Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas Summary and Analysis of The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (Section Two)

Ewing’s journal begins mid-sentence, where the first section was left off presumably because the character Robert Frobisher of the “Letters from Zedelghem” sections, has resumed reading the journal).

Ewing and Goose cut short their Bible study to go ashore to Cape Nazareth on the coast of New Zealand to visit a mission with Cpt. Molyneux. Ewing suspects the captain is not interested in worship. Once ashore, Ewing is fascinated by the crude dwellings on stilts near the water, inhabited by the islands’ recently christened Natives. Cape Nazareth appears deserted until Ewing and company realize all of its inhabitants are at church. Their reception is lukewarm. Ewing is quick to note only a third of the congregation is White, the rest are a mix of Native and Black.

Giles Horrox, the preacher of Bethlehem Bay and Cape Nazareth introduces himself and welcomes Ewing and his associates, inviting them to dine with his family. Horrox’s wife is pleased to have company and tells Ewing her husband built most of Nazareth with his bare hands. Horrox relates the success of his missionary to the beauty of his craftsmanship which he attributes to God. The Natives were so captivated by his gift of carpentry, they became curious about Horrox’s faith and were eventually converted. A pox on the Native population also influenced their decision to convert to Christianity as the baptized Whites did not seem to be afflicted by the disease.

Molyneux’s inquiries about the local economy reveal Horrox has established a tidy starch and coca-nut oil trade. The Natives (a free people under the British government who ruled Polynesia at the time of Ewing’s writings) worked the land, earning small salaries. Molyneux proposes Horrox use his vessel to ship supplies to the United States. Ewing supports Molyneux’s broad assumptions that California, due to the rise in population as a result of the current Gold Rush, would be a good place to begin trade relations in America. Horrox hesitates, clearly uneasy with Molyneux’s proposition but eventually removes his clergyman’s collar and conducts business behind closed doors.

Goose is visited by the inhabitants of the island in need of medical attention, especially the women (both Native and White) who seek his counsel. Ewing goes back to the church to find an impromptu service of Native male youths who pray while they smoke and joke with one another. Mr. Wagstaff, a young Englishman, introduces himself and tells Ewing that Horrox and the other missionaries encourage the young Natives to smoke in the hopes that they will become addicted to the product and want to work the land to earn money to buy more tobacco from the mission’s trading post.

After the smoking school, as Ewing calls it, is dismissed he walks with Wagstaff to his home. There Ewing meets the disagreeable Mrs. Wagstaff and her son Daniel, a wild, naked thirteen-year-old only interested in playing with his Native and Black playmates. Ewing is surprised to note the number of mix-raced children among them. Wagstaff is unable to control his stepson and apologizes to Ewing, suggesting he is very miserable and unhappy in his marriage and believes he is a poor father. Mrs. Wagstaff is quick to agree with him.

Ewing turns the conversation to theology to distract Wagstaff whose melancholy is contagious. Ewing also notes how difficult it is for him to catch his breath on his walk and attributes it to his “worm” or stomach ailment. Wagstaff reports that the Natives have now been so assimilated into the White culture of Polynesia that they do not remember the names of their Gods. He predicts that one day Christianity will endure a similar fate.

The same night Ewing attends another dinner party at the Horrox’s home and enters into a debate about the “civilizing world.” Horrox theorizes that God manifests himself not through miracles but through progress. He equates progress with industry and those who excel at it like rungs on a ladder. Each rung represents a race of people. The top rung belongs to the Anglo-Saxons, the most efficient industry makers and as such are obligated to help races lower on the rungs of progress. Horrox deems Australian Aboriginals and various peoples of Africa, the lowest members on the ladder and suggests their populations need thinning in order to maintain order. Goose in turn proposes that natural order plays a much larger role in race relations stating “the weak are meat the strong do eat” (489) and that the Anglo-Saxon or Ayran race rules the world out of greed and a need for dominance, which consequently is disguised as progress. He concludes his argument by stating he is glad he is on the winning side.

The next day Ewing visits with Wagstaff as he oversees the Native workers on the church’s planation, plucking weeds. Wagstaff carries a whip but does not often use it, turning disciplinary actions over to three guards, all Native, who lead the group in song and reprimanded slackers. Wagstaff sagely says “You’re thinking, aren’t you, that we’ve made slaves out of free people?” (491) and compares the acts of the White man over the Natives to a colony of ants that steals eggs from another colony and turns the hatchlings to slaves. Yet, he is quick to point out, the slaves themselves do not realize they are stolen and have never known true freedom. Wagstaff believes God has crafted the ants as a model against the evils of slavery for those wise enough to realize it. Ewing is dismayed by Wagstaff’s blunt observations but takes into consideration the depths of his meaning.

Ewing departs and goes to the local school and is entertained by the schoolchildren, mostly mixed-raced. The only difference in the curriculum is an additional three hours of tutelage for the White children; whereas the Black and Native children join their parents in the fields after school. Before the school day closes Ewing is asked by if ants get headaches. The question startles him although he is unsure why. Ewing and his associates of the Prophetess soon return to their ship.

