What is the conflict in "The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant"?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

W. D. Weatherell's short story "The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant" is about a fourteen-year-old boy who develops a crush on a seventeen-year-old girl named Sheila Mant. 

Sheila is clearly out of his league. She is older, beautiful, and has captured the attention of an Ivy League rowing team. This causes an internal conflict on the part of the narrator. Should he ask her out? Here's how he describes his feelings about that conflict:

It was late August by the time I got up the nerve to ask her out. The tortured will-I's, won't I's, the agonized indecision over what to say, the false starts toward her house and the embarrassed retreats--the details of these have been seared from my memory.

Another internal conflict develops later as the narrator must choose between Sheila and the magnificent bass he secretly caught while on the date. He chooses Sheila, a decision he will soon regret.

You would expect to see an external conflict between Sheila and the narrator, since their date wasn't particularly successful. But Weatherell isn't as interested in the conflict between them as he is in the conflict that takes place inside the narrator. When Sheila goes home with another guy in his Corvette, the narrator doesn't object.

Weatherell resolves the internal conflict in the story's final paragraph, as the narrator comes to a personal realization:

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.

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The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant

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