"Material" is a story about a young man's search to find his inner self. Michael Byers, also the protagonist in the short story, writes a story filled with different accounts of a summer he spent on a fish processor barge in order to relate his struggle to overcome issues that have plagued him as a writer and as person in general. Foremost, Byers worked on the barge to make money for college. A second underlying reason that Byers works on the barge is to find material to ignite his writing. During the time he spends on the barge he grows as a writer, but more importantly as a man. His uncles, which help him find the job for the summer, are men that Byers looks upon with admiration, describing them as "massively, thrilling competent people" (2). He looks to them as models for what a man should be because he has not really had one in his own life. Byers lived with his mother, and he explains the reason he really needs the money is to avoid conflict when his parents meet in August to discuss Byers's financial needs for the upcoming college year. He despises the fact that his parents do not get along, so he is willing to spend a difficult summer working on a barge in Alaska in order to make enough money so that his parents do not have to argue who is going to pay tuition. The protagonist's most important problem he faces is the relationship with his parents and how he has always lacked the courage to break away from them. The idea of courage and the entire inner struggle that Byers faces is depicted utterly by a metaphor that he incorporates in the story "Material."
Towards the end of the story, a character named Denny comes out of the woods during a break they were granted once they reached Southeast Alaska with an American bald eagle in his arms. To everyone's astonishment, the eagle rested in his arms without fighting back until Denny finally let it go free once they reached the barge. The eagle did not belong in Denny's arms with submissive tolerance, just as...
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