The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant

by W. D. Wetherell

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What type of character is Sheila and how does it create conflicts for the narrator in The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant?

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Sheila Mant has a very shallow character.  The narrator first sees her at the river, where she is sunning herself and looking down upon everyone else.  Even though he recognizes this, he still has a desperate need to impress her by doing his best dives until she leaves.  It takes him quite a while to even ask her out, and when he picks her up in his boat, she is not impressed.

It is at this point that the reader starts to see that there is a conflict between the personality of the narrator and that of Sheila.  The narrator loves his boat, loves nature, and loves fishing.  Sheila thinks the boat is a stupid idea, and her opinion of fishing is: “I think fishing’s dumb.  I mean, it’s boring and all.  Definitely dumb.”  In fact, Sheila has no idea this is even a date.

When the narrator gets a bite on his line, the back and forth between the description of his trying to catch the fish and Sheila’s conversation is very revealing.  To the narrator, the fight with the fish is a battle royal.  He is thinking about his every move and considering what the fish will do next.  Sheila is so busy talking about herself and modeling and college that she does not even realize he has a fish on the line. 

The poor narrator has to choose between revealing to her that he is catching a fish while on their date or letting the fish go.  He lets the fish go, but not without some thought.  It is quite obvious that he is conflicted:  do I stay with the girl or win the battle with the fish?  Ironically, once he lets the fish go, Sheila, having used him as a ride, goes and finds other boys to talk to.

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