How does W. D. Wetherell create sympathy for the narrator in "The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant"?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

W. D. Wetherell's short story “The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant” is about a fourteen-year-old torn between two desires: his love of fishing and the allure of the beautiful but unattainable seventeen-year-old Sheila Mant.

Writers usually try to create sympathy for the main character on the part of the reader. Often this is done by finding a way to get the reader to identify with the character. The theme applies to everyone. After all of his efforts and the sacrifice of the largest bass he might have ever caught, the narrator (who is nameless in the story) is finally snubbed at the concert to which he took Sheila:

We walked to the fair—there was the smell of popcorn, the sound of guitars. I may have danced once or twice with her, but all I really remember is her coming over to me once the music was done to explain that she would be going home in Eric Caswell’s Corvette.

The reader knows that the young narrator's crush is doomed from the start. We don't even particularly like Sheila: she's much too self-centered and shallow for our narrator, who has an appreciation for the stars above the lake:

They weren’t as sharp anywhere else; they seemed to have chosen the river as a guide on their slow wheel toward morning, and in the course of the summer’s fishing, I had learned all their names.

We sympathize with this character because we recognize his sensitive nature, and we know that he's in for disappointment that he doesn't deserve. We have all been there. As with all well drawn characters, we see ourselves in him.

Read the study guide:
The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant

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