Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Whaler

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The Irish short story The Whaler is written by Joe Sheerin and published in 000. The story’s main theme is of universal validity because it deals with what every boy and girl will realize somewhere in their childhood that nobody’s perfect.

The story takes place in a town-land in Ireland by the Donegal coast. The surroundings are characterized by having colds seas, hills and meadows. The action takes place on a May morning but it’s difficult placing the exact ‘when’ of the story. The Gaelic expression, which is used, tells us more about the Whaler than that the story should take place in the past, since Gaelic can still be heard today in Ireland. The story could be more or less contemporary or it could take place hundred years ago, but I don’t think the timing is very important since the themes of the story are still relevant today.

The narrator is a young boy who is about 10 to 1 years old. He has a passion for, and familiarizes himself with whale hunting with such enthusiasm only a child would be able to have “… they froze my blood and boiled my imagination” . In fact he is so fascinated by whale hunting that the hills look like a whale to him. Being the local whale hunter the Whaler is not surprisingly being idolized by the narrator, and the mysterious man almost becomes a god to him. The narrator is trustworthy and honest and perhaps that is why the Whaler chooses to take sby into his confidence.

The whaler is an older man who is obviously known to the inhabitants as a great whale hunter. He is secretive, reserved and lives alone. In the search of being someone, and feeling too unimportant, he has invented the lies. It’s probably difficult for the Whaler to carry the secrets about, and thereby keeping up appearances, but he is being selfish using the narrator to relieve him of his secrets. He obviously has no sense of occasion when he tells intimate stories from his and Eileen’s relationship.

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In the beginning of the story we hear about how the narrator imagines a whale hunt. The masculine and god-like Whaler is described as a strong man with mighty arms and wide shoulders etc. But a contrast arises when we following hear about the Whaler defecating. Already at this point of the story we notice that he has a weaker character than first presumed by the narrator. Furthermore we get a clue that the whaler is not as the narrator expects, when the Whaler takes the narrator’s hand in his “It was a softer handshake than I had imagined” .

When the Whaler shares his secrets with the narrator, the illusion of the strong heroic role model breaks. This is a very strong experience for the narrator, who now realizes that the Whaler isn’t a god but only a simple man who makes mistakes and so-on.

The story is seen from the narrator’s point of view. I think it has the effect of emphasizing the significance of the whole situation. The stories about the Whaler may seem like harmless little lies, but to the narrator it’s his whole idea of the world that changes.

Before the Whaler’s secrets are revealed the narrator describes him as taller and broader than the narrator himself. After the Whaler tells him that he actually never saw a whale in his life, they are on level ground and when the narrator discovers the horrible truth about his school teacher, the narrator stands above the Whaler.

This shows how the vision of the Whaler little by little crumbles away during their meeting. Eileen Early, being a good Christian, and the Whaler, being an idol to the narrator, were attached a divine status but now all their glory has disappeared and his vision of them is forever changed. When the story ends the narrator has lost another bit his childish innocence “… the news had aged my body” .

The story ends with the phrase “Thar she blows”. Maybe it’s the narrator who repeats the phrase to himself. “Thar she blows” has got a whole new meaning to him now. He has learned that things aren’t always what they appear to be, and looks back being slightly more experienced.

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