The Influence of Seafaring on Literary Themes


The world of seafaring has long captured the imagination of writers, and its influence can be seen in many literary themes throughout history. From epic poems to modern novels, the sea has been a source of inspiration for literature and has shaped the narratives and characters of countless works. In this article, we will explore the powerful influence of seafaring on literary themes in different genres of literature, and how it has contributed to the richness and diversity of literature.

One of the most prominent themes in literature influenced by seafaring is the concept of adventure. The open sea provides endless opportunities for daring journeys and thrilling adventures, making it a natural setting for many works of fiction. From the epic tales of Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid to the seafaring adventures of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, the theme of adventure in literature has been closely linked to the world of seafaring.

In these works, the sea is often portrayed as a vast, mysterious and unpredictable realm, fueling the characters’ desire to explore and conquer it. The ocean also serves as a symbol of the unknown, reflecting the human curiosity and the urge to discover new frontiers. The characters’ encounters with the forces of nature, such as storms and sea monsters, add an element of danger and excitement to the plot, making the theme of adventure all the more compelling.

Another dominant literary theme influenced by seafaring is the struggle for survival. Being out at sea is a constant battle against the elements, where everything is uncertain, and survival is not guaranteed. This struggle for survival is a recurring theme in literature, particularly in works such as William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. These novels use the sea as a metaphor for the struggle of life, where characters must navigate through treacherous waters and face unexpected challenges to survive.

Moreover, seafaring has also been a rich source of inspiration for the theme of isolation and confinement in literature. The vastness of the sea, with its endless horizon, can evoke a sense of isolation and loneliness that is unparalleled. This has been explored in works such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.” These works portray the psychological impact of being isolated at sea, with the characters’ minds and perceptions being influenced by the vastness and solitude of the ocean.

In addition to these themes, seafaring has also had a significant impact on character development in literature. The maritime environment offers a diverse and dynamic range of characters, from brave and daring sailors to ruthless pirates. The harsh conditions of life at sea provide opportunities for characters to reveal their true nature, with the sea serving as a backdrop for moral dilemmas, complex relationships and intense conflicts.

One of the most notable examples of this is Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick. Ahab’s unrelenting pursuit of the white whale is a metaphor for the destructive nature of obsession, while the vastness of the sea reflects the endless depths of Ahab’s psyche. The sea is not only a setting in this novel but a character in its own right, shaping the actions and fate of the characters.

In conclusion, the influence of seafaring on literary themes in literature is undeniable. The sea has shaped the development of characters, provided a backdrop for adventure and struggle, and served as a metaphor for isolation and confinement. The vastness and unpredictability of the sea continue to inspire writers to explore various literary themes, making seafaring a timeless and integral aspect of literature.