The Lifeguard: A Change over Time

Topics: English-language films, Fiction, Perception Pages: 3 (961 words) Published: October 7, 2013
One central theme of Mary Morris’s story “The Lifeguard” is the passage of time and the way time’s passing changes our perceptions of our lives. Evidence of the importance of this theme includes the following: The very first sentence of the story calls attention to the passage of time – to the narrator’s movement from one phase of his life to the next. The entire story reflects upon the past, as the narrator recalls a crucial summer in his life. The first sentence of the second paragraph also calls attention to a change that has occurred with the passage of time – to the ways the white sands have become darker and less clean over the years. This imagery may symbolize the ways all things change and darken with the passage of time. The reference to the drowning of Billy Mandel, along with later references to his death, suggests the ways in which one moment in time can alter all subsequent moments for the worse. The narrator’s description of the former lifeguard, and of other persons who visit the beach, emphasizes the importance of mutability (or constant change) as a theme of the story: I had watched the boys who were lifeguards turn flabby. I had seen Ric Spencer, who had ruled this beach before me, for half a decade, lose his hair, and I’d seen the slim bodies of women stretch with childbearing. Early in the story, the narrator feels almost omnipotent, but by the end of the story he himself will know how it feels to lose the easy confidence of youth. In a sense, this story is about the maturation of the narrator as he faces the first significant challenge to his sense of power and confidence. A brief confrontation with the possibility of death – with the possibility of a change in time that is irreversible – shakes his view of himself and of the world and helps introduce him to an adult’s sense of time: a sense that time is ever-passing and irrecoverable. At the beginning of the story, the narrator feels as if he is immune to the passing of time and to change:...
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