In Wetherell’s short story ‘‘The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant,’’ the narrator yearns for two things in the summer of his fourteenth year: fishing and Sheila Mant. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning short story author Robert Olen Butler, good writing revolves around the yearning of a main character. In his book From Where You Dream, a collection of lectures about the art of writing fiction, Butler examines this sense of yearning, which he claims is necessary for developing believable characterization. There are various forms of yearning. In popular fiction meant to entertain, the protagonist might yearn for a woman or a man, want power or money, or desire an adventure in some exotic location. But in literary fiction, which is written on a deeper, more thoughtful level, the protagonist’s desires are ‘‘on the order of: I yearn for self, I yearn for an identity, I yearn for a place in the universe, I yearn to connect to the other.’’ Both levels of yearning is . . . Read More
The Connecticut River
An avid fisherman and nature lover, Wetherell has written many essays about his adventures and explorations on the Connecticut River. This river has played a prominent role in the history of New England, being the largest river in this area (410 miles long). The river flows along the borders of New Hampshire and Vermont, continues through western Massachusetts and central Connecticut, and ends at the Long Island Sound. A heavy amount of silt often builds up in the river during the winter, creating several sandbars along the river floor and into its tributaries. These sandbars have historically made navigation challenging, resulting in a lack of major cities along its shores. Springfield, Massachusetts, is the largest city on the river’s shoreline today.
Due to the rising and dropping elevations of its floor, the Connecticut River has been a good site for manufacturing. This has brought business to the area . . . Read More
Conflict and Suspense
Good fiction writers know that to hold their readers’ interest they must create conflict and suspense in their stories. These two elements, which are closely linked, are often what keep readers turning the pages to find out what happens next. This is true in most stories, not just those that are overly dramatic or involve physical violence. Some of the best stories are based on subtle conflicts, such as the example offered in Wetherell’s story. Here the narrator’s struggle is internal. He has developed emotions that conflict with each other. He desires both Sheila and the bass, but he fears he will lose Sheila if he makes his passion for the bass known to her. So his love of fishing conflicts with his fear of losing Sheila. Though the reader knows that the narrator is fighting two different forces internally, Sheila is completely unaware that a conflict is occurring. This story demonstrates that not much outward . . . Read More
The main dilemma in Wetherell’s ‘‘The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant’’ reflects one of the major themes of this short story, namely, the theme of sacrifice. The narrator is torn between his desire to impress Sheila Mant in order to win her affection and his love of fishing. At the beginning of the story, the narrator can enjoy both of his passions since they do not interfere with one another. He watches Sheila from a distance and entertains fantasies about who she is and how their relationship might develop. When he is on his own, he can either go out on his canoe or stand along the shore and fish without distraction. However, as the story progresses, and the narrator and Sheila are brought together, he discovers that his love of fishing and the potential development of a relationship with Sheila remain at odds. One of them must be sacrificed. Throughout the final part of the story, the narrator attempts to keep both his . . . Read More
Eric Caswell technically does not appear in the story. Readers learn about him only through comments the other two characters make about him. Sheila talks more about Eric than the narrator does and is flattered by Eric’s complimentary remarks about her. She tells the narrator that Eric owns a fancy car and has told her she has the right looks to become a model. Eric obviously has gained Sheila’s attention through his flattery and because of his status as a college (older) boy who also has money. In the end, Eric wins the honor of taking Sheila home in his car, sparing her the more unusual trip via the river with the narrator. In many ways Eric is the complete opposite of the narrator.
Although Sheila makes only a brief appearance in this story and has little to say, she appears to be a major character because the protagonist is so focused on her throughout the narrative. Sheila is a . . . Read More
Wetherell’s short story ‘‘The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant’’ takes place in August (sometime in the 1960s) on the shores of a New England river that runs between New Hampshire and Vermont. The narrator of the story is an unnamed fourteen-year-old who is spending his summer vacation with his family at a cabin. Next door is the girl of the narrator’s dreams, seventeen-year-old Sheila Mant. The Mant family celebrates the summer with parties, which the narrator longs to join. His family is not as social as the Mants, and his parents think the Mants are too flamboyant. This does not keep the narrator from sneaking out at night to observe the festivities taking place next door, which fuels the narrator’s fantasies of capturing Sheila’s heart.
Sheila is used to a lot of attention. Though the narrator has a crush on her, he describes her as being ‘‘all but out of reach.’’ Much of the narrator’s day is spent studying Sheila, especially when she is . . . Read More
While serving a prison term for armed robbery, Piri Thomas realized that what he had become was not who he was born to become. Moreover, he still had plenty of time to turn his life around and make something of himself. He encouraged himself to strive for better, and he found his writing voice. Since then, he has used his life and his career to make a positive impact on his family and his community. He has worked with prisoners, youth, and children, motivating them to find the best path they can find for their lives. He brings hope and wisdom to those who need it, and he is able to speak from experience and personal struggle. One of the ways he reaches out to people is through his stories, such as ‘‘Amigo Brothers,’’ a short story in his 1978 collection. In the story, two teenage boys who love boxing and love each other like brothers must face off in a championship boxing match. It puts their determination and friendship to the test. Set in Spanish Harlem, the story has not . . . Read More
Thomas pays such close attention to the setting of ‘‘Amigo Brothers’’ that it becomes a prominent part of the story. He is specific in letting the reader know—in the very first paragraph—that this story takes place in a particular area of New York City. He goes so far as to tell the reader in which tenement building Antonio and Felix live. The address of the Boys Club is given, as are the locations for two other gyms. These are the places the main characters frequent to exercise and practice boxing. Even when the boys go running, Thomas lets the reader know that they are running along East River Drive, and that the edge of the river is dirty. When they stop to talk, Felix leans on a railing and looks across at Brooklyn. In a poignant moment on the night before the fight, Antonio is on a rooftop. Thomas describes the sights and sounds around Antonio. Even the neighborhood toughs and the throngs of boxing fans are described, so . . . Read More
The main theme of ‘‘Amigo Brothers’’ is friendship, and Thomas starts to build it from the beginning. By the end of the first paragraph, the reader knows that Antonio and Felix consider themselves brothers because they have been such good friends for so long. The reader also knows that the two boys are from the same neighborhood and thus have a similar cultural background and upbringing. The reader soon learns that the boys also share a passion for boxing, and they train together and encourage each other as athletes. Boxing is important common ground in their friendship—they train together daily—and it keeps them out of trouble and focused on the positive.
When the inevitable time comes that these two accomplished boxers must face each other in a championship bout, they are both concerned about the fight affecting their friendship. Although they have both dreamed of becoming world champions, the opportunity to . . . Read More
Antonio is seventeen years old and is Felix’s best friend. Like Felix, Antonio is a great boxer who loves to train. He and Felix both have a dream of becoming world-famous boxing champions. Antonio is described as ‘‘fair, lean, and lanky,’’ with hair that falls over his eyes. He has avoided all the negative influences of his neighborhood, such as gangs and drugs, and is instead focused on boxing. Not only does he train himself as an athlete, but he reads about boxing and boxers, and he really knows the sport. As a boxer, he has proven himself over and over in competition, and he has a fan base in his community. He is known for his excellent boxing skills and ability to use his speed and height in a match.
The most important relationship for Antonio is his friendship with Felix. No other friends or family are mentioned in the story, and he is careful to preserve this important relationship. Felix helps him stay . . . Read More