Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 609
“A Great Day” begins with two friends, Ken and Fred, getting up just before dawn and preparing for a fishing trip. Ken leaves his “bach” (a small, cabinstyle house) and carries their dinghy down to the beach. Fred follows with the rest of the gear. The tide is halfway out and the beach is deserted. As they get in the dinghy and begin rowing, the sun comes up, and it looks as if it is going to be a great day. There is not a cloud in the sky.
They head for an island where they have been before. Ken finds the rowing easy, since he is the bigger and stronger of the two men. During the trip, Fred discusses the hardships of being out of work. Ken is also out of work, but life is easier for him because he has some savings and lives rent-free with his aunt. He also has an education, which makes it easier for him to find work. Fred, on the other hand, is a member of the working class. It is he who does most of the talking, and some of his remarks sound strange. He talks, for example, about how men grow old and die and a man might as well die now as at any other time.
About halfway to the island, less than two miles from the shore, Fred says they have gone far enough. They drop anchor and begin to fish. Fred remarks on the fact that Ken has never learned to swim. But Ken replies that this does not bother him, especially on such a calm, still day. They both get bites on their fishing lines, which are crossed. Ken’s catch is a very small fish, and Fred throws it back. They put fresh bait on their hooks and try again, but with no success. Fred persuades Ken that they should head for a submerged reef at the end of the island. On the reef they will be able to stand in water up to their knees and pull up the mussels, which could then be used for much more effective bait.
They start out for the end of the island. A wind comes up and the sea starts to get a little choppy. Fred mentions a girl called Mary, whom he has known for years. It appears that they were great friends, but her family fell on hard times, and she had to take up a position as a domestic help. She now lives with Ken’s aunt.
Fred looks back at the shore, which is deserted. There is no one else coming out fishing. He puts cotton wool into his ears, saying that he will suffer from earache if he gets spray in his ears.
They reach the end of the island, which is uninhabited. Fred maneuvers the dinghy, and they find the reef. It is several hundred yards out, with deep water all around it. Fred gets out of the dinghy and stands on the reef. The water comes up to his knees and sometimes higher because of the choppy sea. While Ken holds the dinghy steady, Fred pulls up mussels and throws them into the dinghy. After a while, Ken takes over while Fred holds the dinghy. But then Fred shoves the dinghy off and hops into it. He pulls away from the reef, his eyes shut. With the cotton wool in his ears, it is difficult for him to hear. Halfway back to the shore, he stops for a rest. Then he gathers his strength and capsizes the dinghy. After that he starts on the long swim back to the shore.
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