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Sax Solo
Feb 17, 2011



Nuclear War posted:

He is not a nice person. having juat gone through the audiobooks up to 18, i genuinely dont like him much anymore. different times or no. Jack's a different matter

Yeah Stephen becomes rather self-absorbed and complacent, and kinda drifts away from being in love with Jack. This could be more tolerable if we got equal time w/ Jack, but the books become more and more just what Stephen thinks and does, and we stop getting Jack's POV -- so in the books we also feel like we're losing Jack too, or only seeing him through Stephens (often uncharitable) eyes, e.g. a Stephen who very much wants to let us know that his daughter is beautiful and brilliant, not like Jack's fat stupid kids. The growing undercurrent of Stephen having surpassed Jack, or the books becoming 100% about Stephen's life and 0% about Jack's, was so strong to me that I had a dream of the culmination of their friendship, where Jack and Stephen get marooned on an ice floe, and Stephen cuts open Jack like a tauntaun for warmth, feeling only a mild fond gratitude for this last bit of friendship from his useless uninteresting old friend.

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Raskolnikov2089
Nov 3, 2006
Schizzy to the matic

Lockback posted:

it is easy to miss it.

That's pretty much most of O'Brian's prose. It taught me to be a much more careful reader.

uPen
Jan 25, 2010

Zu Rodina!

Raskolnikov2089 posted:

That's pretty much most of O'Brian's prose. It taught me to be a much more careful reader.

I notice something new every time I reread. Latest was Jack casually correcting Stephen that a Xebec is in fact not a Frigate while absorbing the whole tens of thousands of bees in my cabin situation.

freebooter
Jul 7, 2009

AUSTRALIA
NEEDS
TURNBULL


Just finished The Letter of Marque. What's the deal with Stephen and Padeen hiding Stephen's freshly laundered shirts on top of the wardrobe (I think that's what they're doing?) and being ashamed when the maid catches them?

Also I love how Stephen is an exceptionally intelligent and perceptive man, yet still utterly capable of deluding himself that he doesn't have a problem with opium.

Kaiser Schnitzel
Mar 28, 2006

Schnitzel mit uns






Sax Solo posted:

Yeah Stephen becomes rather self-absorbed and complacent, and kinda drifts away from being in love with Jack. This could be more tolerable if we got equal time w/ Jack, but the books become more and more just what Stephen thinks and does, and we stop getting Jack's POV -- so in the books we also feel like we're losing Jack too, or only seeing him through Stephens (often uncharitable) eyes, e.g. a Stephen who very much wants to let us know that his daughter is beautiful and brilliant, not like Jack's fat stupid kids. The growing undercurrent of Stephen having surpassed Jack, or the books becoming 100% about Stephen's life and 0% about Jack's, was so strong to me that I had a dream of the culmination of their friendship, where Jack and Stephen get marooned on an ice floe, and Stephen cuts open Jack like a tauntaun for warmth, feeling only a mild fond gratitude for this last bit of friendship from his useless uninteresting old friend.
I've not read the last few books lately or often, but I think some of it too is that as Jack rises higher in command and on larger ships, he becomes more distant. He's worried about it and talks about the loneliness of the captain's position often in earlier books-everyone has to laugh at your jokes, and nobody is your equal. As he ages and becomes more senior, he becomes more and more the figurehead of the Captain of Any Ship and less the man Jack Aubrey.

Sax Solo
Feb 17, 2011



freebooter posted:

Just finished The Letter of Marque. What's the deal with Stephen and Padeen hiding Stephen's freshly laundered shirts on top of the wardrobe (I think that's what they're doing?) and being ashamed when the maid catches them?

I think it's that Stephen and Padeen just got done sealing up the trunk, and they don't want to re-do it, so they hide the freshly cleaned and pressed shirts, getting them immediately filthy with dust and newsprint.

Genghis Cohen
Jun 29, 2013


Sax Solo posted:

Yeah Stephen becomes rather self-absorbed and complacent, and kinda drifts away from being in love with Jack. This could be more tolerable if we got equal time w/ Jack, but the books become more and more just what Stephen thinks and does, and we stop getting Jack's POV -- so in the books we also feel like we're losing Jack too, or only seeing him through Stephens (often uncharitable) eyes, e.g. a Stephen who very much wants to let us know that his daughter is beautiful and brilliant, not like Jack's fat stupid kids. The growing undercurrent of Stephen having surpassed Jack, or the books becoming 100% about Stephen's life and 0% about Jack's, was so strong to me that I had a dream of the culmination of their friendship, where Jack and Stephen get marooned on an ice floe, and Stephen cuts open Jack like a tauntaun for warmth, feeling only a mild fond gratitude for this last bit of friendship from his useless uninteresting old friend.