Upon arrival to his cabin Ewing discovers that someone has tried to break into his trunk. Thankfully he wears the key around his neck and the burglar was unsuccessful. Goose tells him not to report the incident to the Captain as it will raise the suspicions of every thief onboard as to what is in the trunk.

Mid-December finds Ewing with increasing headaches and a weak immune system. He can barely support himself on deck to watch a nursery of humpback whales pass the ship. His joints begin to swell and his “worm” worsens. Goose ups his daily dosage of vermicide but it does not appear to be helping. Ewing wishes he could turn into an ant to escape the agony of his headaches. Ewing develops, what he believes to be, a stomach bug and has sever diarrhea. He is dismissive of Rafael, the young Australian seamen, when he approaches Ewing outside the bathroom for advice. Ewing wants to help Rafael, who he believes is a kindred spirit, but his ailment prevents him.

The following day Ewing is devastated to find the body of Rafael, who hung himself from the ship’s mainmast. No one will discuss the boy’s suicide except Goose, who is equally curious and upset by the turn of events. Ewing soon learns Rafael had been repeatedly raped by Boerhaave and his “garter snakes” (499) for months. Despite Goose’s protests and his own growing weakness, Ewing demands an inquiry into Rafael’s death. The captain refutes his claims and dismisses the notion that Boerhaave or anyone else onboard sodomized Rafael. Ewing departs the Captain’s rooms and runs into Boerhaave, who said he doesn’t want to be near Ewing, who has the stink of death upon him.

Ewing is not afraid of Boerhaave and a new courage comes upon him, although he is deeply grieved over Rafeal’s death and believes he could have stopped it had he taken the time to speak to Rafael when the boy approached him the other day. Goose encourages Ewing to write in his journal to unburden his mind but Ewing’s health is rapidly declining and he is soon confined to his bed. Goose, his ever present nursemaid, vows to stay by his side till the end.

Accepting that his death is near Ewing makes Goose promise to deliver his journal to his family in California. He writes to his son, Jackson, and wife, Tilda, but does not finish his December 30th entry, presumably because he is too weak to write.

The date of the next entry, January 12th, finds Ewing recovering in a Catholic nunnery after Autua saved his life from the treacherous Goose. Backtracking Ewing explains that Goose had been poisoning him since they boarded the Prophetess in the hopes of killing Ewing and breaking into his trunk to obtain the documents of an estate settlement in Australia. By the time Ewing realized he was being poisoned it was too late. He could not move: Goose gloated over Ewing’s body, explaining that he needed money and had killed Ewing for it with no remorse. As a surgeon, he viewed most people, including Ewing, as only meat and bone. Claiming the world is a wicked place where Whites prey on Blacks, Maori prey on Moriori, Christians on infidels, and first mates on cabin boys. “The weak are meat the strong do eat”( 503). To Goose’s dismay, Ewing’s trunk offered little bounty and he left the notary to die.

Ewing remembers very little of his rescue. He recalls hearing Autua screaming at Goose to let him in the cabin and being refused. Later he remembers cold water being thrown on him and an uncomfortable journey ashore, where Autua carried him to the nunnery for treatment. When he is well again, Ewing thanks Autua for saving his life. Autua says he would not have been able to had Ewing not saved his life first.

Ten days pass and Autua cares for Ewing. Captain Molyneux sends Ewing’s personal belongings ashore with the news that Goose has escaped. Ewing is cheered by the school children who visit him in his sickbed, singing songs to him and making funny faces above his head. He observes that the children represent a multitude of races. He watches them play peacefully together and vows to dedicate his life to the Aboriginal cause in the hopes of creating a better world for his own son to inherit.

Cloud Atlas concludes with Ewing’s philosophical insights on the future of the world’s civilization. He suggests that the innate goodness within humanity will save the human race over time, to act contrary to that belief will be detrimental to the entire species and planet. He warns the White race against becoming purely predatory as it will consume itself and destroy all that it has built through acts of selfishness. He knows others will refute his beliefs as they will at times harasses, belittle, and later praise him for daring to change the natural order and does not fear that his life will amount to nothing “ more than one drop in a limitless ocean.” He now believes that his life and those of everyone else’s, both past and present, make up pieces of one whole, just as the ocean itself is made up of “a multitude of drops” (509).

Analysis The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing Section Two

Section Two of The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, finds the main character in a downward spiral as his health and circumstances deteriorate. Ewing has fallen victim to Goose’s deception and has allowed the doctor authority over his treatment for his stomach ailment. Goose claims Ewing suffers from a intestinal parasite and administers vermicide to kill the worm. Unfortunately for Ewing, Goose is not curing but killing him in doses. Ewing’s shorter passages after their trip to Cape Nazareth and the description of his symptoms indicate that he is too ill to write, yet his perception of his circumstances begins to change after the death of Rafael. Ewing feels a kinship toward the young man and wants to take him under his wing but his illness prevents him from doing so. He watches as the young man becomes sullen and withdrawn and later blames himself for Rafael’s suicide. As Goose points out, the dominant have power over the weak just as he was able to manipulate Ewing and Boerhaave was able to abuse and rape Rafael. These acts of dominance, a prevalent theme in the novel, greatly influence Ewing’s decision to help the aboriginal and abolitionist causes. It is saddening to note that both Ewing’s causes will eventually fail.

