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The Boat by Alistair Macleod

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    The Boat by Alistair Macleod

    The narrator loves his father and shows appreciation for him because his father had chosen a career that he enjoys and benefits from, “rather than selfishly following forever your own dreams and inclinations.” (Pg 275) Although he appreciates him and loves him, he does not idealize him or his way of life. This may be due to him “withering away”, such as when he is constantly seen by his son smoking, and listening to the radio in bed, his son may see this as taking life for granted. Additionally the narrator wants a better education than his father had. In which case he follows through with his dreams of education and becomes a professor.

    The symbolism for of the boat has been transformed in this story into evasiveness. Such as the narrators father, Ernest’s need to escape. Ernest’s typical routine consisted of lying in bed smoking cigarettes and listening to the radio and if not that he was escaping by going out on the boat.

    Changes that the narrator undergoes through the story is that the narrator had grown up with a parental figure, thus thrusting him into growing up to quick and fending for himself. This compelling him into distancing himself from his mother and questioning his father. He begins to understand at an early age that life isn’t as appealing as it looks to be. In consequence he doesn’t have the father – son relationship that others seem to have.

    There a few examples of imagery in this story that affect the five senses one of the most used is sight, the narrator describes every memory, moment and expression in such detail that you can picture it perfectly. Such as “The brown larvae of tobacco shreds and the grey flecks of ash covered both the table and the floor beneath it. The once – varnished surface of the table was disfigured by numerous black scars and gashes inflicted by the neglected burning cigarettes of many years.”

    Hearing also had and affect as well, it gives you the sense of emotion coming from the character. Such as in the story when Ernest was singing with the tourists in the cabin that could be heard across the village. “…the familiar yet unfamiliar voice that rolled down from the cabins…His voice boomed down the hill and bounced off the surface of the harbour, which was unearthly blue…”(Pg 269).

    The sense of touch had also greatly affected the story such as in the last paragraph, telling how they found his father…”hands were shredded ribbons, as were his feet which had lost their boots to the suction of the sea, and his shoulders came apart in our hands when we tried to move him from the rocks. And the gulls had pecked out his eyes and the white-green stubble of his whiskers had continued to grow in death, like the grass on graves, upon the purple bloated mass that was his face.” (pg.277)They described what it had been like to pick up his dead father; it created not only a gruesome image and a grotesque feeling but a sense of remorse as well.

    The story does a poor job of describing Ernest’s physical attributes but it does give you a sense of a stereotypical fisherman – possibly heavier, beard, gives you a sense of a laid back personality. Alistair Macleod describes him in the story as his face “ruddy” so a pinkish tinge, possibly from the bitter air from being out on the boat. Ernest’s is also described by his son in a memory …” My earliest recollection of my father is a view from the floor of gigantic rubber boots and then suddenly being elevated and has my face pressing against stubble of his check.”(pg.262) he is also described further on as having shaggy white hair and again wearing rubber boots. This in turn can describe that he is a dedicated fishermen and enjoys doing so. Also, judging by how little he cares about his family and most things that aren’t fishing, he can be described as a “slob”, having a lazy old routine such as when he lays in bed smoking cigarettes and listening to the radio.

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    The Boat by Alistair Macleod. (2016, May 19). Retrieved from

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