Holy poo poo dude. I think that's a pretty harsh reading of it. I agree that the POV focuses a lot on Stephen in the later cycles. Is it because Aubrey becomes more the 'great man' with high responsibilities? I'm tempted to think it's just because Maturin has more of the author in him.

Maturin is introspective but I think his relationship with Aubrey remains just as affectionate. There are points which demonstrate this even very late in the series, such as his delivery of Jack's elevation to flag rank. I mean the fact he loves his daughter more than Aubrey's is hardly blameworthy.

Lemony
Jul 27, 2010


uPen posted:

I notice something new every time I reread. Latest was Jack casually correcting Stephen that a Xebec is in fact not a Frigate while absorbing the whole tens of thousands of bees in my cabin situation.

I mentioned this briefly in the Milhist thread, but the second time I read Master and Commander I felt like a moron when I realized that the first time Jack and Stephen meet they challenge one another to a duel, and that the duel only doesn't happen because Jack is so happy that he received a command that he immediately apologizes when he runs into Stephen.

Farmer Crack-Ass
Jan 2, 2001

~this is me posting irl~


Which book was it where Jack is a little aghast at Stephen cleaning out the Marine officer at cards? That scene came back to my head and made me smile.

Sax Solo
Feb 17, 2011



Genghis Cohen posted:

Is it because Aubrey becomes more the 'great man' with high responsibilities? I'm tempted to think it's just because Maturin has more of the author in him.

O'Brian didn't mind yanking Jack's career towards the story he wanted to write, so I don't think it's a case of his hands being tied narratively. I think he identified more with Maturin, sure, but I think PoB is a good enough author to know what he was doing.

Genghis Cohen
Jun 29, 2013


Farmer Crack-rear end posted:

Which book was it where Jack is a little aghast at Stephen cleaning out the Marine officer at cards? That scene came back to my head and made me smile.

Post Captain I think, Stephen returns from a (mostly off-screen) bit of covert action in the Med, rejoins Polychrest, and this young RM subaltern is a douche, so he sits down, plays seriously and smashes him up. Jack is quite concerned that the ship may get a reputation for gaming, 'on top of everything else'.

Lockback
Sep 2, 2006

All days are nights to see till I see thee; and nights bright days when dreams do show me thee.


Lemony posted:

I mentioned this briefly in the Milhist thread, but the second time I read Master and Commander I felt like a moron when I realized that the first time Jack and Stephen meet they challenge one another to a duel, and that the duel only doesn't happen because Jack is so happy that he received a command that he immediately apologizes when he runs into Stephen.

And they eat a bunch of clams instead.

Sax Solo posted:

e.g. a Stephen who very much wants to let us know that his daughter is beautiful and brilliant, not like Jack's fat stupid kids.

Jack's kids are awesome though.

Sax Solo posted:

so in the books we also feel like we're losing Jack too, or only seeing him through Stephens (often uncharitable) eyes,

I disagree, and think it's more about Jack's position and the plotline, not how it's written or how the author feels. The most charitable passage towards Jack comes when Stephen listens to him play without Jack's knowledge and that comes late in the series. God drat is that scene beautiful.

Sax Solo
Feb 17, 2011



I feel that passage, where Stephen is in awe of Jack's violin playing -- while charitable -- confirms the alienation from Jack.

Genghis Cohen
Jun 29, 2013


Lockback posted:

I disagree, and think it's more about Jack's position and the plotline, not how it's written or how the author feels. The most charitable passage towards Jack comes when Stephen listens to him play without Jack's knowledge and that comes late in the series. God drat is that scene beautiful.

I agree, and that's the exact scene which sprang to my mind. I think Stephen reflects to himself that Jack is 'the secret man of the world' in some ways. I would still say they are uncommonly close friends. I mean, even of my closest friends, there are aspects of their life which are closed to me, things that are private. Jack can discuss lots of things with Stephen, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot more to him which is too personal.


Sax Solo posted:

I feel that passage, where Stephen is in awe of Jack's violin playing -- while charitable -- confirms the alienation from Jack.

