The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger is a fascinating book that should definitely be put in to the high school curriculum. For a book to be used in high school it almost always has to be a classic. These would include the greats like The Great Gatsby, Hamlet, of Great Expectations. Even though The Perfect Storm is not a classic and chances are it never will be, it still has many features that make it a great book. The novel should be respected for reasons such as the continuous action and movement, women are not neglected but portrayed as equals, and the fact that it is a true story adds a sort of nice glamour to it. It is simple characteristics of novels like these that turn them in to best sellers and classics in the eyes of critics.
The book is riveting, but never melodramatic. There is just enough tension in the conflict between man and nature to keep readers on the edge of their seats. He shares many stories of disaster that seamen have had in the Grand Banks area. Some thing that should stun any reader is the fact that, “Ten-Thousand Gloucestermen have died at sea, far more then all of the country’s wars” (55). The reader learns encounters that the fishers had that range from colonial times to presents times. This feature of the book is something I really appreciate, because I like to see how the people there have evolved their ways to help themselves against the wrath of nature. My favorite sub story is the one of the “Canyon Explorer” (88). The story involved a hundred foot boat that went in to such a strong storm that, “Was forced sixty miles backward despite driving full-steam ahead” (88). At the same time Junger never tries to saturate his readers with so much emotion that they roll their eyes in disgust. He makes the fear and desperation realistic and believable. Often it is so genuine that it is hard to put the book down.
Next, women who fish are not neglected in the novel. Linda Greenlaw is the captain of the Hannah Boden, her boat brings in the most fish on the coast. There is also Karen Stimpson, known to been of the most experience sailors around. Sue Bylander is also a sailor and works with Stimpson as graphic designer in-between fishing seasons. None of the three women are depicted as weak or hysterical during the storm. On the contrary, it is Ray Leonard, the captain of the ship with Stimpson and Bylander that falls apart during crisis. He causes the most trouble in the rescue, “Leonard is so despondent that he’s dead weight in the water” (207). The reason for this is because he believes he can make the boat stay up in the water, when it is obviously clear that the boat is going to sink. Greenlaw, Stimpson, and Bylander are strong and capable of taking care of themselves. In many classic novels, women are shown as house wives and people who are there just to help out men or as ones that men fall in love with. Such as in the legend of Kind Arthur where women are basically trophies and objects in despair that need to be rescued. It is nice to see a novel that portrays them in the way that they should be.
Finally, the fact that the book is a true story only adds to the excitement the reader should get while reading the book. At the same time, unlike most books that are based on a true story, The Perfect Storm is neither dull nor corny. There are no clich moments in the book that would make one’s skin crawl. Right from the beginning we know that this is, “A true story of men against the sea” (cover). The second someone picks up the book they will probably be more interested then if the book was fiction. Junger also achieves a delicate balance between the factual and fictional elements of the story, allowing a smooth reading of the novel.
The Perfect Storm has the potential to teach high school students many of the values that seem to have been lost over the years: courage, teamwork, and respect for nature. All the characters in the book learned something about themselves because of this great storm. Students after reading about these experiences may learn to value the important things in life, and not the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger merchandise that seems to be ubiquitous in the hallways. This is the greatest reason why is should be put in to the curriculum even though it is not a classic.