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The short story “The Boat” by Alistair MacLeod is about a university professor who looks back at his life when he was young

The short story “The Boat” by Alistair MacLeod is about a university professor who

looks back at his life when he was young, and recalls the journeys with his father on the boat.

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MacLeod also states that his father wanted him to be successful more than just to be a fisherman.

The boat symbolizes the duty and sacrifice the father had to do as a fisher man in order to

provide a good living for his family. It also symbolizes imprisonment and obligation for that the

father always wanted a university education and a better life beyond the sea.

The father wants a separate life from the fishing world he lives in. He later discovers

customs and ways in his day to day life to add exciting bits of the outside world to him because

he senses the need to learn and discover things separate from the boat, as shown by the radio he

keeps on listening to daily and smoking tobacco “the cigarette smoked and smoldered on the

ashtray and on the table and the radio played constantly, sometimes low and sometimes loud”

(MacLeod 227). Symbolism is shown in the story through the rich tourists that the

daughters met at work, and took them for a boat ride on the father’s boat. “The tourists with their

expensive clothes and cameras and sunglasses awkwardly backed down the iron ladder wharf’s

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side to where my father waited below.” The father here saw the joy and the excitement the

tourists experienced, which led him to sing with joy and happiness. He also heard the tourists

conversations and saw how people live beyond the sea, which left him with curiosity in

discovering the outside world beyond the sea. This symbolizes the imprisonment of the father in

his life and his curiosity in discovering the outside world, which is the major reason he allows his

daughters to have a job, and push them to do bigger and better thing in life and get a good level

of education, not just be a fisherman. The father had to go in to the “fishing world” to continue

the family tradition and for many other reasons such as supporting his family and fulfilling he

needs of his wife and children, and having the family business continue. Which symbolizes

obligation that he achieves by being a fisherman every single day, knowing that that’s not what

he wants. “When he came home he threw the money he had earned on the kitchen table as he did

with all his earnings.”


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