So yeah, I think that while Stephen feels very deeply about it, it doesn't mean they are alienated. Just that there are still things about them which can surprise the other. I mean, the same passage states that Jack probably restrains his own virtuosity when playing, because he gets some other sort of joy from playing with Stephen, on his level.

Sax Solo
Feb 17, 2011



Oh, I read it as.. It's not just any old reveal of a new facet, like, "Oh I didn't know you cared about boxing." It's the very last thing, the last little bit of Jack that Stephen can't understand. And IMHO it's presented like, what is knowable is fully known, and what remains is not for Stephen at all. He has come to the limit of the land, and had gazed at what lies beyond, unreachable, before he turns away. The last little bit of mystery, the last pulse of a love that's become inert. It's like an old marriage where one person has taken the other extremely for granted and realizes it possibly too little too late; not something that can be acted on -- merely bittersweetly appreciated.

freebooter
Jul 7, 2009

AUSTRALIA
NEEDS
TURNBULL


I'm only up to book 13, but it's striking how Jack and Stephen have virtually nothing in common except music, and yet they are great friends. I am actually hard-pressed to remember moments when they sit and pass the time together that doesn't involve music: their dinners are usually larger social affairs, and their private conversations are usually about critically important matters relating to their duties. (The one exception I can remember in the recent books I've read is, I think, The Ionian Mission where Stephen is excited about his diving bell and Jack is also sincerely fascinated, asking him questions about it, until he realises he's expected to ship it.)

But this doesn't actually feel off-putting; they've been friends so long that it's more like they're family. Brothers who can utterly trust each other and rely on each other, even when they're very different people. IMO this is best illustrated when they go overboard in the Pacific: it's entirely due to Stephen's clumsiness that they're both doomed, yet Jack is gentle with him the whole time, and never once comes close to bitterness about it even in his internal thoughts.

It reminds me of another great friendship in historical fiction, Call and Gus in the Lonseome Dove series. They meet in their teens and are inseparable partners, yet Gus at one point says to Call something along the lines of "if we met for the first time today, I doubt we'd have ten words to say to each other." The friendship is in the shared history, not necessarily in their personalities.

Kylaer
Aug 3, 2007


There's one tiny scene, I forget what book it's in, where Maturin is dissecting a bird and points out to Jack how the sternum and muscles are functioning like the rigging of a ship to stabilize everything, and Jack grasps it immediately. I always thought that was neat.

Lockback
Sep 2, 2006

All days are nights to see till I see thee; and nights bright days when dreams do show me thee.


freebooter posted:

I'm only up to book 13, but it's striking how Jack and Stephen have virtually nothing in common except music, and yet they are great friends.

And strong coffee. In fact, strong coffee is probably the bedrock.

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

Most importantly, they take care of each other.

Mr. Mambold
Feb 13, 2011

Aha. Nice post.




They are both Renaissance Men of their own individual stripe, each highly idealistic, highly principled in his own way, and all-in when committed to a friend or a cause. One can bend the odds of chance to where it looks like he's cheating when sailing for a prize; the other at any game of chance. They are each revered talismans by the common crew; the one for being infernally Lucky bringing prize, lucre, and victory against absurd odds; the other for having magical healing abilities. I dare say M'lord, they are more alike than different in that light.

Lemony
Jul 27, 2010


Mr. Mambold posted:

. They are each revered talismans by the common crew; the one for being infernally Lucky bringing prize, lucre, and victory against absurd odds; the other for having magical healing abilities. I dare say M'lord, they are more alike than different in that light.

One of my favorite early bits is when you get the third person view of Stephen walking through one of the main crew quarters and not even noticing that they all silently make way for him, including moving benches and such. It's just such a great representation of both their respect for the learned doctor and their care for his clumsiness and poor ship sense because of that respect. Plus it has the great bit where they spin the ships boy around and request he not turn his loving back to the doctor.

Notahippie
Feb 4, 2003

Kids, it's not cool to have Shane MacGowan teeth

freebooter posted:

I'm only up to book 13, but it's striking how Jack and Stephen have virtually nothing in common except music, and yet they are great friends. I am actually hard-pressed to remember moments when they sit and pass the time together that doesn't involve music: their dinners are usually larger social affairs, and their private conversations are usually about critically important matters relating to their duties. (The one exception I can remember in the recent books I've read is, I think, The Ionian Mission where Stephen is excited about his diving bell and Jack is also sincerely fascinated, asking him questions about it, until he realises he's expected to ship it.)

