(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The Breadwinner is a small rickety fishing boat that has been pressed into service by the exigencies of war to patrol the coast of England, complete with an unreliable engine and an ancient Lewis gun mounted on the stern. On the day of the story, everything is as usual: Gregson, the skipper, is impatient for Snowy, the cook, to bring his cup of tea; Jimmy, the engineer, is fretting over the balky engine; Snowy is in the tiny galley reluctantly making tea and wishing that something exciting would happen. Snowy becomes more interested when a squadron of Hurricane fighter planes leaves the coast looking for German aircraft. As always on these occasions, he thinks bitterly of the binoculars the skipper has been promising him for weeks. The routine of the day is suddenly interrupted by the noise of gunfire well out in the channel, and Snowy’s keen ears detect the sound of German Messerschmitt fighter planes.

For some time, the boat cruises uneventfully in the direction of the gunfire, until Snowy detects the sound of a whistle. Excitedly, the crew rushes toward a speck in the distance, which proves to be a downed Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot in a dinghy. The pilot is unhurt and in good spirits, full of praise for the German pilot whose plane he believes he has shot down. From him they also learn that his was not the battle they had heard earlier, so they head farther out to sea in case there are more pilots to be rescued. Sent to the galley to peel potatoes, Snowy is...

(The entire section is 607 words.)