Themes

Key themes of The Eye of the Hurricane: love, alcohol, religion, grief and struggle and community and outsiders.

Grief and Struggle

The narrative of The Eye of the Hurricane is driven by the idea of grief and the struggle against it. Captain Stevens lives with the pain of the death of his wife and child. The storms that are frequently referred to throughout represent his grief and struggle. Captain Stevens states his drinking bouts are a natural thing, like a storm, you just have to let it blow itself out, keep the ship headed into it. Captain Stevens drinking is a direct result of his grief (Miriam states that he only began to drink after Mrs Stevens died).

Barclay is also experiencing the grief of a relationship break-up. He refers to the grief that this split has caused: all that remained of that summer affair was a criss-cross of scars in the spirit.

We learn that, years ago, another seaman called Captain Falquist shot himself after his wife was unfaithful. Grief is also shown through the sailor Robert Jansen, who wandered the streets every Saturday night looking for his drowned friend.

Through a variety of characters, we see differing struggles with loss. Some quietly try to move on, like Barclay and others are bitter like Captain Stevens. Like in A Time to Keep, we see human nature struggle with grief.

Love

Though some characters are weighed down in their battle against sorrow, at the root of this struggle is love. In the story, the love of a woman is the cornerstone to a happy, complete life. Captain Stevens, when in the ‘eye’ of his personal storm, states that:

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The love of women is a very precious jewel. I have known men lucky enough to possess it. They had a completeness in their lives, these lovers, everything they did seemed to be well done, faithfully done, even when it wasn’t.

To the end, Captain Stevens’ love for his wife endures, with his final words being her name. Like in The Whaler’s Return, a loving relationship can provide comfort and contentedness in one’s life like little else.

Alcohol

Brown’s stories, particularly Tartan and The Whaler’s Return, often underline the negative impact of alcohol. This is very prominent in The Eye of the Hurricane. Here alcohol is a destructive tool that alters decision-making and character. Miriam refers to Captain Stevens’s alcoholism as the devil.

Alcohol is central to the lives of many of the characters, and heavy drinking is almost seen as a normal part of life, particularly to the seamen.

Like the death of Kol in Tartan, alcohol plays a key role in the death of Captain Stevens. Again, we see that alcohol is a destructive, sometimes unstoppable force that is central to the island community.

Community and Outsiders

Set in a small community, The Eye of the Hurricane reveals the positive aspects and the restrictions of living in such a small community. In a similar manner to other characters in Brown’s stories (particularly Peterina relying on the poor fund in The Whalers Return), the community can support people. In this instance, Miriam cares for and attempts to protect Captain Stevens. When Stevens dies, the community unites in grief (like in The Wireless Set), when a cluster of mourners stood among the tombstones with bared heads.

Barclay is an outsider, though this appears to suit him. He states that very few friends call but that he doesn’t find talk necessary. He has also arrived in the island relatively recently, and is a Catholic in a predominantly Protestant community. Like in Tartan, the island community appears suspicious of outsiders.

Religion

Religion is very important to a number of characters in The Eye of the Hurricane, and the community itself. Barclay’s Catholicism defines his worldview, and he feels spiritually superior to Miriam:

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If she had been born in a Breton village, I thought, she would be a devout Catholic girl, and rosary and image and candle – that she shied away from such horror – would be the gateway to her dearest treasures and delights. As it was, she merely touched the hem of Christ’s garment in passing.

Despite differences in religious faith, both Barclay and Miriam’s moral codes are derived from their respective religions, and this provides support and comfort to both characters.