Whalley admits, "I began to tamper with it [his conscience] in my pride" (300). "Not even the sign of God's anger" could make him forget his daughter (or what he thought was love of his daughter). But unlike Abraham, who had faith in God regarding Isaac, Whalley feels "like the blinded Samson, I would find the strength to shake a temple upon my head" (301). This is precisely what he does.
The vain emphasis on his doing something, the inability to trust God, the "whole life . . . conditioned by action," all worked together to make him ignore the "act of God"--his blindness. Sterne says he "pretended to struggle against the very decree of Providence." He classifies himself as a man who "stood up against God Almighty Himself." "He had lived on without any help, human or divine. The very prayers stuck in his throat. What was there to pray for? and death seemed as far as ever. . . . The hand of God was upon him, but it could not tear him away from his child. And, as if in a nightmare of humiliation, every featureless man seemed an enemy" (303).
The growth of evil from the imperceptible flaw of his dealings with the grotesque Massy reaches satanic proportions. To Mr. Van Wyk he seemed a man who "would accept no help from men, after having been cast out, like a presumptous Titan, from his heaven" (305). His pride made it impossible for Whalley to believe that "they also serve, who only stand and wait."
What haunted him was the prospect that he could not save his daughter, that his power was at an end. He thought "the punishment was too great for a little presumption, for a little pride" (324). And this undercuts the sentimental aspects of the story.5 Because Whalley, despite his fault, is still the most worthy and sympathetic character in the ironic and fallen world in which he lives, the reader does feel that his punishment is too great.
Whalley reaches "the end of the tether" when Massy deflects the compass with pieces of iron. For him "the light had finished ebbing out of the world" (333). Repeating the treachery by which Massy destroyed the ship, Whalley takes the iron from Massy's coat and stuffs it into his pockets. He, "who had made up his mind to die, should [not] be beguiled by chance into a struggle." His hands, like Massy's, must necessarily be reddened by the rust-blood of the iron. Blackness blinds the world. "They, looking from the boat, saw the Sofala, a black mass upon a black sea. . . ." (333). ( 1958)