O'Brien likes to have a lot of plot happen off-screen, so I wouldn't assume that the lack of a lot of discussion in text means it doesn't happen. More than that, though, I get the sense that they both fundamentally admire the other. They have relatively few interests or areas of expertise in common, but at the end of the day they're both honorable, intelligent, and active men who share a lot of the same society and social context. Without the accident of Stephen's indigence and Jack's need for a surgeon they probably would never have been around each other enough to appreciate each other, but I think they were in enough proximity for long enough to recognize the ways in which they were complimentary. And after a certain point, the longevity and closeness of the relationship becomes self-perpetuating - they lived together in close quarters for probably a decade, and my experience is that requires enough intimacy that if you don't end up hating each other then there's a strong bond. They don't talk much about their private lives, but neither of them probably have anybody else in their life that they can even be that open with.

Lemony
Jul 27, 2010


Also, people who have been that close for that long often don't need to talk much anymore.

builds character
Jan 16, 2008

Keep at it.

Sax Solo posted:

I feel that passage, where Stephen is in awe of Jack's violin playing -- while charitable -- confirms the alienation from Jack.


Sax Solo posted:

Oh, I read it as.. It's not just any old reveal of a new facet, like, "Oh I didn't know you cared about boxing." It's the very last thing, the last little bit of Jack that Stephen can't understand. And IMHO it's presented like, what is knowable is fully known, and what remains is not for Stephen at all. He has come to the limit of the land, and had gazed at what lies beyond, unreachable, before he turns away. The last little bit of mystery, the last pulse of a love that's become inert. It's like an old marriage where one person has taken the other extremely for granted and realizes it possibly too little too late; not something that can be acted on -- merely bittersweetly appreciated.

Ok, or... it’s like that scene in Up where the old dude turns the page and is like “Even though she never played with the philharmonic, she loved playing violin with me all along.” Only she’s not dead. And they’re friends, not married. Looks, it’s not the best analogy ever but I strongly disagree with your takeaway. I will have to re-read it though, with this in mind.

Sax Solo posted:

a Stephen who very much wants to let us know that his daughter is beautiful and brilliant, not like Jack's fat stupid kids.

First, I want to acknowledge that both characters have their flaws. So this isn’t just a “no, but Stephen is good and cool you see” defense here. I just think you’re not giving him enough credit for the difference between Stephen and Jack and how that might affect Stephen’s view of the world.

Jack - Uncommon genteel, landed gentry, home in the navy, captain, married the traditionally ideal English country gentlewoman. Has multiple kids that are just regular kids including a son.

Stephen - looks like yoda, Irish, bastard, super poor (until he’s not, fuggers), not a laudanum/coca addict, wife is not exactly the Victorian ideal of femininity (horse riding, fucks around, poor, kept woman, from India), not a captain, nothing like the comforting embrace of the navy to go home to. Then he gets married to the woman he loves and has a single daughter and nobody in the series is in a better position to know more that something is wrong with her.

So at least here I think you have to cut the guy a little slack for looking at himself in the mirror and looking at his daughter and doing the same with Jack and his multiple children and being just a teeny bit defensive and overprotective.

freebooter
Jul 7, 2009

AUSTRALIA
NEEDS
TURNBULL


The Virgin Maturin vs the Chad Aubrey

Sax Solo
Feb 17, 2011



I don't mean to over-object to a single word, but Stephen is never actually poor. He is indifferent to money. He broadcasts "shabby", but, aside from his enormous pile of gold that he nearly bumbles away, he has his estate in Spain, which he downplays all the time but turns out to be substantial; he was always rich. Furthermore, despite his bastard status, AFAIK his claim on his inheritance is never troubled -- unlike Jack, who lives in fear during his early career that he will not inherit from his jerkwad father who has remarried scandalously, and he's also harming Jack's career and ruining his family name in politics to boot. Jack's career would not happen without Stephen's repeated use of connections; he'd likely be just some rando earless captain of a merchantman.

quote:

So at least here I think you have to cut the guy a little slack for looking at himself in the mirror and looking at his daughter and doing the same with Jack and his multiple children and being just a teeny bit defensive and overprotective.

