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Literature / The Grain Ship

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"The Grain Ship" Is a fictional short story published in 1914 by Morgan Robertson.

It takes the perspective of a former sailor and current line-rider for a cattle company who comes across Draper, a former sailor who recovers from nine years of amnesia after seeing a rat. After proclaiming his hatred for the sea and learning the ropes of being a line-rider, Draper reveals the mystery of an abandoned grain ship that was found in the Biscay sea with no documents and plenty of dead rats. The former sailor decides to share his story in case anyone can find more answers and back up Draper's experience with more facts.


This story highlights hierarchy and power dynamics that can form from the roles each crew member has on a ship. The Conflict that these characters face reflects both Man vs. Nature and Man vs. Man in the way where the forces of nature begin the main conflict of the story, and the conflict that emerges due to the power dynamics of the ship further complicate the conflict.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abandon Ship: Draper was forced to abandon ship once Mr. Barnes becomes Drunk with Power and delirious from the disease and tries to attack him to protect his position.
  • Disease By Any Other Name: Although it is not named, the symptoms that are described in the story closely resemble rabies.
  • Drunk with Power: Mr. Barnes demonstrates this trope when given the option to dock the ship for a few days. Despite the concern Draper addresses of the rest of the crew dying if they don't dock for a few days, Mr. Barnes makes the decision to continue forward so he can obtain glory and respect, and even goes as far as to put down any form of opposition to his plan. Even when Draper is trying to help him, he accuses Draper of trying to steal his power, being too short-sighted to care about anything else.
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  • Doomed Moral Victor: Knowing his fate, the skipper continued being in charge of the ship despite his condition only because he believes he should serve his crew until death.
  • Dwindling Party: One by one, the crew Draper is apart of dies from disease until even Mr. Barnes is affected, leaving Draper to be the Sole Survivor.
  • Fatal Flaw: Mr. Barnes could have escaped his fate if his greed didn't push him refuse to dock the ship.
  • Foil:
    • The skipper and Mr. Barnes foil each other regarding the way they take p the role of captain. While the skipper cares more about the good of the crew than his life, Mr. Barnes would sacrifice his crew to further his ambitions.
    • Draper and the narrator are foils as well regarding the way they see themselves as former sailors. While the narrator feels nostalgic and actively seeks out sailors, Draper never wants to return to the sea.
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  • Foreshadowing: The abandoned grain ship that is mentioned in the beginning of the story foreshadows the significance of Drapers last experience as a sailor.
  • Ghost Ship: The abandoned grain ship that the narrator hears a commodore discus without knowing how or why the ship was abandoned.
  • Identity Amnesia: Draper forgets his entire past and almost every aspect of his character to the point of refusing to smoke and claiming he was never a sailor.
  • Sole Survivor: As Draper's experience is being told, it is revealed to us that the grain ship was abandoned due to a deadly disease spread by rats that affected everyone on the ship except for Draper.
  • Swarmof Rats: The most threatening force of this story. Not only was the grain ship infested by rats, but thousands of them, all carrying a deadly disease.
  • The Mutiny: After hearing Draper arguing with Mr. Barnes to dock the ship, the rest of the crew joined together to argue against Mr. Barne's decision.

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