The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant

by W. D. Wetherell

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What is the character of Sheila Mant?

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Although she is beautiful, Sheila Mant is shallow and self-absorbed.

The narrator, who is a couple years younger than Sheila, is fascinated by her beauty. He is captivated by her "long red hair and well-spaced freckles" and spends his summer days analyzing her mood by the posture she takes on a float. Other boys also take notice of her, including the Dartmouth heavyweight crew and Eric Caswell.

Yet Sheila is seemingly little more than a pretty face. When playing softball, she complains that she doesn't want the "responsibility of [playing] a base" and lets a ball sail toward the river without making a move to stop it. She agrees to ride in the canoe with the narrator, but she makes no effort to use the extra paddle; instead, she self-indulgently dangles her feet over the side as the narrator does all the work. Their conversation is almost entirely one-sided. The only questions she asks are about the occasional "annoyances" of the wildlife, such as the bass splashing. She makes no effort to engage with the narrator, who has offered to take her to the music festival, and whines that she has to be especially careful with her complexion. Sheila is captivated by celebrities such as Ann-Margaret and Jackie Kennedy, allowing their style to dictate her own choices. She is also opinionated, condemning fishing as being "boring" and "dumb."

In short, Sheila Mant is so consumed with her own shallow concerns that she is indifferent to the feelings of those around her. Her actions demonstrate insensitivity and selfishness, and these traits are magnified when she abandons the narrator at the festival.

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