Stephen disregarded Jack's kids from day one, though, before he even had his own.

I think the deal is that Stephen is kind of like a grumpy uncle at first. He finds common familial life pretty boring, especially other people's. He thinks he doesn't really want it, which is part of his pursuit of special, non-domestic Diana, but he kind of wants it all along, hence his insistence that they be properly married. I think he starts to change with the arrival of his daughter. Also, I think a really important episode happens in The Wine-Dark Sea. I think the destruction of Martin and Stephen's friendship is fascinating and incredibly well written. A big part of it is that Martin has become boringly self-absorbed and domestic, and is not paying total attention to Stephen, and Stephen hates it. Now things that were tolerated become intolerable, and Stephen projects alllll over the place, and all the negatives come out until Stephen can finally boot Martin out of his life entirely blaming him entirely for everything while nothing is Stephen's fault at all. O'Brian LOVES extremely dry undercutting, and, like, I think people who would defend Stephen from criticisms are actually selling O'Brian short as a writer.

So perhaps by this reading, becoming a dad then a single dad transforms him, and he awakens to his own desire to become a patriarch, finally adding the potto lady to his orbit to match his daughter, Clarissa, Padeen and Thursday and Behemoth Emily and Sarah. Like Jack, he's kind of an absentee patriarch, and those characters kind of just become filed away and inert, but that's sea life I suppose. I also personally find head-of-family Stephen to be kind of aloof and fussy, and e.g. his attitude towards Padeen is kind of a horrorshow of master/servant attitude with incredible power matched with almost zero felt responsibility, where shocking control over a servant's entire life is viewed through the lens of the master seeming kind and generous for giving them anything at all -- but that's another kettle of fish. All in all I find that Stephen does not exactly grow, spiritually in the process of coming into his own, but, like Martin -- maybe like most men -- he kind of shrinks into the role.

My main complaint is that Stephen's quest to become a patriarch is kind of wholly focused on Stephen, and wholly consumes the narrative. Yes, Jack's progress is a major focus of earlier books, but during those times we get a mixture of Jack and Stephen and Stephen is deeply involved in the process. When it's Stephen's turn, there is only Stephen. Stephen kinda stops caring about other things, and there's essentially no other voice, no other view. And I don't really like it, because a whole point of these characters is that alone, they are much less than they are together. Maturin triumphant, flaws unameliorated, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Anyway I'll shut up about this for now!

Sax Solo fucked around with this message at 11:27 on May 28, 2020

Lemony
Jul 27, 2010


Sax Solo posted:

I also personally find head-of-family Stephen to be kind of aloof and fussy, and e.g. his attitude towards Padeen is kind of a horrorshow of master/servant attitude with incredible power matched with almost zero felt responsibility, where shocking control over a servant's entire life is viewed through the lens of the master seeming kind and generous for giving them anything at all -- but that's another kettle of fish.

I mean, I think this is a pretty accurate representation of that relationship for the time. Even as a bastard, Stephen is landed gentry and a doctor, Padeen is not. Stephen does see himself having responsibility for Padeen, which is why he gave him a plum job that gives him respect and social standing among the crew. By the standards of the time, that is him fulfilling his responsibility as a kind and generous master.

jerman999
Apr 26, 2006

This is a lex imperfecta

Was Stephen wealthy in M&C? Seems very cash poor, and in later books it’s unclear how much rent he gets from the Spanish estate.

Kaiser Schnitzel
Mar 28, 2006

Schnitzel mit uns






Yeah I have always gotten impression that while he may have had something of an estate in Catalonia, it didn’t translate into huge sums in Stephen’s pocket. At some point it gets mentioned that only half his castle even has a roof over it, and he seems to take great pleasure in letting Mrs. Williams imagine that his castle is a fine and grand affair, complete with marble bath, rather than the half-ruin it actually is. Many of his frugal habits seem to real holdovers from his time as an impoverished student, not just a lack of interest in money.

Also, in a world before international retail banking, having an agent collecting rents on your behalf in Spain did not at all immediately or easily translate into pounds sterling at a bank in England, especially when the two countries were at at war with each other.

Nektu
Jul 4, 2007

FUKKEN FUUUUUUCK


Cybernetic Crumb

Wasn't he actually poor when he and Jack first met? I think the inheritance came a few books later.

