye. As the plot progresses Ewing’s character moves from a passive observer in the fist section to an active participant in the second.
The first section of The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing also serves to introduce Dr. Goose and Autua who serve the dual purpose of being foils of one another in characterization and in supporting two main themes of the novel, deception and reincarnation. When Ewing first meets Goose he finds the doctor digging for human teeth on the beach. Goose remarks that he wants to make a set of dentures for a highborn woman who tried to ruin his professional reputation in London, immediately indicating his proclivity for revenge and suggesting he is not the well respected doctor he presents himself to be. Ewing dismisses his original assessment of Goose once they become friends but it is evident that the doctor is not the upright citizen be pretends to be, especially when he reveals his low opinions of the aboriginals at the Evans’ dinner party. Autua, a Moriori is intelligent and resourceful and able to integrate himself into an all white crew through hard work and determination. Ewing feels an unconscious and unexplainable connection to Autua as if they had somehow known one other in a different life. Autua instinctively knew he could trust Ewing and is grateful to him for helping him prosper on the Prophetess. Their connection hints at the theme of reincarnation which links the other sections of the novel together. In this section reincarnation is used as a mystical conduit, uniting two potential friends. Goose, continuing his need for deception, tries to turn Ewing against Autua fearing the implications of their friendship in relation to Goose’s medical ministrations concerning Ewing’s ailment. Note that Ewing’s health at the end of Section One is starting to deteriorate.
In the meantime he writes in his journal of his life at sea. As noted, each section of Cloud Atlas differs not only in tone and narration but especially in structure. The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing is written in journal or diary format, beginning each entry with a date and describing in formal detail the intricacies of Ewing’s day. Jackson’s brief footnote about the extinction of the Moriori indicates to the reader that the journal has been published post humorously by the author’s son. Later, in Letters from Zedelghem the reader will encounter Ewing’s journal in its final form when Robert Frobisher, the main character of the Second Section of Cloud Atlas reads about Ewing’s adventure.
As a narrator Ewing is honest, he professes his distain for Boerhaave and the “garter snakes,” a reference to sinners. He does not empathize with Autua and the Moriori at first, finding their situation distasteful and preferring the company of Goose, who is not all he appears to be. Ewing’s naivety is camouflaged by his propriety and a undistinguished faith, presumably Christian as indicated by his and Goose’s bible readings. Ewing’s honest account of his journey appeals to the Cloud Atlas reader as so many of the other narrators are dubious in their intent.
The language used in this section reflects Ewing’s innocence as the passive observer and serves as an indication of the time period. Note Ewing’s use of the abbreviations of “Cpt.” and “Dr.” a continuous reference to the social status of his companions while keeping with nineteenth century writing style which usually distinguishing characters of rank. Ewing also uses the abbreviation of “Mr. and Mrs.” as a formal sign of respect for those he is not familiar with such as the Evans. Such a distinction is a mark of the times, as is Ewing’s tendency to spells words phonetically such as “Fee Jee,” another common trait of language used in travel journals during the ninetieth century.