A High Wind in Jamaica
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"A High Wind in Jamaica" Characters Analysis

By Richard Hughes

fiction | 195 pages | Published in 2011

ISBN_13: 9781446433980
ISBN_10: 1446433986

Estimated read time: 6 min read

List of Characters

Character NameRole
Emily ThorntonMain Character
John ThorntonMain Character
Mrs. ThorntonSupporting Character
Captain JonsenSupporting Character
ZachariasSupporting Character
Richard ThorntonSupporting Character
Margaret ThorntonSupporting Character
Harry ThorntonSupporting Character
James ThorntonSupporting Character
The Pirate CrewAntagonists

Role Identification

In the novel "A High Wind in Jamaica," various characters play essential roles in driving the narrative forward. Emily and John Thornton, along with their family members, are the main characters who go through significant transformations during the course of the story. Other supporting characters, such as Mrs. Thornton, Captain Jonsen, Zacharias, and the pirate crew, contribute to the development of the plot and the exploration of themes.

Character Descriptions

Emily Thornton

Emily Thornton is a young girl of around ten years old. She is described as having blonde hair and blue eyes. Throughout the novel, Emily's appearance symbolizes her innocence and vulnerability, which undergo significant changes as the story progresses.

John Thornton

John Thornton is Emily's brother, approximately twelve years old. He is depicted as thoughtful and responsible, often taking on the role of his father in ensuring the safety of his younger siblings. John is portrayed as more mature than his age suggests.

Mrs. Thornton

Mrs. Thornton is the children's mother. She is initially shown as a loving and caring parent, but her inability to understand her children's experiences and emotions becomes evident later in the story. Her character serves to highlight the generation gap between adults and children.

Captain Jonsen

Captain Jonsen is the captain of the pirate ship that kidnaps the Thornton children. He is portrayed as a complex character with both cruel and compassionate traits. As the story unfolds, Captain Jonsen's motivations and actions become more ambiguous, adding depth to his character.


Zacharias is a black crew member on Captain Jonsen's ship. He initially befriends the Thornton children and acts as a protector towards them. As the story progresses, Zacharias develops a complex relationship with Emily, questioning societal conventions and challenging racial stereotypes.

Richard Thornton

Richard Thornton is the father of the Thornton children. He is introduced at the beginning of the novel but remains a minor character throughout. Richard's absence influences the actions and decisions of the other characters, particularly Mrs. Thornton and the children.

Margaret Thornton

Margaret Thornton is the eldest sister of Emily and John. As a teenager, she experiences her own coming of age journey parallel to that of her younger siblings. Margaret's character explores themes of adolescence, identity, and sexuality.

Harry Thornton and James Thornton

Harry and James Thornton are the younger brothers of Emily and John. They play minor roles in the story, but their presence adds depth to the family dynamic and the challenges faced by the children as they navigate their new environment.

The Pirate Crew

The pirate crew members are a group of rough and dangerous men who kidnap the Thornton children. They represent the antagonistic force that drives the conflict in the novel. Although collectively characterized as villains, the crew members also have individual personalities and motivations.

Character Traits

Character NameTraits
Emily ThorntonInnocent, curious, adaptable
John ThorntonResponsible, mature, protective
Mrs. ThorntonNurturing, oblivious, traditional
Captain JonsenEnigmatic, ruthless, conflicted
ZachariasLoyal, compassionate, introspective
Richard ThorntonAbsent, distant, influential
Margaret ThorntonRebellious, independent, introspective
Harry ThorntonInquisitive, playful, impressionable
James ThorntonYoung, innocent, adaptable
The Pirate CrewRough, dangerous, unpredictable

Character Background

The Thornton family originally resides in Jamaica, where they enjoy a privileged lifestyle. However, their world is turned upside down when a hurricane hits the island, forcing them to send their children back to England for safety. It is during the journey home that the children are kidnapped by Captain Jonsen and his pirate crew. Through this traumatic experience, the characters are confronted with unfamiliar and challenging circumstances, testing their resilience, morals, and understanding of the world.

Character Arcs

Emily Thornton

Emily undergoes a transformation from an innocent and sheltered child to someone who confronts the harsh realities of the world. Her experiences with the pirate crew force her to question societal norms, morality, and her own identity. This journey ultimately shapes her into a more independent and perceptive individual.

John Thornton

John's character arc revolves around assuming responsibility for his siblings' safety and well-being. Initially, he replicates his father's role as the protector, but as the story progresses, he grapples with the limitations of his maturity and begins to question his assumptions about adulthood.

Mrs. Thornton

Mrs. Thornton's character arc revolves around her inability to understand and connect with her children. The events of the novel act as a catalyst for her to re-evaluate her approach to parenting and reconsider the consequences of living in a sheltered environment.


The relationships between the characters in "A High Wind in Jamaica" are complex and dynamic, driving the narrative forward. Some notable relationships include:

  • The bond between Emily and John Thornton: Their sibling relationship evolves as they navigate the challenges together, providing support and protection for each other.
  • The connection between Emily and Zacharias: Zacharias, a crew member on the pirate ship, develops a bond with Emily, challenging societal expectations and highlighting the potential for genuine understanding and friendship across racial boundaries.
  • The conflict between the Thornton children and Captain Jonsen: This adversarial relationship represents the struggle for power and survival. The children must navigate their interaction with Captain Jonsen and his crew while maintaining their own identities and moral compasses.

In conclusion, "A High Wind in Jamaica" portrays a diverse range of characters who undergo personal growth and transformation. Each character's role, traits, background, and relationships contribute to the overall narrative and exploration of themes.