PlushCow
Oct 19, 2005

The cow eats the grass


Kaiser Schnitzel posted:

Yeah I have always gotten impression that while he may have had something of an estate in Catalonia, it didn’t translate into huge sums in Stephen’s pocket. At some point it gets mentioned that only half his castle even has a roof over it, and he seems to take great pleasure in letting Mrs. Williams imagine that his castle is a fine and grand affair, complete with marble bath, rather than the half-ruin it actually is. Many of his frugal habits seem to real holdovers from his time as an impoverished student, not just a lack of interest in money.

Also, in a world before international retail banking, having an agent collecting rents on your behalf in Spain did not at all immediately or easily translate into pounds sterling at a bank in England, especially when the two countries were at at war with each other.

Yeah he mentions his estate gets him basically nothing.

Nektu posted:

Wasn't he actually poor when he and Jack first met? I think the inheritance came a few books later.

He was super poor in the first novel; he had come to the island for a patient who died en route, and he was sleeping in ruins after skipping out on a room in town he could no longer pay for. It was one of the reasons he accepted Jack's invitation, regular meals. Much of his money later is prize money that doesn't get lost in gambling or schemes like Jack's prize money.

Bloody Hedgehog
Dec 12, 2003

Gotta nuke something


I always got the feeling that Stephen was always ultra rich, but also ultra frugal. Why bother with a trip to the bank when you can just sleep in a ruin and live like a hobo. Much easier than mixing with the poors at a bank.

The Lord Bude
May 23, 2007

I'M DISAPPOINTED THAT CORTANA WILL BE A CIRCLE AND NOT THE ACTUAL SEXY WOMAN FROM THE GAME.


I think it's just that he's in a time period where just because you technically have money, doesn't necessarily mean you can access it easily at all times; so he has periods like in the first book where he's caught short.

Khizan
Jul 30, 2013



I always figured that Stephen was technically rich if you summed up all of his assets, but actually poor in that most of those assets were things that it was hard to generate any actual coin from.

Genghis Cohen
Jun 29, 2013


First of all, Sax Solo, I do find this really interesting. I don't particularly agree with some of your judgments of Stephen's character or his relationships with Jack, Martin, Padeen or his family members, but they are all things which are open to debate/interpretation. Shows just how deep these books can go!

Sax Solo posted:

I don't mean to over-object to a single word, but Stephen is never actually poor. He is indifferent to money. He broadcasts "shabby", but, aside from his enormous pile of gold that he nearly bumbles away, he has his estate in Spain, which he downplays all the time but turns out to be substantial; he was always rich. Furthermore, despite his bastard status, AFAIK his claim on his inheritance is never troubled -- unlike Jack, who lives in fear during his early career that he will not inherit from his jerkwad father who has remarried scandalously, and he's also harming Jack's career and ruining his family name in politics to boot. Jack's career would not happen without Stephen's repeated use of connections; he'd likely be just some rando earless captain of a merchantman.

I think this touches on a really interesting point: both Stephen and Jack wax and wane in riches/influence/position as the plot needs them to. I genuinely think some of it reflects the actual complexity of wealth. As some people have already pointed out, Stephen is sleeping rough when they meet and steals away some of his first dinner with Aubrey in order to have something to eat for breakfast the next day! Yet he has an estate, and even if it is in poor repair and rents are meagre and unreachable, he is in effect a nobleman. Both characters are landed gentry. So while they are often cash poor (or indebted) they are still very privileged. Jack isn't actually ever going to be a nobody - people of his station sometimes did wreck their careers and die in what's described as penury, but that's still not how a poor person of that time lived!

An example would be a young person of upper-middle-class background today. If they gently caress up their education/job/life, they aren't driven to homelessness, they go and stay with their parents. They have a support network they can fall back on. So when Jack & Stephen commiserate with each other at some points about how desperately poor they are, they can be assumed to really mean it from their viewpoint - but it doesn't have the same edge of desperation which it would to, say, that master's mate in the final books (Daniel?) whose bookseller father was driven to poverty and who had to join the Navy on the lower decks for the bounty. To him, the bounty was enough to clear his father's debts, it was real money. Jack and Stephen view '£200 a year' as being, if not poverty, pretty close to it. The double standard between living as a gentleman, vs living as a commoner, was very real.

