At Sea (Maupassant)

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At Sea
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A fisherman lost his arm in a fishing accident, and his brother's refusal to cut the net to save it led to resentment and a funeral for the severed limb.

A terrible disaster occurred at sea, causing the death of four men and a cabin boy. The fishing boat, commanded by Captain Javel, was carried to the west and broken upon the rocks of the breakwater near the pier. The bad weather continued, and further wrecks were feared.

Javel Senior — elder brother of Javel Junior; fishing boat captain; prioritized property over brother's arm.

Captain Javel's younger brother, Javel junior, was also a fisherman. Eighteen years ago, he had been involved in another tragic incident at sea. While fishing on a boat with his brother and four other men, Javel junior's arm got caught between a cable and a wooden shank. Despite his desperate efforts to free himself, the cable would not yield. The crew tried to help, but cutting the cable would mean losing the valuable net. Javel senior, concerned about his property, refused to cut the cable and instead tried to maneuver the boat to release his brother's arm.

If my brother had been willing to cut the net, I should still have my arm, for certain. But he was thinking of his valuable property.

Eventually, the crew managed to free Javel junior's arm, but it was severely damaged. The bones were crushed, and the arm was barely attached to his body. To stop the bleeding, the crew tightly bound the artery with twine. Javel junior then decided to amputate his own arm, fearing that the gangrene would spread.

Javel Junior — young fisherman; lost his arm in an accident; determined, sad.

Then he began to cut. He cut gently, with caution, severing the last tendons with the blade as sharp as a razor.

He carefully severed the remaining tendons with a knife and preserved the severed arm in a barrel of salt.

When the boat finally returned to port, Javel junior took his preserved arm home. His family examined it carefully, and a carpenter was called to measure it for a small coffin. The entire crew of the fishing boat attended the funeral of the severed arm, with the two brothers leading the ceremony. Javel junior never went to sea again and blamed his brother for the loss of his arm, believing that if the net had been cut, he would still have it.