The importance of Prince Henry the Navigator was in the inspiration

Cover of The Progress of Love, by Alice Munro, which contains her story "Fits"

If I ever have a chance to teach a freshman seminar course — to explain to students in their first several weeks what it’s going to take to succeed in college and what the value of their education might be — this would be my entire syllabus:

Peg took courses, a different course each winter, choosing what was offered at the local high school. She took a course on the History of Art, one on Great Civilizations of the East, one on Discoveries and Explorations Through the Ages. She went to class one night a week, even if she was very tired or had a cold. She wrote tests and prepared papers. Sometimes Robert would find a page covered with her small neat handwriting on top of the refrigerator or the dresser in their room.

Therefore we see that the importance of Prince Henry the Navigator was in the inspiration and encouragement of other explorers for Portugal, even though he did not go on voyages himself.

He was moved by her earnest statements, her painfully careful small handwriting, and angry that she never got more than a B-plus for these papers she worked so hard at.

“I don’t do it for the marks,” Peg said. Her cheekbones reddened under the freckles, as if she was making some kind of personal confession. “I do it for the enjoyment.”

from “Fits,” by Alice Munro

If I added anything to it, it would be simply the Aristotelian suggestion (from Rhetoric) that learning comes most easily when it is learning done with pleasure.  But Alice Munro illustrates that so beautifully already.

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

2 thoughts on “The importance of Prince Henry the Navigator was in the inspiration

  1. “…learning comes most easily when it is done with pleasure…”

    I so agree!

    (Isn’t Munro staggeringly good?)

    1. I haven’t done nearly the work I should have on my novel, and I blame Munro for it, because she keeps sending me back to my short fiction. I’m set to read her “novel” Lives of Girls and Women, so maybe that will help, but I suspect it will just make me want to work on my story cycle instead. 🙂

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