The other part of the wealth-rollercoaster, is that I think it can be hard for a (modern) audience to sympathise with these immensely wealthy protagonists. We like to see them get rich and can revel in it with them for a bit. It feels pleasurable to read a description of characters we like going out and shopping for luxury goods, buying top quality items etc. But it gets cloying after a while and there are a lot of obstacles the author can't put in their way unless they're at least a bit poor. So boom, deus ex machina and they're poor again (by gentleman standards).

Neophyte
Apr 23, 2006

perennially

Taco Defender

It's also hard for us to connect to an old social system where the privileged gentry were expected to keep themselves in such a way that failing to try to do so was almost as bad, if not worse, than bankrupting yourself in the attempt. "Penny-pinching" or even "frugal" weren't compliments to the upper classes, but seen as an obsession of the common merchant class "cheese-parers". Not being able to at least look well off to Society at large was shameful as gently caress.

Petty nobility being perpetually in debt (and risking getting arrested and thrown into debtors' prison like Jack) just to "keep up appearances" and live as you were supposed to was absurdly common. In the RN, officers needing to pay their mess bills and/or - like Jack - host other officers in high style regardless of the state of your purse must have been stressful as hell.

It also didn't help that the old economy of collecting rents on land (which was considered suitable for the gentry) was starting to break down in the face of the Industrial Revolution and of factories and production - not at all What One Does to make money! So you have rich upstarts with no real family name swanning about showing off their crassly-gotten gains. Can't have them showing you up, what? Better mortgage the manor..again.

Lockback
Sep 2, 2006

All days are nights to see till I see thee; and nights bright days when dreams do show me thee.


And Stephen was lovely with his money. The Navy was a blessing for him since it mostly took care of him, which is not something he was terribly interested in doing himself.

Lemony posted:

I mean, I think this is a pretty accurate representation of that relationship for the time. Even as a bastard, Stephen is landed gentry and a doctor, Padeen is not. Stephen does see himself having responsibility for Padeen, which is why he gave him a plum job that gives him respect and social standing among the crew. By the standards of the time, that is him fulfilling his responsibility as a kind and generous master.

Stephen also tries to risk/throw away his standing to bust Padeen out off Prison Island. I love how matter of fact Stephen is about it, despite it potentially ending his career, and maybe Jack's to boot.

I agree it's a horror show of master/servant relationship, but THAT'S THE IMPERIAL AGE! Padeen's role as loblolly boy with his cleft pallet was probably one of the best positions he could ever hope to achieve. Not a defense, but in the horror show of life possibilities for someone like Padeen that was on the positive side by a nautical mile. I think O'Brian did a good job of showing even if you tried your best the social roles of that time largely would poo poo on you regardless.

Lemony
Jul 27, 2010


Lockback posted:

I agree it's a horror show of master/servant relationship, but THAT'S THE IMPERIAL AGE! Padeen's role as loblolly boy with his cleft pallet was probably one of the best positions he could ever hope to achieve. Not a defense, but in the horror show of life possibilities for someone like Padeen that was on the positive side by a nautical mile. I think O'Brian did a good job of showing even if you tried your best the social roles of that time largely would poo poo on you regardless.

This is pretty much what I was getting at, the relationship very much needs to be viewed through the lens of the time. I suspect that if you were able to ask Padeen what he thought of the situation, he'd probably have good things to say. Stephen isn't a cruel master by the standards of the time and he's even quite liberal in many ways. The position he gives Padeen is, by my understanding, one of the better jobs you could hope to get on a navy ship, so long as you have a strong stomach.

Not so say Stephen isn't capable of being a petty rear end in a top hat, he very much is.

freebooter
Jul 7, 2009

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Lockback posted:

Stephen also tries to risk/throw away his standing to bust Padeen out off Prison Island. I love how matter of fact Stephen is about it, despite it potentially ending his career, and maybe Jack's to boot.

As someone who's halfway through the series I do sometimes risk these spoiler tags (it hardly "spoils" the joy of these books to know certain plot points) and I like knowing there are still many diverse adventures in store.

When is Padeen introduced? I don't remember it. I think the first I recall him is in Master and Commander, and it wasn't until The Reverse of the Medal that I realised he's not actually deaf-mute but rather that he only speaks Irish.

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Lockback
Sep 2, 2006

All days are nights to see till I see thee; and nights bright days when dreams do show me thee.


I think he is in most of the books but has a bigger role from letter of marque on, I believe. Though honestly the books all blend together. Definitely the latter half though. And honestly it's a light spoiler.

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