The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant

by W. D. Wetherell

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What is the rising action in "The Bass, The River, and Sheila Mant"?

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The rising action of the story begins when Sheila agrees to go with the narrator on his canoe to Dixford. He knows that this is his golden opportunity to impress her. Quite meticulously, he spends a day rubbing and polishing his canoe “until it gleamed as bright as aluminum ever gleamed.” The actual suspense, however, begins to build up as soon as a huge bass gets hooked to the narrator’s fishing rod. This happens when he is already out on a date with Sheila. Only a few moments ago, he heard her contemptuous and dismissive remarks about fishing: she loathes his favorite pastime activity.
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The rising action of the story begins when Sheila agrees to go with the narrator on his canoe to Dixford. He knows that this is his golden opportunity to impress her. Quite meticulously, he spends a day rubbing and polishing his canoe “until it gleamed as bright as aluminum ever...

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gleamed.”

The actual suspense, however, begins to build up as soon as a huge bass gets hooked to the narrator’s fishing rod. This happens when he is already out on a date with Sheila. Only a few moments ago, he heard her contemptuous and dismissive remarks about fishing: she loathes his favorite pastime activity.

The rod has bent double, in all probability, by the weight of the big bass. The narrator doesn’t want to lose it as it’s going to be his biggest catch ever. But Sheila is on the boat, and at no point can she know about the catch, as “at that fragile moment,” he can’t just do anything that might vex her.

The author of the story, W. D. Wetherell, illustrates the narrator’s dilemma beautifully. The fourteen-year-old narrator puts to use all his might and skills not to lose the enormous bass. Overcoming all the hurdles, he manages to cling to it until they’re almost at Dixford.

Meanwhile, he keeps Sheila engaged in the conversation. While she continues talking about herself, he doesn’t give her the slightest hint that he’s tugging a giant bass.

All these events comprise the rising action of the story.

In this way, the narration beautifully sways between the fourteen-year-old narrator’s struggle to hold on to the giant fish and his efforts to make an impression on Sheila. Finally, the story reaches its peak with the arrival of the moment when he has to make a final choice between his biggest catch and the beautiful Sheila.

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What is the falling action in "The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant"?

In order to figure out what the falling action is, it is helpful to identify the story's main conflict and climax. While it is tempting to suggest that the conflict is between the story's narrator and nature, in the form of the bass, it is actually the narrator vs. himself. Knowing how much Sheila Mant hates fishing, how "dumb" she thinks it is, he is completely torn between reeling in the giant bass and ignoring it in order not to betray a love of something she thinks is stupid. He says that it "seemed [he] would be torn apart between longings, split in half." It is his own conflict—between wanting Sheila and the bass—that helps us to understand that the climax is when he "pulled a penknife from [his] pocket and cut the line in half," choosing his longing for Sheila over the fish.

Thus, the falling action consists of his immediate sense of regret: he feels "sick" and "nauseous" when he sees his fishing rod straighten, relieved of its tension. He barely remembers the rest of the night. Sheila whines about her tired legs, she and the narrator go to the fair, and she eventually tells him she's going home with another guy. She tells him that he's a "funny kid," and, in the story's resolution, he reflects on how many people have said something similar to him in the years since and how he "never made the same mistake again" of choosing to please a girl over "these secret, hidden tuggings in the night."

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