The Bass The River And Sheila Mant Theme

What is a theme statement for "The Bass, the River, and Shelia Mant"?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A statement of theme arises from the heart of the meaning of the story. In this Wetherell story, the heart of the meaning of the story is regret. The narrator regrets all his life losing that bass because he was trying to land the bigger fish--he thought--of Sheila Mant. A statement of theme reflecting this concept might be written this way: The wisdom and passion of youth confuses things of passing importance with things of enduring importance, leading the way to lifelong regret.

The narrator had the small fish in the boat--with her lazy stretches "toward the sky" and her figure like a model--but had mistaken her for the big fish, while taking a "penknife" to release what turned out to be his life's enduring big fish. He lost interest in Sheila's spell "before the month was over," but all his life, it was the bass's "secret, hidden tuggings in the night that claimed" him.

Sheila, on the other hand, said "she would be going home in Eric Caswell’s Corvette" without him, "funny kid" that he was. Because his youthful passions and (limited) wisdom confused the enduringly important with the passingly important, regret tugs at him in his secret thoughts in the night all his life long.

I could feel the strain of the bass, steadier now, growing weaker, and this was another tug on my heart, not just the bass but the beat of the river and the slant of the stars and the smell of the night, ... I pulled a penknife from my pocket and cut the line in half. ... I never made the same mistake again.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like the theme statements for "The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant" offered in the first post. I would add something that addresses the idea that we sometimes get ourselves into trouble when we judge others by appearance. We see this happen when the first-person narrator becomes infatuated with Sheila Mant. This infatuation is caused by Sheila's beauty, not by any personal qualities that the narrator admires.

When they shove off in his canoe on their date, Sheila reveals her superficiality with her rambling self-absorbed conversation that focuses on her looks and a college guy named Eric Caswell. The narrator, meanwhile, can't resist fishing on the sly and drops a line into the water.

The narrator then hooks and loses a tantalizingly large fish. He learns that his desire for Sheila didn't really amount to much compared to his true loves—nature and fishing. The story's final line reveals the power of the lesson he learned from placing the inconsequential Sheila on a pedestal: “I never made that mistake again.”

qejtzuk eNotes educator| Certified Educator

W. D. Wetherell's short story deals with some pretty basic themes: choices, being true to oneself, young love/infatuation. Here are some theme statements that might work:

  • Giving up one's own identity or passions will not impress others.
  • When we care more about others' opinions than our own passions, we lose part of ourselves and fail to share it with others.
  • We learn our own priorities by making mistakes (and thinking about them).
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The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant

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