Cup of Gold - Glossary of Key Terms and Concepts

Setting | Character Summaries | Plot Synopsis | Reception
Cultural References | Key Terms and Concepts


Themes in cup of gold

Jolly Roger flagBuccaneers

Buccaneers is a term used to describe crews of pirates who raided Caribbean coastal cities during the seventeenth century. Today, the term is often used interchangeably with "pirates."

Golden Age of Piracy

Period dated 1650-1720, which was characterized by heightened piracy in the Caribbean, as more and more wealth traveled between Europe and the New World.

Privateer

A term for a pirate who was authorized by his state government to attack other countries' shipping vessels. Essentially, a privateer had a letter from his King giving him permission to pillage other countries' vessels. Britain often employed privateers in the seventeenth century to terrorize Spain's more powerful and larger naval force.

Swashbuckler

A romanticized, sword-slinging hero who seeks the heart of a beautiful and feminine heroine. The Swashbuckler is often overly proud and boisterous. There are many fictional characters that represent the swashbuckler, especially the Three Musketeers memorialized by author Alexandre Dumas. Steinbeck inverts the swashbuckler stereotype with Captain Henry Morgan who is rebuffed and shamed by the woman he attempts to woo.

Cup of Gold

The symbolic name for Panama in the novel. For Morgan it comes to represent all of his aspirations as a captain and buccaneer. Morgan believes capturing the capital of Panama will finally bring him the satisfaction he seeks in life. The "Cup of Gold" is a multifaceted symbol in the text. Besides representing Morgan's ambitions, it symbolizes the wealth of Panama, and as a chalice, it holds religious connotations as well. Ultimately, the hollow nature of the cup comes to represent the superficiality of Morgan's aspirations as he fails to win over La Santa Roja and earn the admiration he thought he deserved and desired.


Setting | Character Summaries | Plot Synopsis | Reception
Cultural References | Key Terms and Concepts