The Toilers of the Sea

Choose a literary character who experienced a great personal struggle or challenge. Briefly describe this challenge and how the character overcame it. Why did this have an impact on you? Are there ways in which you identify with this character?

One hundred and forty-eight years ago, in the midst of exile on the island of Guernsey, Victor Hugo narrated these words – “Whatever the goal may be, in earth or in heaven, the whole secret lies in proceeding to that goal” – in his novel The Toilers of the Sea. Hugo was well aware of the struggle to achieve goals and overcome challenges; he spent much of his life dedicated to advocating for social and political reform, as well as enduring the consequences of his words and actions. Portraying such perseverance and fortitude is the character Gilliatt, protagonist of The Toilers of the Sea.

Gilliatt is a societal pariah, desperately attempting to win the affections of Deruchette, the beautiful yet shallow niece of the first steamboat owner on the island. When Deruchette’s uncle Mess. Lethierry promises his niece’s hand in marriage to any man able to retrieve the valuable engine belonging to his steamboat the Durande, which has been destroyed against the cliffs in a storm, Gilliatt’s fixation with Deruchette consumes him, and he embarks on the hazardous journey full of hope. Living in the cliffs for weeks, Gilliatt survives terrible thirst and hunger, vicious weather, and a horrifying sea monster with only his fathomless love of...

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