At one level, the central conflict in W.D. Wetherell’s short story “The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant” seems to be between the narrator’s longing for Sheila and his longing for the bass. However, I think Sheila and the bass—a species of fish—are actually stand-ins for two aspects of the narrator’s nature and his choice between the two is critical for the development of his self. If we look closely at the way Sheila is described, we get a clue into what really attracts the narrator to her: her beauty and poise, of course, but also her popularity and her family’s social status.
There was a summer in my life when the only creature that seemed lovelier to me than a largemouth bass was Sheila Mant. I was fourteen. The Mants had rented the cottage next to ours on the river; with their parties, their frantic games of softball, their constant comings and goings, they appeared to me denizens of a brilliant existence.
The fact that Sheila is courted by older boys and sportsmen,...
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