Mary Morris’s short story “The Lifeguard” is narrated by Josh Michaels, an arrogant lifeguard whose life is shattered when he is unable to save a drowning child, Billy Mandel. Two key themes are vanity and hubris.
Vanity describes an inflated pride in oneself or one’s appearance. Josh describes many of the young women that admire him. He spends a significant amount of time convincing himself and the reader that the older Mrs. Lovenheim only comes to the beach to look at him. Vanity is dangerous because it becomes a form of self-worship. Josh believes he will be young and handsome forever, and this thinking makes him believe he is better than others. Because he is vain with regard to his appearance, he also overlooks other aspects of his life with a false sense of pride and overconfidence, which will eventually cause tragedy.
While vanity typically is more specific to one’s appearance, hubris describes one’s personality quality of extreme and foolish pride and dangerous...
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