One of the brilliant things about studying English at university is that I come across stories that I would never normally pick up in my spare time. In one of my modules, I am studying the short story and whilst they are very quick to read, most of them have huge underlying depth and meaning.
Whilst I enjoyed reading The Fishing-boat Picture and I knew that there must be some underlying meaning, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what Shillitoe meant by this short story.
(This short story is taken from the collection of short stories from Alan Shillitoes’ The Long Distance Runner)
Harry lives in 1950s England where he has endured the Great Depression and the war whilst being a postman. His wife, Kathy, however seems to want more in life and leaves. Over the time span of 28 years, we see the relationship of Harry and Kathy grow and dissolve and we see what the expectations of the working class were during that time.
What was interesting about this short story is the way in which Sillitoe portrays the expectations of the working classes to the reader. Harry and Kathy were expected to have a long and happy marriage, to have kids and grow old together.
I felt quite sorry for Harry, to be honest, all the poor bloke wanted to do was to sit down and read his book (I can relate!) Kathy was horrible to him and kept telling him that reading was a waste of time and that books are full of nonsense. This is Sillitoe conveying that the working class wasn’t expected to read because they were thought to be uneducated and Kathy was so consumed of what was expected of them, that she didn’t want Harry straying out of the societal norms. Harry just seemed like such a genuine character.
He was happy with his life and the simplicity of it; he felt like he didn’t extravagances to prove himself to be a good man.
The latter half was brilliant to read and I loved how the fishing boat picture in Harry’s house was an object in which both characters could base their relationship off.
The Fishing-boat Picture is a very interesting read and it’s brilliantly written. There is no drama, no abruptness, but there is a smooth sailing storyline that tells the story of two people who’s marriage just didn’t work out and how they find their way back to each other.
I will definitely be reading some more of Sillitoe’s work.