Captains Courageous

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Captains Courageous is an 1897 novel, by Rudyard Kipling, that follows the adventures of fifteen-year-old Harvey Cheyne Jr., the arrogant and spoiled son of a railroad tycoon.



The title comes from the ballad "Mary Ambree", which starts "When captains courageous, whom death could not daunt". Kipling had already used the same title for an article on businessmen as the new adventurers, published in The Times of 23 Nov. 1892,


Harvey Cheyne is the son of a wealthy railroad magnate raised (and quite thoroughly spoiled) by his over-indulgent parents. Washed overboard from a transatlantic steamship and rescued by fishermen on the Grand Banks, the young Harvey cannot persuade them to take him ashore, nor convince them of his wealth. However, the Captain of the We're Here, Disko Troop, offers him a job as part of the crew until they return to port. With no other choice, Harvey accepts.

There follows a series of trials and adventures where the boy learns to adjust to his rough new life, and with the help of his friend, the captain's son, Dan Troop, he makes fine progress. Eventually, the schooner returns to port and Harvey wires his parents. They rush to the fishing town (Gloucester, Massachusetts) and find to their amazement that their child has become an industrious, serious and considerate young man.

The account (in chapter 9) of their journey from San Diego to Boston is a classic of railway literature. The couple travel in Cheyne's private rail car, the "Constance", taken from San Diego to Chicago as a special train, hauled by sixteen locomotives in succession and taking precedence over 177 other trains. "Two and one-half minutes would be allowed for changing engines; three for watering and two for coaling." The "Constance" is then attached to the scheduled express "New York Limited" to Buffalo. Thence the New York Central takes her to Albany, and finally the Boston and Albany completes the trip to Boston. The entire run takes 87 hours 35 minutes.

Harvey's mother rewards the seaman who initially rescued Harvey. Harvey's father rewards Captain Troop by hiring Dan to work on his prestigious tea clipper fleet, and is delighted at his son's new maturity and their relationship dramatically improves even as Harvey decides to begin his career with his father's shipping lines.

Disko Troop got his forename because he was born on board his father's ship when it was iced in near Disko Island on the west coast of Greenland.


Class differences
Culture differences
Spoiled Child
Rich vs. Poor

Features that may confuse younger readers

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