In Alistair MacLeod’s “The Boat,” the narrator is trying to come to terms with himself by confronting his past life with his present life. He is trying to decide of he has chosen the right career and lifestyle. His decision not to live by the ocean and to pursue the life of a fisherman was the right decision for him in the beginning. Although it was the right one for him at first, one can easily see why it does not turn out to be the best choice in the years to come. In this paper I will explore the reasons why he did not make the right decision to leave the ocean. These reasons are because of the unresolved grief over the loss of his father, the importance of family and tradition, and the guilt that he feels by his leaving.
The narrator has many unresolved feelings of grief over the loss of his father. He has not come to terms with the significance of his father’s passing. In the beginning of the story he is still having frequent early morning awakenings where he “imagine that my father is waiting for me in the room below the darkened stairs” (MacLeod 45). Although the narrator has made clear career and lifestyle choices far from the traditional world of his youth, he has not come to terms with the loss of his father and therefore still feels unease in his life. A means of his coping with this grief is by telling a story that explores his relationship with his father and mother. In the last paragraph, he hears of the gruesome details of how his father died. This could be what is causing the frequent memories of his past at the beginning of the story:
[It is not] easy to know that your father was found on November twenty-eighth,
ten miles to the north and wedged between two boulders at the base of the rock-
strewn cliffs where he had been hurled and slammed so many times. His hands
were shredded as were his feet which had lost their boots to...