What are the "secret, hidden tuggings in the night" that the narrator mentions in the last sentence of W. D. Wetherell's "The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant"? What mistake has he never repeated?

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The narrator seems to regret cutting the fishing line with which he had hooked the largest bass he'd ever known. He was just fourteen years old during that summer when "the only creature that seemed lovelier [. . .] than a largemouth bass was Sheila Mant." As he rows his...

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The narrator seems to regret cutting the fishing line with which he had hooked the largest bass he'd ever known. He was just fourteen years old during that summer when "the only creature that seemed lovelier [. . .] than a largemouth bass was Sheila Mant." As he rows his canoe down the river, with Sheila inside, he attempts to hide the fact that he has his fishing rod out because she has plainly stated that she thinks fishing is "dumb" and "boring." When the bass bites, however, the narrator says,

Every instinct I had told me to pick up the rod and strike back at the bass.

When the bass leaped from the water, it created a "concussion" that was large enough to "ripple the entire river." The narrator tries to surreptitiously reel the fish in, but it evades him, and Sheila just keeps blathering on about some boy who told her she could model, the fact that she likes to ski, and wanting to style her hair like a famous movie star's. Those "secret, hidden tuggings in the night" seem to be the narrator's instincts, the way he describes it above, the things that his very nature tells him he ought to do, and he learns to listen to those tuggings—like the bass on the end of his line—rather than ignore them in favor of chasing something or someone else.

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The “inner hidden tuggings” the narrator feels in this story describe his desire for his passion, as well as his pursuit of love. The boy is discouraged after choosing between the girl he likes, Sheila, and fishing, his passion which she despises, calling it dumb. In the story, the narrator feels the tug of a bass on his line while he is boating with Sheila to the dance but ignores it so as not to upset her. In the end, Sheila leaves with another boy, showing that his choice was futile.

Later, pondering about the incident, he contemplates the inner tuggings that pull on his heart, and resolves not to ignore his passions in the future. The metaphor applies to his pursuit of love, as well, that he will pursue and find someone and not give up on the one who will love him and his passion just as he does.

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W. D. Wetherell’s short his short story sets up an inner conflict. The narrator is a boy who loves fishing and is infatuated with the neighbor girl, Sheila, who’s several years older and out of his league. He convinces her to go to a dance with her, and he takes her in his canoe since he can’t drive yet. On the way she says she thinks fishing is “definitely dumb,” moments later the boy’s neglected fishing line hooks the biggest bass he’s ever felt. Torn between catching the fish and impressing the girl, he cuts the fishing line. That doesn’t help; at the end of the evening, the snobby girl takes off with another boy in his Corvette, leaving the narrator to go home alone.

The story ends with this passage:

"Poor Sheila! Before the month was over, the spell she cast over me was gone, but the memory of that lost bass haunted me all summer and haunts me still. There would be other Sheila Mants in my life, other fish, and though I came close once or twice, it was these secret, hidden tuggings in the night that claimed me, and I never made the same mistake again."

The “tuggings” the narrator feels in the plot itself come from the fish, which represents his true passion. But because he wants to look good to a girl who despises fishing, he ignores this real pull. He fails to be himself, to do what he loves, and finds that doing so neither fulfills him nor impresses Sheila.

Those “tuggings” of the bass on the fishing line become a metaphor for anything he loves, the activities he enjoys. He tells us that, after that mistake, he never again failed to be true to himself even when he feared what others might think.

It’s ironic that he exclaims, “Poor Sheila!” The reader feels badly for him, not for the stuck-up girl who ditches him. Yet looking back, the narrator realizes that she did not keep his attention, that her shallowness was her own punishment, whereas he has apparently taken joy in many other aspects of life.

 

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