The Boat by Alistair Macleod

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Tradition Against Freedom

"The Boat" by Alistair MacLeod is the story told from the perspective of university teacher looking back on his life. The narrator relates the first memories of his life until his father's death. The story focuses on the conflicting relation between the mother and the father, and their different perspectives on how their children should lead their lives. MacLeod uses features of setting to present the tension between tradition and freedom. The contrast between the father's room with the rest of the house is the same contrast between the personalities of both parents. MacLeod describes two of the house's rooms. One is the kitchen, that is a reflection of the mother's personality. She is a woman who, "[runs] her house as her brothers [run] their boats"(132).  Everything in the room is, "clean and spotless and in order"(132), as are the rest of the rooms. In contrast to the other rooms, the father's room is total chaos. It is full of books and magazines, and is the reflection of the father's personality. He lives in the world of ideas and thoughts, the cause of his insomnia. The mother's outlook is totally contrasting to the father's outlook. She believes that working hard is the only way to live, while the father thinks that there is other ways. The contrasting personalities of the parents create two different atmospheres in the house, where the children have to choose between one or the other. The boat seems to be the center of the family, the symbol of the mother's traditions and the father's frustration, which is fishing. The boat has such importance for the mother that the first question she asks to her husband, when he returns every noon is, "Well, how did things go in the boat today?"(131).  The characters in the story are nameless, but the boat has a name. It is Jenny Lynn the mother's maiden name. However, her actual name is not mentioned, which emphasizes that even if she lives following her traditions, "none of [her family...
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