“The Lost Salt Gift of Blood” and “The Boat” are both compelling stories that illustrate the dilemmas associated with familial obligations, living with choices, as well as the conflict between traditional values and a modern; however, overall “The Boat” presents them in a more honest and effective manner. “The Lost Salt Gift of Blood” focuses on a grown man who is returning to a small fishing village in which his son lives, as he attempts to come to terms with the way his life has turned out and the responsibilities he holds, whereas in “The Boat”, a grown man is reflecting upon his life where he grew up in a household with constant tension as to the way one should live their life and how this affected his decisions. “The Boat” displays these themes to a higher quality, through an interesting plot structure, character formation and realistic conflicts.
Macleod’s two stories both explore the dilemmas associated with familial obligations, but “The Boat” provides a more effective treatment of this theme. In “The Lost Salt Gift of Blood”, the conflict presented is very much internal and centralized within the narrator. This provides readers with very little chance to understand the family aspect of the narrator’s life; although he is traveling to see his son and his sons’ grandparents, the sense of family is lost within the plot. In lieu of direct familial obligations, Macleod provides a very much internalized desire for familial contact:
The salesman’s wife stands waiting along with two small children who are the first to see him. They race toward him with their arms outstretched. “Daddy, Daddy,” they cry, “What did you bring me? What did you bring me?” (Macleod, 71)
Here, the narrator is shown observing the seemingly content family. At the end of his ordeal, Macleod makes it evident that he did not just leave his son because he didn’t care, but because he understands that just like the rock, he would be able to ‘buffed to near perfection’ by his grandparents. Overall, Macleod’s attempt at portraying a sense of familial obligation within “The Lost Salt Gift of Blood” is unsuccessful because of the lacking characterization and development of the bond between the central characters. However, in “The Boat” the idea of familial obligation is found woven throughout the whole story. The narrator’s personal reflection on his life growing up surrounded by parents with opposing points of view allows for a great deal of conflict. Not only within the main characters, but the minor characters, such as the sisters, are also clearly affected by the conflict of familial obligations as well:
My mother was never uneasy about them at such times, and when her husband criticized her she would say, “Nothing will happen to them there,” or “They could be doing worse things in worse places.” (Macleod, 112)
Through their opposing views, it is obvious that the conflict between mother and father is resulting in them using the children against each other. This pernicious fact is crucial in understanding the tension felt within the household, which led to the narrator’s reluctant decisions to consider a fisherman’s life. In “The Boat” Macleod creates an efficacious atmosphere in order to successfully illustrate to the readers the conflict that arises from familial obligations.
Both stories display the long lasting impact of choices, and how important they are as one must live with them always. In relation to the impact of gifts within these two stories, “The Lost Salt Gift of Blood” depicts this more effectively. In “The Lost Salt Gift of Blood”, the narrator must come to terms with the fact that not only does he have a son, but he must also make the choice as to whether or not he will bring this son home with him. This conflict forces readers to look at an abnormal point of view on the subject, as it allows for an honest look into the mind of the...