58 pages • 1 hour readPatrick O'Brian
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Master and Commander suggests that friendship between equals is the best solution to the loneliness that accompanies exceptional ability. Both Aubrey and Maturin begin the novel feeling isolated from their peers because of their rank and expertise. Aubrey is used to serving as a lieutenant, but finds the adjustment to his new rank difficult as he is no longer a part of the social world of the crew. When he enters the Sophie for the first time, he notices how the sailors act differently around him due to respect, and while he does want them to recognize his authority, he finds the experience lonely.
Aubrey conceives of this relationship like the dynamic between mortals and the Olympian Gods, conveying the large distance between a captain and his crew. Aubrey notices that when he attempts to socialize with the other officers and midshipmen, his presence disrupts the party because he outranks everyone else. When he attempts to join a gathering, he only grows lonelier because he recognizes that “he [is] an intruder: he had upset their quiet sociability, dried up the purser’s literary criticism and interrupted the chess as effectually as an Olympian thunderbolt” (160). The crew cannot relax when Aubrey is present, as they are constantly aware of his power over them.