What is the antagonist in the book Call It Courage?

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In Call It Courage, the protagonist, Mafatu, faces many dangers.  None of these dangers, however, is really his main antagonist.  Even though we are told at the beginning of the book that the sea was the main thing that Mafatu feared, it is not the main antagonist.  Instead, the real antagonist in this book is Mafatu’s own fearfulness and his sense of inadequacy.

We see that the sea is not the real antagonist as the book goes along.  Mafatu does have to challenge the sea.  However, he also has to challenge the shark that is destroying his fishtrap and threatening his dog, Uri.  He has to challenge the wild boar to get his necklace.  He has to challenge his fear of the idol and the cannibals that prayed to it.  He has to be brave enough to set out back to Hikieru though he is not completely sure of how to get back.  All of these challenges require him to be brave.  It is not just the sea that he has to fight but all of his fears.

As we are told after he dared to retrieve his knife from the bottom of the ocean and killed the octopus,

He had been, sometimes, deeply afraid, but he had faced fear and faced it down.  Surely that could be called courage.

Thus, we can see that Mafatu’s own fears are the antagonist in this book.


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