1. "FRANKLIN, RICHARDSON, and BACK: three of the greatest names in the history of heroic endurance," contends Dickens, even though his article concerns only the first of these explorers. Why, then, does he mention Richardson and Back?
2. In attempting to rebutt the accusations of cannibalism, why does Dickens find it necessary to resort to racist slurs?
3. In attempting to disprove even the possibility that the Franklin expedition would have resorted to cannibalism, how does Dickens play to the national pride and class-consciousness of his readers?
4. Although Dickens discusses a number of shipwrecks briefly, why does he discuss the raft of the Medusa at length?
5. What is Dickens's thesis about the lost Arctic voyagers?
6. In a weekly magazine, Dickens has devoted an inordinate amount of space in reacting to the Admiralty's release of Dr. Rae's account. Why does Dickens feel that countering this report as it has been received by the British public is so important?
7. What is surpising about the nature of some of the "evidence" that Dickens employs to counter the imputation of cannibalism among Franklin's followers?
8. Ironically, Dickens builds his case around the notion that Franklin was a superior leader whose example who have inculcated in his men only the most civilised conduct. What is the fallacy in this argument?
9. Why, says Dickens, might the Inuit ("Esquimaux") have manufactured tales of cannibalism rather than have reported to Rae what they actually saw?
10. Why does Dickens not begin by questioning Rae's reliability as a reporter?
11. What case does Dickens make about the unreliability of an oral account translated from one language to another?
12. Why does Dickens continually refer to cannibalism as "the last resource"?
13. If you were a forensic pathologist, what evidence would you bring forward either to refute or support Dickens's argument?
14. What adjectives does Dickens apply to Franklin and his expedition? How do these betoken his biasing the reader unfairly?
15. Why does Dickens quote copiously from Franklin's journals about his previous arctic expedition?
16. After the Napoleonic wars, the British government commisioned a number of expeditions to find the North-West Passage. Why was discovering this passage in arctic waters so important to Britain's national interest in the nineteenth century?
17. How is the case of the Iroquois pertinent to Dickens's discussion of the probable conduct of Franklin's British officers and crew in the "lost" expedition?
18. Why do victims of starvation generally avoid discussing the possibility of rescue, even though they converse at length about "the enjoyments of feasting"?
19. Dickens contends that "the more educated the man, the better disciplined the habits, the more reflective and religious the tone of thought" (p. 365): how does he justify this proposition?
20. Bligh's crew were driven to the extremity of eating a stray seabird, including the beak and feet, and a dolphin; how does this point support Dickens's contention that Franklin's men would not have resorted to cannibalism? Evaluate the strength of Dickens's argument here.
21. Why does Dickens note that "the influence of great privation upon the lower and least disciplined class of character, is much more bewildering and maddening at sea than on shore" (p. 391), when the Franklin expedition apparently prished after the ships were abandoned?
22. "I thought it an extraordinary instance of infatuation, that men should prefer the certainty of a lingering and miserable death, to the distant chance of escaping one more immediate and less painful" (p. 391), the ensign of the vessel St. Lawrence, wrecked on one of the most desolate spots on the east coast of North America, is reported as having remarked about the notion of drawing lots to determine who should be eaten. Why has Dickens reported this remark?
23. Why, according to Dickens on page 392, should we doubt the word of "a savage" when he also enjoins us to distrust Spanish accounts of battles fought between Cortes and the Mexican aboriginal peoples?
24. Why does Dickens refer to human sacrifices as "appropriate offerings" to Polynesian natives' "barbarous, wide-mouthed, goggle-eyed gods" (p. 392)?
25. Why, contends Dickens, does human sacrifice not necessarily equate with cannibalism among "savage" peoples?
26. Why does Dickens allude to the adventures of Sinbad the Sailor (p. 392)?
27. Note the "purple prose" which Dickens employs when considering the perspective that Utilitarians might have about the issue of how the Franklin expedition perished (p. 392). What specific rhetorical devices and figures of speech does he employ?
28. This lengthy essay appeared in a weekly journal. However, it is not, strictly speaking, an example of journalistic prose: why not?
- The Text of Dickens's "The Lost Arctic Voyagers"
- The Franklin Expedition: 1845-1859
- The Search for the North-West Passage: 1497-1845
- An Introduction to Dickens's "The Lost Arctic Voyagers"
Last modified 8 July 2004