What comes to your mind when you think of Jack Sparrow? suave, adventurous, reckless genius, master manipulator, pompous, narcissistic, eloquent, a phoenix and an outlaw in every imaginable way.
Like every story worth telling, Jack’s story is a love story. But this love is not for a woman or gold or power. In his own words, the unbounded sea is his first love and his beloved ship the Black Pearl his second love. However, both are just means to an end. What Jack truly yearns for is freedom. Freedom is the soul’s sacred thirst for normalcy. You can bind Calypso in a human form and bind her to her bones but she will eventually break free. As Jack tells Elizabeth, “It’s not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails that’s what a ship needs but what a ship is…What the Black Pearl really is…is freedom.” Neither the rum nor the salty wenches (women) nor the plundered treasures could satisfy him, they were merely trifling distractions at best. Only the freedom of a pirate to go on adventures and explore the mysteries that abound the limitless ocean could sate him. That’s the universal charm of Jack; he gets to do what he wants most. But of course, to have what you want most, a price must have to be paid. Jack had to wade through a mutiny, being stuck in Davy Jones locker for god knows how long, being marooned in a god forsaken spit of land twice, betrayal of his friends like Elizabeth, being eaten by a Kraken and what not. But he could endure all, brave all, because he knew exactly what he wanted and he was willing to go any lengths to get it. And he did of course rise from ashes again and again, to regain his life and freedom to sail the seas as a legendary pirate.
Jack always introduces himself as Captain Jack Sparrow and even in times when he has no ship or a crew. He walks, talks and acts the part of being Captain of a ship. This can be seen as narcissism or his immense faith in himself to regain his lost ship and his ability to procure a crew. Both of which, comes true in the course of time. Jack also pays great attention to his appearance and his effects, especially his hat, to distinguish himself among the pirates.
Among his effects Jack’s compass deserves special mention, the one that does not point north, but rather towards the thing that the person holding the compass wants most. At a certain level, it seems that all you need know is the name of what you want and the compass will guide you to it. It helps that Jack almost always knows what he exactly wants to achieve his aims. It would have been useless in the hands of one, who cannot make up his mind. No one who achieved anything great ever knew all the steps to get there; they just knew they were going to do it. But even the legendary Jack Sparrow does get lost at times. Davy Jones chases Jack, to claim Jack’s pending debt; hundred years of servitude aboard the Dutchman. For quite some time Jack loses his mind, not knowing what he needs to do get out of this troubling situation and his compass cannot help him. A quiet mind free of fear and doubt and in alignment with one’s heart is quintessential to lead us to the object of our life.
To classify, Jack as a good or a bad man morally is to oversimplify the truth. Like most people his character is neither black nor white but rather shades of the grey. For a pirate, who thieves, plunders, impersonates, deceives woman and lives by the dictum “Take everything, give nothing back”, he is oddly altruistic. He prefers non-violent solutions and tries to avoid killing those who did not specifically wish him harm. He twice sacrifices an opportunity to achieve immortality, to save his friends Will Turner and Anjelica. He showed his loyalty to his crew, by going back to the Black Pearl to fight the Kraken alongside them, even though he first chose to flee alone in a dinghy. He even feels remorse for breaking Anjelica’s heart and setting her on the path of piracy. Jack clearly like all of us, struggles with his own good and bad sides. Jack is able to put his self-interests behind and chooses to help the innocent and his friends in moments of great peril. Though, he fails miserably to do the same at other times. In my opinion, a strong evil is better than a weak goodness. The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis (Dante’s Inferno). While the weak man goes nowhere, the strong falls and fails but one can only fall so much. One hits the ground and then, there is only one way, upwards. Jesus and Judas (Ram and Ravan) are in the same person, what matters ultimately is what we chose to act upon. I would consider Jack, a pirate with a moral compass, that’s saying something.
Any discussion about Jack, without a word about his mercurial genius, often bordering on insanity is incomplete. There is meaning to that madness. Sometimes to find a place that cannot be found, one has to get lost for certain. Whether it is the thrilling escapades engineered extemporaneously or his use of guile and confounding wordplay to outmaneuver his enemies, Jack knows his business. He was an expert swordsman and a good shot and was no pushover in a battle. Yet he never goes into a fight unless he has no other alternative and almost always finds a shortcut out of tough situations leaving everyone baffled with his intelligence and quick wit. He also has an unusual understanding of human nature. For example, he uses Lord Beckett’s greed for power and control for the seven seas or Will’s passionate love for Elizabeth, manipulating them for his purposes. However, some of his dealings do leave him in a quandary, whether it is the right way. Some are of the opinion, the means justify the ends. But one has to live with the choices one makes for the rest of his/her life. Captain Teague, Jack’s father advises Jack, “It’s not just about living forever, Jackie. The trick is still living with yourself forever”.
In conclusion, regardless of the external complexity of Jack’s character and the ups and downs of his adventurous life, Jack is rather simple. Only one thing matters to him. Freedom, Freedom and Freedom. And he is willing to go any extent and to have it, even if it means he has to dance with dragons. Although, he would prefer to drug the dragon or divert it rather than face it head on. I leave you with a few questions.
What is the thing that you want most on all Earth? What is so precious to you that you are willing to pillage, plunder and cross the seas to have it? Would you rather be the heart of the party or stand by the side and wonder why is the rum always gone?