November 3, 2009
Analysis of “The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant”
“The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant,” by W. D. Wetherell, is an initiation story in which the symbols of fishing and Sheila Mant illustrate how the character of the narrator transforms from youth and innocence to sophistication and maturity. At age fourteen, it is typical for a boy such as the narrator to be beginning this transformation. Being innocent and naïve in a sense, the fourteen year old narrator gets an enormous crush on a seventeen year old girl named Sheila Mant and comes to believe she is what he loves most in life. For him, Sheila is a symbol of the maturity and sophistication he will eventually become a part of. When the narrator finally works up the nerve to ask her out to a concert, she agrees to go. On the way to the concert, we see some other symbols such as the bass and his fishing rod. These symbolize the pleasures in life the narrator truly loves more than anything. In hindsight, the narrator realizes this is the case when he reflects on how Sheila and fishing have affected his life separately. His maturity is shown in his ability to realize later on what is actually most important to him in life.
At the beginning, the narrator is a character of much innocence and naïveté, but as the story develops, he becomes more mature and sophisticated. His love for fishing and Sheila Mant is that of one who has never had to worry about the problems love can cause. His first step towards the transformation comes through his asking out of the older Sheila Mant. In doing so, he is opening himself to the troubles that come along with involving himself in love. Opening himself to the pain he knows this may cause is a sign that he will no longer have the ignorance that allows him to avoid pain. As the story progresses, these love problems begin to identify themselves. During the ride on the canoe, Sheila states that, “[fishing] is boring...