The Ring O' Bells
E. S. Young
Foremost, an Analytical and Slightly Defensive Essay
Well, here it is: the Pirates of the Caribbean story I swore that I would never write. I must admit, this isn't quite what I had planned. Okay, so it's absolutely nothing like what I had planned. You see, when I first latched on to the fandom, I was a Captain Jack fan through and through. I had several stories in mind involving him and a terrible OC, though luckily I never had the initiative to write them down and post them on this web site. However, the fact that I never did write any Pirates fanfiction always bothered me and I was hoping that, upon seeing Dead Man's Chest, things would change and I would finally come to write a story that I was…comfortable with, at least. Needless to say, after seeing the new movie, I have found my motivation, however unlikely it may be.
Commodore Norrington has always appealed to me. Despite being a slightly dense fourteen-year-old at the time, when I first saw Curse of the Black Pearl I noticed how much of a gentleman the Commodore was when he stepped aside and allowed Elizabeth to be with the man she truly loved. Then, as if he hadn't proven his generosity already, he granted Captain Jack (an infamous pirate who has avoided arrest for years) a day's head start even though he could have easily caught up with Jack and hanged him. Quite a nice thing to do, really, and I've always brought that moment up whenever I happen upon a piece of fanfiction in which Norrington is portrayed negatively.
But, for the most part, my attention was devoted to pirates, not naval officers. Now, however, after viewing Dead Man's Chest, things have greatly changed. I was, to say the least, highly intrigued by our dear Commodore's terrible downfall and complete (albeit, understandable) change of character. I'm also afraid to say that I was inspired at the same time. What can I say? I have a thing for men that have fallen from grace – particularly if they are complex individuals, which brings me to my next point.
After realizing that I had become a Norrington fangirl (it literally happened overnight; I saw DMC at midnight, and was searching for Norrie-fic three hours later), I was prompted to watch the first movie again – something I am very glad for. It made me realize how complicated Norrington is and also that he is easily one of the more realistic characters in the films. Everyone in the movie is an archetype: We know that Will is the hero, that Elizabeth is the damsel-in-distress-turned-pirate-wench (I'm sad to say that I saw it coming), and that Captain Jack, as enigmatic as he may be, is charming, witty, clever, flamboyant, malapert, womanizing, verbose, conniving, and a number of other lovely adjectives that I don't possess the time to type out. They aren't necessarily predictable, but all in all, everyone is as they appear to be; no one really tries to hide who they truly are...except for Norrington.
For the most part he appears to be callous, authoritative, stuffy, and arrogant. However, upon closer inspection, one can see that he is really kind, selfless, refined, and even self-deprecating. Several of these traits, at least for me, are most noticeable when he proposes to Elizabeth. He babbles on for quite a bit before he finally pops the question – a clear sign that he is not boring as many seem to think, but rather uptight, and not in the conventional sense. Not only that, but he openly admits to being nervous after misinterpreting Elizabeth's exclamation of "I can't breathe."
Now, let's reflect on several matters for a moment:
For one thing, we get the impression that Norrington is a much-admired figure in Port Royal. He is the scourge of piracy in the Caribbean, protector of the people, and, as Governor Swann mentions in one of the movie's deleted scenes, the one responsible for improving and bringing culture to Port Royal. Promising, noble, genteel, and wealthy – he is the epitome of man in the 1700s, as well as perfect husband material. At this point I could explain why his personality makes him all the more ideal, however, since he tends to project the image of being stoic and imperious, I doubt that many of the people in Port Royal know the man behind the uniform.
Secondly, in those times, before a man asked for a woman's hand in marriage, he usually needed to first ask for her father's permission – and it's obvious that this man has Elizabeth's dad on his side; Governor Swann is practically Norrington's personal cheerleader. Basically, Elizabeth has no way out – whether she wants to be his wife or not, it isn't really her decision to make (although I doubt that Norrington would go through with the wedding if he knew that she was going to be unhappy with him, but more on that later).
So let's recap. Norrington is polite, righteous, and intelligent; he is a powerful figure in the community; not only is he wealthy but he is attractive; and he has an honorable profession and has just been promoted to Commodore; what's more, Papa Swann is constantly pimping him out. Now, honestly, what does this man have to be worried about?
Rejection, perhaps? It is evident in that he didn't want to marry her simply because society expected it. It wouldn't have been a marriage of convenience; he truly loved her. If he was willing to drop his act of stoicism and admit his feelings (however hesitantly), one has to imagine that Elizabeth must have meant a great deal to him. His anxiety only fuels my suspicion that he is very hard on himself. In relation to this, I also get the feeling that, while he's proud of his promotion, he doesn't think he deserves to be a commodore (the fact that he's so young – twenty-six during the first film, according to Disney – doesn't help matters, but adds more stress), and therefore he pressures himself to do everything right. Nevertheless, despite his efforts, he never thinks it's enough and thus he's never satisfied with himself.
