What is Jerry's internal conflict at the start of the story?

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At the beginning of the story, Jerry is torn between exploring the “wild and rocky bay” and spending time with his mother on the “crowded beach he knows so well.” Jerry is only eleven years old. He is the only child of his widowed mother, and therefore, is understandably protective...

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At the beginning of the story, Jerry is torn between exploring the “wild and rocky bay” and spending time with his mother on the “crowded beach he knows so well.” Jerry is only eleven years old. He is the only child of his widowed mother, and therefore, is understandably protective toward her. He fears that if he takes off on his own, she will be unduly worried about him. Also, he fears that she might be lonely in his absence. Thus, he looks longingly at the wild bay but does not dare to ask his mother to allow him to explore it, until their second day of vacation. His mother, on the other hand, feels like she should allow her son more independence as she does not want to be "either possessive or lacking in devotion." For her, it is a struggle of how to best rear her son as a single parent.

When Jerry finally asks his mother to let him play on the wild bay and she accepts, he is again filled with feelings of contrition. He almost "runs after her, feeling it unbearable that she should go by herself." He is struggling to gain independence from his mother—the main figure in his life. Even after he gets to the bay and swims some, he still looks over at the beach for his mother. When he sees her, "a speck of yellow" in the distance, he is happy, "relieved at being sure of her presence," even though he suddenly experiences loneliness, for he is all on his own. Jerry loves his mother dearly and wants to spend a lot of his time with her. However, he is also experiencing increased self-awareness and the need for self-independence, some of the characteristics of the onset of puberty.

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At the beginning of the story, a young boy named Jerry is in the early days of a beach vacation with his mother. As they walk toward their usual beach (apparently they have been here numerous times before), Jerry feels some internal conflict as a result of his desire to go off by himself to the "wild bay" instead of going to the "safe beach" with his mother. Although he definitely wants to go by himself to the more interesting and dangerous looking beach, he is eleven years old and at an age where wanting more independence is certainly natural. However, he clearly feels kind of guilty in wanting to be apart from his mother: "Contrition sen[ds] him running after her." Jerry treats his mother with a kind of chivalry: he looks after her and feels some need to take care of her it seems. Perhaps this is because it is just the two of them, as she is a widow and he is "the man" of the family.

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