The Boat

In The Boat by Alistair Macleod the mother and father are presented as opposites. The mother is the character trying to keep the tradition alive, whereas the father is the character who is looking forward to the changes. The mother does not want any tourists in her town and does not want her family to go out and spend time with the people who do not come from the village. The father was encouraging the change to happen, and he was kind enough to take the tourists out for a ride on his boat.

My mother despised the room and all it stood for… […] …its door always open and its contents visible to all. (MacLeod, 469)

The father knew that change is inevitable. The father's room symbolizes the change occurring within the household, and the father was the one who first accepted the change and allowed it to start taking place. Compared to the rest of the house, the father's room went against all of the traditions that were taught to the children within the kitchen. The books were teaching him of the world beyond their town, and of the changes occurring to the rest of the world. The father realized that it was too late for him to make the change because he was too old and had spent his entire life with the boat and the sea, so he left it up to his children to go out and make the changes, to leave behind the family traditions and choose their own paths in life. The fact that the kitchen's contents were always visible to all shows that the father has some shame in the fact that his room is different from the rest of the house. Although he has accepted the changes that are going to occur he is still ashamed to be leaving everything that he has grown up with and is why it does not mention anything about the father's room door being opened or closed. The father also knew the value of books and how important reading is because of all the knowledge that he could learn from the books whereas his wife said that reading was absolutely pointless because there was always work to be done.

By about the ninth or tenth grade my sisters… […] …the broken-spined paperback fluttered uselessly to the floor. (Macleod, 469)

The father's room was anti-tradition because whenever one of the daughters would walk in they would end up reading one of the books, which was against what their mother wanted. Once the daughters would get a taste of what the world outside their town was like they would want more and so they got jobs at the Sea Food Restaurant. Working with the people who the mother said were not "our people" gave the daughters a better view of what the world beyond their tradition was like. The mother was angry because she was losing
her family and her traditions to an establishment run by people who were not from Nova Scotia. These foreigners were coming into the town and acting as if they had been there for their entire lives. The father does not have a problem with his daughters working as waitresses because he has already accepted that change is inevitable.

On one August day my sisters prevailed upon my father … […] …and late in the afternoon he began to sing. (MacLeod, 470)

The father had fully accepted the changes that were occurring when the tourists had arrived. Taking them out on the boat ride and singing for them were the final steps to giving into the changes and acknowledging that the traditions were going to end soon. He was doing the opposite of what his wife wanted him to do. He was encouraging the tourists to stay while his wife wanted them to leave.

The mother did not seem able to grasp the idea that change could be good for the family. The father knew that the changes would be best for the family, so he slowly accepted them. Their only son ended up becoming a university professor because he continued his studies. The death of the father also brought the death of the family's tradition. When the son had lost his father he knew that the boat would be put to rest.

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