Within the context of Cloud Atlas the reader is aware of the slavery that existed within An Orison of Sonmi-451 and Sloosha’s Crossin’: An’ Ev’rythi’ After, both of which take place structurally before Ewing’s last section but occur later chronologically. There are also a number of similarities between the Moriori and the Valleymen of Sloosha’s Crossin’: An’ Ev’rythi’ After. Both groups are primitive in nature and faith based. They exist outside of the “modern” world and are guided by their own rules until another more dominate group suppresses them as the Maori did to the Moriori and the Kona to the Valleymen. Both the Moriori and the Valleymen center their belief system on the importance of the preservation of souls or “mana” yet emphasize the importance of the community over the individual. The icons that Ewing stumbles upon in the first section of his journal are very similar in appearance to the markers in the Icon’ry in the Valley. Ewing does not remove or touch the icons he encounters, demonstrating his respect, and perhaps a fear, of the Moriori. Meronym, similarly, does not disturb the Valleymen’s icons when she visit’s the Icon’ry and if Zachry’s theory is correct, then Meronym is the final reincarnation of the shared soul of the majority of the main characters. Their reverence for others comes full circle as Meronym tries to find a safe haven for her people while saving Zachry, the last of the Valleymen just as Ewing saved Autua, the last free Moriori. It is interesting to note that Robert Frobisher had finished the second section of Ewing’s journal shortly before he committed suicide, familiarizing himself with Ewing’s actions and perhaps transitioning Ewing’s hopes and beliefs into his next life, who in turn will did the same.

The characters on Cape Nazareth offer a bleaker yet historically accurate account of the future of the aboriginals. Mr. Horrox’s theory of the ladder of progress suggests it is the responsibility of the Anglo-Saxons or Whites to help races lower on the rungs of progress to prosper by adopting the religions and practices of the dominate race. The settlement of Cape Nazareth is a fictional representation of the many missionary towns of Australia and New Zealand whose sole purpose was to convert the aboriginals or Natives and to save them from themselves. The author uses Mr. Horrox’s skill at carpentry and the names of “Cape Nazareth” and “Bethlehem Bay” as a crude association with Jesus Christ and his ministry of salvation. Historically the missionaries served to either extinguish the native cultures entirely or to create subcultures that existed alongside white settlements, such as the Maori, who refused to bow to White dominance. Ewing chides Horrox for not making more of an effort to help the Moriori to which Goose counters that isn’t it kinder to kill off the weakest races so they do not suffer over a period of time? Goose is speaking of slavery but also of disease and war all of which the Moriori experienced at the hands of first the white settlers and later the Maori. Ewing is disturbed by Goose’s “the weak are meat the strong do eat” theory but does not voice his opinions, yet.

Wagstaff’s view of slavery, as illustrated through his anecdote about the ants, influence’s Ewing’s perception of the many tiers of enslavement and he begins to sympathize with the Native cause. Wagstaff, who is unhappy with his life in Cape Nazareth, feels a kinship with the Native population because he too feels his life is out of his control, especially concerning domestic matters. He explains to Ewing that the Natives do not know they are enslaved and that they work to pay off their debt to Horrox and those in the missionary who provide them with addictive substances, like tobacco, as an incentive to work longer and become more dependant upon the missionary for their livelihood. Is Wagstaff’s message, David Mitchell’s veiled attempt on social commentary concerning economic structure? Perhaps. Yet it is better illustrated in An Orison of Sonmi-451 when the main character slowly uncovers the deception of her government over its people on a variety of matters, including the enslavement of the unwitting fabricants.

Interestingly, the real-life descendants of the Maori have a long history of hate and resentment toward the British who settled in New Zealand and pushed the Maori off their lands. Despite attempts to assimilate the Maori into mainstream culture the majority remain separate to this day and find it difficult to integrate the beliefs of their ancestors with those of the New Zealanders.

Ewing’s optimism at the end of Section Two offers not only hope toward the aboriginal and abolitionist causes of the ninetieth century but also neatly connects the six sections of the novel by stating that all lives, past and present, are tied together through the shared experience of living life on this earth. It is a broad, all encompassing ending, yet through Mitchell’s beautiful and poetic language the reader is left with a feeling of contentment. The use of the ocean imagery, that begins and ends the novel, fluidly illustrates the depth of Mitchell’s meaning without overpowering his core message of connectedness. The last sentence of the novel “…your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean! Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops” (508) is a reference to the shared soul of the main characters and their collective experiences on earth and an encouraging message to the reader to achieve their own goals for the betterment of the collective experience of life on earth.