The Truelove

Inciting Event: Shortly after the discovery of a female convict, escaped from Botany Bay, aboard the Surprise, a pursuing ship with dispatches is sighted. As per usual in this series, the main plot is always the general mission for the Navy. But here (as evidenced by the original British title Clarissa Oakes), we also have a prominent character subplot, centering around the presence of this woman on board the ship.

First Plot Point: Captain Jack Aubrey finally pulls over to receive the dispatches, which indicate he is to try to get a Polynesian queen to declare loyalty to King George. Around this time, he also finally gets over his displeasure at Clarissa’s presence aboard ship and performs the marriage ceremony for her and the midshipman who rescued her—allowing her to officially step into shipboard life and the main plot.

First Pinch Point: The gunroom puts on a bridal feast for Clarissa and her husband, to which Jack is invited. It is there he observes the growing tensions between his midshipman—brought on by their fierce jealousy of each other’s affections for Clarissa. Jack is extremely displeased, but uncertain how to deal with the issue as yet.

Midpoint: They reach the island of Annamooka, where they encounter a beached whaler and trade with the natives. This is an event that turns both the main plot, guiding Jack more firmly toward his official goal in assisting the queen Puolani, and in the Clarissa subplot—as interpersonal tensions amongst the crew grow more and blatant.

Second Pinch Point: The ship’s doctor, Stephen Maturin—a spy—learns important information from Clarissa about enemies he has been pursuing for quite some time. This prompts him to desire that she be allowed to return home to England, despite her record as a convict.

Third Plot Point: After the tensions between the midshipmen lead to the botching of an everyday maneuver, Jack finally loses his temper and has half the crew flogged.

Climax: They arrive at their destination, free the British Truelove from its French captors, make an alliance with Puolani, and slaughter the enemy tribe.

Climactic Moment: The battle is won.

Resolution: The Surprises celebrate the victory with the native tribe, then depart. Jack sends the Truelove away with Mr. Oakes in charge and Clarissa aboard—headed back to England.

Notes: O’Brian is one of the masters of literature, in my opinion, which makes it doubly interesting how absolutely subtle his structure is. No one could accuse him of writing a plot-heavy story, so it’s no surprise to find that the pull of the plot through all the major structural moments is delicate indeed. And yet, not surprisingly, all the important moments are right there, fulfilling their necessary functions—and usually right on the money terms of timing.

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