Why did Mafatu kill the shark--what motivated him? How did he feel after it was over, and why did he feel like that?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Encountering the shark provides Mafatu with another opportunity to prove his manhood, to show his people that his reputation for cowardice and timidity is ill-deserved. But his initial motivation for killing the vicious sea beast is anger. The hammerhead shark attacks the fish trap that Mafatu has taken an absolute age to construct. As one can imagine, he's pretty miffed when the shark undoes all his painstaking handiwork in the blink of an eye.

Even more infuriating is the death of Mafatu's beloved dog, Uri. The relationship between a boy and his dog is very special indeed, and God help the shark who comes between them. When the hammerhead attacks the fish trap, poor old Uri slides into the water. Mafatu is angry and fearful in equal measure, but his anger and fear embolden him to jump straight into the water and kill the shark.

Sadly, Mafatu doesn't save the life of his beloved dog, but he has at least shown exemplary courage beyond his years, and has taken another huge step on the road to manhood. Though sad at the fate of his late canine companion, Mafatu feels more than a touch of pride at his brave, decisive actions.

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mafutu kills the shark because it was eating the fish he was trying to catch, because he was furious that the trap he had spent hours making was about to be undone, and mostly because it almost kills his beloved dog, Uri.

The confrontation appears in Ch. 4.When the scary ordeal is over, Mafutu realizes, "(h)e had done it for Uri, his dog. And he felt suddenly humble, with gratitude."

Mafutu feels this way because he has overcome his fear of the sea, which had taken his mother's life. By saving his dog, whom he also dearly loves, he feels a sense of having reclaimed some of hope for the future as well as a power to influence his world.

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