to take somebody as one finds him


Senior Member
It's from a documentary about sinking of Titanic, the captain called one crew member and asks him:

-What about stokehold fire?

-Still burning, sir.

-I take a man as I find him, Barrett.

-I do my job , sir

-I don't doubt that.

I don't understand what the captain wanted to say by the sentence in italics, can anyone help?
Many thanks in advance.
  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Ooh that's a tricky one, Sigalit ~ it would be easier to answer if we could see facial expressions, hear tones of voice, etc. Could you at least give us more of an idea of what's happening at this point? e.g. is this 'stokehold fire' one that shouldn't be burning?


    Senior Member
    Well, the expressions are restrained, and after that dialogue the captain tells the guy that tomorrow he'll have to work another double shift, so there is tension between them (the context is tension between catholic and protestant crew members on the Titanic). The fire happened accidentally as it was often the case in stokeholds, but the guy is one of the in charge of stokehold (I think leading fireman).


    Senior Member
    English - American
    Ordinarily I would take that to mean "I accept a man as he is, rather than how he [might/ought to] be."

    In this case I think it means: "I judge a man by results, not by what he says he is doing, or is supposed to be doing."

    (Rough summary) The captain implicitly criticizes by mentioning the fire. The leading fireman says he can't be faulted if he does his job to the letter. The captain says that may be so, but the fire is still burning.
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