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A STEP BEYOND
TESTS AND ANSWERS
11. Two shipboard crises occur in the story-one we witness, the other we hear about-and in both cases there's a man whose courage fails him and a man whose courage pulls the ship through to safety. When the Sephora is beset by a storm, its captain, Archbold, loses his nerve and can't act; he's unable to give the order to set the sail that is the ship's last hope, and his loss of nerve endangers the whole crew. Fortunately, his chief mate, Leggatt, takes matters into his own hands and sets the sail, and it's through his courageous and determined action that the ship survives the storm.
We get a parallel situation at the end of the story. The young captain keeps a cool head during the tense moments when his ship is so close to shore that it's in danger of running aground. He's frightened himself-so frightened that he has to shut his eyes rather than watch the shore loom closer-but he never lets his men see his fear, and he never lets fear paralyze him as it paralyzed Captain Archbold. In contrast, the devoted chief mate loses control of his emotions and begins to despair aloud, in front of the crew. His behavior proves that he doesn't have what it takes to be a captain, a leader.
We may surmise that Leggatt provides an inspiration to the initially self-doubting young captain. The captain has the stuff of leadership within him from the start, but his contact with Leggatt nourishes that quality and brings it out.