Blow Up with the Ship by Wilkie Collins

Blow Up with the Ship

   Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was an English novelist and play-wright of the 19th century. Collin’s major works reflect an enormous interest in mystery and crime. He had a unique talent for creating an atmosphere of foreboding detailed description and intricate plots. T. S. Eliot called Collin’s masterpiece The Moonstone ‘the first and greatest of English detective novels.

     Blow Up with the Ship is a gripping story of robbery and crime on the high seas. It is narrated in the first person and the story has all the ingredients of a thriller. The backdrop is provided by a battle for independence in one of the Spanish colonies in South America. The action in the story takes place during a sea journey in a ship significantly named ‘The Good Intent’.

    The narrator was sent to sea when still a boy and became a mate at the age of twenty-five. The incident took place in the year 1818, when the Spanish colonies in South America were fighting for independence. There was plenty of bloodshed between the government of Spain and the rebels under General Bolivar. 

    The writer sailed in the ship named, ‘The Good Intent’. The vessel was laden with gun powder. It was sent to help a revolution. She had a crew of eight. As the ship contained gun powder, they were harassed with new regulation which they didn’t like. They were not allowed to smoke or light the lanterns. But the Captain used to light the candle when he went to bed or when he looked over his charts on the cabin table. Therefore the regulations didn’t apply to him.

     Finally they reached the coast of South America and a boat came towards them rowed by two men, one was an Irishman and the other was an evil-looking native pilot. The crew was not allowed to reach the land till midnight. The native pilot was “skinny, cowardly, quarrelsome fellow”. He picked quarrel with everyone. He lighted the pipe and the narrator became angry and tried to stop him. The pilot tried to push him. He raised his hand and the pilot fell down and pulled out his knife. The narrator slapped his murderous face. 

     The next morning the narrator was awakened by a scuffle and a gag in his mouth. His hands and legs were tied. The ship was in the hands of the Spaniards. They were swarming all over the ship. All the seven members of the ship were killed except him. The pilot came there with a pilot’s stick and carpenter’s drill in one hand and a long piece of thin rope in the other. He put the candle stick, with the new candle lighted in it. He drilled a hole in the side of the barrel and the gun powder came trickling out. He rubbed the powder into a whole length of thin rope. He then tied the rope to the candle which was just one feet away from him. He then whispered to the narrator “blow up with the ship” and everyone left the place with the gun powder. The narrator was filled with fright and fainted.

    The narrator woke up after eight months. He came to know that an American ship which came that way had saved him. But even now he is haunted by an old, flat-bottomed, kitchen candle stick. The usual paraphernalia of an adventure story is found in the story Blow up with the Ship. We could find dimly-lit rooms, shady figures moving mysteriously on the ship deck and the final shoe down ending in violence and death. The story like other adventure stories, end on a positive note with the rescue of the protagonist.

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