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Dana's account of his passage as a common seaman from Boston around Cape Horn to Callifornia, and back, is a remarkable portrait of the seagoing life. Bringing to the public's attention for the first time the plight of the most exploited segment of the American working class, he forever changed readers' romanticized perceptions of life at sea.
In 1834, Richard Henry Dana Jr. left the comforts of Boston for the hardships and abuses of the most exploited segment of the American working class. Danas account of his passage around Cape Horn to California, and back, is a remarkable portrait of the seagoing life: the day-to-day routines and conversations, the sailors who manned the ship, the brutality of incompetent officers, and the style of life in the newly emerging coastal towns of California.
As Thomas Philbrick discusses in his introduction, the publics sympathy for the plight of mariners, which was aroused by the book, eventually faded, but Two Years Before the Mast forever changed readers romanticized perceptions of life at sea and inaugurated a lasting tradition of realism and concern for human values.
Thomas Philbrick is professor emeritus of English at the University of Pittsburgh.
"Possesses . . . the romantic charm of Robinson Crusoe."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson