One of the most intriguing passages in the book is in fact found at the beginning of the novel. It is in fact the opening two pages of the book and begins, “The lamps in the Royal Stores Warehouses were nearly blown out by draughts that came with each blast of the gale, but between the gusts it was as quiet as the grave. ” This opening stanza is a powerful and intelligent way of informing the reader just how desolate this place really is, a truly eerie place. One can nearly hear the creaking in the warehouses.
The sound of the gale playing its haunting music is the atmosphere presented to the reader. There is symbolism here and vivid imagery as we read words such as ‘quiet grave’ which brings the image of death and despair whilst words such as ‘blast’ and ‘gale’ are more violent in meaning and conjure up images of destruction. What does this all mean? Well it is certainly meant to be a parallel to the main character of the book, Barbara. What I mean by stating that is that Barbara is an incredibly vivacious character. Coming into peoples lives and leaving a path of destruction in her wake.
To continue, the passage then carries on with, “Then the thick beams and rafters would give as the wind renewed its attack on these tarred wooden structures. It whined grievously in every corner, the warehouse shutters sprang and tugged at their iron hinges, the sod roof waned and flattened like tempestuous flames, and the surf poured in heavy disorder on the flat stone shore of Tinganes and covered all of Torshavn in a shower of salt and rain. ” To begin with, the passage is filled with personification, as this literary feature gives life to these old structures.
It is also quite violent in description as it explains the wind attacking the rafters; one is very closely connected with nature in this passage. This is very interesting because nature is directly Barbara, and the structures are the population of Torshavn, this is possible to see throughout the novel, she is the destructive force in the community. Yet as in the end of the novel, the structures stay and do not get destroyed. The Tempestuous flames are a metaphor for the priest, later on in the novel. He is very emotional and explores feelings that take him on a roller coaster ride.
This can be seen as flickering flames. But it should also be noted that the flames did not go out. In the next passage, we are in the second paragraph; “In the ships’ stores Ole the Sockmaster and Rebekka’s Paul were sorting seagoing jerseys. They sat inside a lantern’s small circle of light. Elsewhere the warehouses lay in darkness. But in the shop many were gathered. ” This is the beginning of human contact in the novel and it would appear as though it brings light into this very dark and stormy place.
Almost keeping the darkness at bay, the two characters have the mundane task of sorting jerseys. This task is merely another foreshadowing of the characters of Torshavn, their jobs are small and may seem insignificant, yet these small jobs have a big task of highlighting the few important jobs in the town, such as the general dealer and the judge and priest. This passage also mentions a shop, which in many people are gathered, this hints to the size of the village, that it is very small.
Another indication of this fact, are the names of these two characters, Ole, the Sockmaster and Rebekka’s Paul. When the people’s names are decided by their trade or wife, one can assume that the community must be very small. To continue with the next paragraph, it begins, “There had been news. A boat out fishing east of Nolsoy had seen a ship. They were sure it must be Fortuna, due from Copenhagen with goods for the stores. But she could not come in in this weather. The boat had made land, the last minute before the gale broke. This is the beginning of the story as an intriguing entity; it is here that suspense begins to grow. The name of the Opening chapter of the novel is the same as the name of this ship. So the reader is meant to assume that something exciting is either on the Fortuna or has something to do with the Fortuna. The ship seems shrouded in a mystic veil as it lands just before the storm, preventing its further approach, as though it were close enough to see yet not touch. This appears to be the reason that the people are gathered in the store. To hear news of this mysterious ship.
The men stood idle and talked about the ship, they were all Torshavn men – Havners – soldiers at the fort, porters at the stores and fisherman on the wild sea all at once, fisherman when weather and their commanding officer permitted. They lounged against the counter, tallow candles shone on their slack faces and made shadows around their wet, red-rimed eyes. They spat and yawned gloomily. ” In the final part of the passage, we see the men, true to form of this very relaxed scene, leaning back and idly chatting. The paragraph uses different professions to describe these men and to signify the versatility of them.
The concept of tallow candles is quite a contrast to the beginning of the scene that we are given of a very windy setting. This also shows the relaxed atmosphere of the store, it appears boring yet cosy at the same time. Their slack faces and wet, red-rimmed eyes are significant in the sense that they show signs of intoxication and more than that, it can also represent the men’s stress levels. The first page is clearly a foreshadowing of what is to come and an important metaphor is drawn, on that Barbara is as nature. Wild and free.