"By remembering that I serve others, Mr. Sparrow, not only myself." This quote alone makes me fail to understand how anyone could think that Norrington is only trying to further himself throughout Curse of the Black Pearl. The man was willing to jump off of a staggeringly high battlement to save Elizabeth from drowning, even though he knew full well that he could have been killed in the process. Later on in the film, when Barbossa and Company began their attack on Port Royal, Norrington's first act was to see that any civilians were out of danger, and he ordered the Governor to get away from the fort. Then, in the final scene, we saw that he was willing to give up the woman he loves because he knew that she was in love with another. Now, really, how can he be called anything but selfless?
Lastly, we come to the conclusion of the film – the part where I completely converted into a Norrington fan. Because of this scene, I do not doubt for one second that he was truly in love with Elizabeth. Why? Listen carefully when he asks her if she is in love with Will and not him; there is only a slight tremor in his voice but it is enough to reveal that the man's heart is being broken. It was then that I realized (after emitting a shamefully fan-girlish cry of "Aww, that's so cute!) how flawed our dear Commodore really was, that there was so much more to him than would meet the eye, and that I was, like it or not, going to write at least one piece of fanfiction about him. Luckily, it didn't take long for the ideas to come.
As many have already said, Norrington's character changes drastically in Dead Man's Chest. In fact, it would appear that he has done a complete 180°. He is filthy, snarky, vindictive, depressed, drunk, and even selfish. Out of character from the man we saw in the first film? Some might say so. But let us take into account Norrington's situation. He is a man who has lost everything of importance: First, the woman he loved; then his commission, he undoubtedly put forth a great amount of effort towards if he achieved the rank of commodore at such a young age; the respect of society; his honor; his dignity; and, it would seem, even himself. Because of this, he has been reduced to a bitter shell of a man with a thirst for vengeance as well as alcohol.
So, why did he steal the heart – an uncharacteristically selfish act? Consider this: Norrington is, as we have already established many a time, a man that has always put others before himself. However, now he no longer has the tools – a successful career, a wonderful reputation, the respect of many, etc. – to do this, what is he to do? In a desperate situation such as his, he has no choice but to look out for himself. And yet, despite his seemingly selfish actions, there are still moments in Dead Man's Chest where Norrington serves others, a perfect example being when he tells Elizabeth to get into the boat and leave without him. Plan or no, he could have very well been killed, and even in a rushed and panicked time, he was still concerned for her welfare.
But he still gave the heart to Beckett – one of the bad guys. Does this mean that Norrington has finally crossed over "the dark side?" Somehow I doubt this very much.
He handed the heart over to Beckett with the intent of obtaining what he needed the most: a pardon and the letters of Marque. However, he must know that no good will come from leaving an object so powerful in the hands of a man like Beckett, especially when he still has Elizabeth to consider. If he has even the smallest shred of belief that she is still alive, then Beckett's having the heart puts her in grave danger, as she is not only wanted but is now at sea – which, with the heart, Beckett will have absolute control of. If Norrington's continued devotion to her is to be believed, then why would he deliberately put her into harms way? He has already proven time and again that he is far too intelligent for that, not to mention the fact that he has been trained in strategy tactics. It may just be me, but I can't help but suspect that Norrington has a plan to retrieve the heart and set things right.
However, I have yet to hit upon several important issues – issues that the writers have, it would seem, left up to our own imaginations. Shortly after viewing Dead Man's Chest for a second time, my interest in our dear ex-Commodore increased and questions began to take shape. I wondered what Norrington was up to in Tortuga before the Black Pear's arrival? How on Earth did he survive there, surrounded by enemies that would, more than likely, have killed him on the spot? And what, exactly, could have prompted him to join the crew of a pirate ship? Needless to say, I needed answers, and since the Disney wasn't about to give any, I decided to form my own conclusions. Thus, this story came to be.
Disclaimer: The movie Pirates of the Caribbean and all of its characters and the like are property of Disney. Any unfamiliar characters that may appear are mine…unless they aren't mine, in which case I will most certainly post another disclaimer. Any places, facts, or objects that may appear are real and/or true, despite how bizarre some things may sound. But then, of course, we are talking about a world where things such as curses, undead pirates, fish people, and other sorts of supernatural craziness exist, so really, is anything going to seem all that far-fetched?