Tag Archives: Horatio Hornblower

Story Analysis- Mr. Midshipman Horblower

as you may have surmised from the J15 assignment, i have a great fondness for the Horatio Hornblower book series. this story analysis is not too different from my last description of Hornblower’s story, except that this one only covers the first book, is much more detailed, and of course, is more left-brain oriented. 



Title: Mr. Midshipman Hornblower.

Author: C.S. Forester.

Genre: Historical Fiction.

Audience: Any literate person.


Horatio Hornblower: An introverted, 17-year-old youth who has had a lonely childhood, Hornblower seeks a living as an officer in the British Royal Navy. He knows little of the occupation he has chosen, but his keen mathematical mind, quick learning abilities, and a good education have given him an advantage. He has no friends and very little money. He is constantly plagued by self-doubt, fear, depression, and loneliness. Despite his obvious lack of self-worth, he has a reckless courage and determination. He is tall, skinny, pitifully uncoordinated, and has dark eyes.

John Simpson: A swarthy, good-looking senior midshipman, Simpson is the official bully of the Justinian. He is not very intelligent, especially mathematically, and he holds grudges against anyone who is smarter than himself. He harbors a lot of anger, and takes it out by making the lives of the other midshipmen miserable. Due to his tyranny, he has no friends, although he does have cronies who carry out his sadistic bidding.

Sir Edward Pellew: The captain of the Indefatigable, Pellew is bold, intelligent, and becomes a sort of mentor to young Hornblower. The middle-aged captain is renowned and respected for his bravery and success, and he leads his crew with confidence. He occasionally has an outburst of anger and impatience, but is mostly level-headed and never acts in rashness.

The Duchess of Wharfedale: Although at first posing as a Duchess, and referred to as such, she is actually an actress by the name of Katherine Cobham. Under the guise of the Duchess, she has an uncivilized accent, is not particularly smart, and has a strange sense of humor. As herself, however, she is bright, charming, and brave. She is middle-aged and has bold blue eyes and a faded beauty.

Point of View

Third person; mainly told from Hornblower’s perspective, but sometimes from the perspective of someone who is observing him.


The time is 1793, just before the start of the Napoleonic Wars.  The location changes between various ships, including a battleship, a brig, a privateer, and a sloop; but the most prominent ship is a British frigate named the Indefatigable. Some time is also spent in a Spanish prison.

Plot Outline

As an inexperienced midshipman in His Majesty’s Royal Navy, Horatio Hornblower has much to learn. His limited nautical vernacular makes it difficult for him to assimilate, but his limited social skills are even worse. Faced with Spanish and French who would imprison him, bullying senior officers, and personal failure, he meets adventures and misadventures at every turn. Then, of course, there is his inescapable seasickness which he becomes regrettably infamous for. Through his determination, bravery, and self-sacrifice, he must prove to his peers and senior officers that he is made of mettle worth reckoning with. Most importantly, however, he must prove this to himself.


Man vs. self: Hornblower’s self-doubt and lack of self-esteem is crippling, and he must fight to overcome it to become a successful officer. His lack of coordination and natural skill also presents obstacles.

Man vs. man: When he first becomes a midshipman, Hornblower is mercilessly teased by the other midshipmen, particularly a bully named Simpson. They make fun of his inexperience, his shyness, his seasickness, and even his lonely childhood.

Man vs. man: Hornblower and the crew of his ships are often in battle with the French or Spanish.

Man vs. environment: Living at sea, one of Hornblower’s most constant battles is with the elements of nature. Gales, waves, running aground, and worst of all, fire are feared on the wooden ships. Also, as he is particularly prone to seasickness, simply being at sea causes  problems for Hornblower.


Although it is often difficult to do what is morally right, being honorable, courageous, and self-sacrificing will always benefit you in the end. Sometimes that benefit is through recognition, promotion, respect, etc., but sometimes it is simply through the satisfaction and self-worth that comes with knowing you did the right thing.

Literary Devices

Allusion: “So might Daniel have looked about him at the lions when he first entered their den.”

Flashback: “It was like the games Hornblower had played as a lonely little boy, when he had sat in the empty pig-trough and pretended he was cast away in an open boat.”

Personification: “… hope reasserted itself…”

Simile: “The British seamen were yelling like madmen.”


I personally enjoy this book because Horatio Hornblower is very relatable. I also find the nautical vocabulary and naval history vastly interesting. C.S. Forester writes with a style that is both intellectual and understandable.


J15- Honor, Courage, Commitment

On the question of what nostalgic book series I would most like to revisit, coincidentally I recently began rereading one of the most prominent books of my childhood. Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, the first in the Horatio Hornblower saga by C.S. Forrester, was read to me by my dad when I was about seven. Set in the 19th century, the series begins as the story of a lonely, depressed English youth who joins the Royal Navy. I immediately fell in love with Hornblower (in a literary sense, not a romantic sense!), and recalling his adventures still thrills me.

As a midshipman, the seventeen-year-old had a sensitivity and shyness that made him relatable; an intelligence and seriousness that made him intriguing; and a sense of honor and duty that made him admirable. My dad and I soon became wrapped up in following him from the seasick days of being the bullied novice to his first adventures and daring rescues where he finally got to prove himself.

Going into the second volume in the series, the young man has now lost his low self-esteem and has replaced it with calm confidence. Filled with mutiny, bloody war, and a little bit of romance, Lieutenant Hornblower continued the saga and continued to captivate me. Over the next several years, my dad and I plowed through the first eight books of the eleven volume series; although we read them about a decade ago, the first and second books were by far the most memorable.

Today, at the exact same age as Hornblower when he first became a midshipman, I can relate to him like never before. A deep interest in the navy—no doubt originally kindled by the Hornblower saga—has lead to my joining a cadet program. Hearing and using the same nautical terms and orders that Hornblower used, and aspiring to rank up to the same positions that my hero aspired to rank up to—it’s like walking in some kind of dream.

Honor, Courage, Commitment

  “But still, it’s the West Indies for us, anyway,” said Hornblower philosophically. “Yellow fever. Ague. Hurricanes. Poisonous serpents. Bad water. Tropical heat. Putrid fever. And ten times more chances of action than with the Channel fleet.”

  “That’s so,” agreed Bush, appreciatively.

  With only three and four years’ seniority as lieutenants, respectively, the two young men (and with young men’s confidence in their own immortality) could face the dangers of West Indian service with some complacence.

Lieutenant Hornblower, Chapter 1.