The Aubrey-Maturin novels depict historical events took place during Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the 19th century. O'Brian does not follow a strict chronological order depicting events from 1801-1813, and 1813-1814. The uniqueness is that O'Brian vividly portrays cultural and religious settings and values of the epoch, its historical significance and social traditions. Two main characters, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin may be compared in matters of general cultural background, including politics and religion, as well as in three key elements of natural philosophy: the anatomical emphasis on pre-adapted functional design, the treatment of extinction, and the belief in fixity rather than transformation. All of these topics help define Maturin's patterns of thinking as a naturalist and shed light on subtly significant moments within the novels. Maturin was educated among the philosophes of the French Enlightenment, but both men, Aubrey and Maturin, also maintained a political and religious conservatism that some people found incongruous (King, 2001).
The Aubrey-Maturin novels carry out the paradoxical process of instruction found in the most interesting historical fiction: at the same time they make readers conversant with ideas, tropes, and habits of an earlier world, they also perform the noble literary work of defamiliarization. In creating a compelling vision of natural philosophy, O'Brian makes room for a lost paradigm that seems oddly fresh, for all its scientific antiquity. He revives a naturalist's dream of preternatural design that has become increasingly difficult to imagine. O'Brian portrays that Maturin and Aubrey came to detest what grew from the Revolution and turned away from its democratic principles (King, 2001). In The Wine-Dark Sea, when Maturin meets up with a French utopian named Dutourd, he initially tempers his criticism with some sympathy (Teachout, 2003). Dutourd seems to be "a good benevolent man" led astray by that "mumping villain Rousseau and later by his passionate belief in his own system, based it was true on a hatred of poverty, war and injustice, but also on the assumption that men were naturally and equally good, needing only a firm, friendly hand to set them on the right path, the path to the realization of their full potentialities. This, of course, entailed the abolition of the present order, which had so perverted them, and of the established churches" (O'Brian 2004, p. 32).
O'brian's assessment reveals his lingering attraction to revolutionary promises, but, he values established religious and social order above the systems of ideologues. Nor does he believe in the natural equality of humans (King, 2001). As Adrian Desmond has shown, French and British radicals of the period saw a linkage between the atomistic materialism of biology; in which all forms of life developed from a common origin, and revolutionary political theories based on natural equality. Maturin reject both the natural and political philosophy of democratic atomism (Teachout, 2003). When asked by Dutourd what he thinks of democracy, Maturin replies that "he did not think the policy that put Socrates to death and that left Athens prostrate was the highest expression of human wisdom," and he cites Aristotle's "definition of democracy as mob-rule, the depraved version of a commonwealth" (O'Brian 2004, p.