Stephen Maturin and their first adventures. At the same time, there is a historical element to the novel since the backdrop of the story is the war between England and France known as the Napoleonic wars which took place sometime after the French revolution1.
In this context, the novel brings together the culture and the history of the times when it starts by placing the action in Port Mahon in 1800. Of course the world was a very different place then and the culture of the time is easily observed in the opening where the first meeting between Aubrey and Maturin is certainly less than ideal. At a Royal Navy base in Port Mahon, Minorca, Jack Aubrey is nudged by Maturin at the governor’s ball during a musical performance. They quibble with each other, but before it can get really serious, Jack is informed that he is about to be given the command of his own ship and he seeks out Maturin to join him on his voyage2.
The historical background here is plainly obvious since the cultural elements of challenging someone to a duel and imagined slights at being nudged could certainly not take place in this day and age. At the same time the quick about turn shown by Jack also has its basis in historical fact as it was often difficult to recruit individuals for the hard life of the navy. In fact, Jack has to convince the doctor/scientist/philosopher that the Mediterranean is an excellent place to do research and study3.
Of course the place where he conducts this research and study is the HMS Sophie of which the master and commander is Jack Aubrey. The ship’s physician also acts as a reference point for the reader since other characters in the novel explain things to him as the voyage progresses. This explanation of naval matters is also useful for the readers since they also gain awareness about the ship and the manner in which the navy conducts its business4.
In the historical context, sailing in the 1800s was quite a different matter as