In “The Boat” by Alistair Macleod, the boat, and the ill-fitting clothes he wore significantly represent the confinement and the father’s inability to break free from tradition, reinforcing that tradition can suppress one’s dream for greater things. To begin, the boat itself is a symbol of the fathers bounding to the sea, showing his obligation to follow customs. The boat is categorize with a “marine clutch and a high speed reverse gear and was painted on an oblong plate across her stern.
Jenny Lynn had been my mother’s maiden name and the boat was called after her as another link in the chain of tradition”(Macleod 3) The high speed reverse gear depicts how the father is not moving forward along with the light green name of Jenny Lynn that demonstrates the father’s sacrifice for the fishing custom to support his family. The Jenny Lynn that he receives through tradition gives him a constant reminder that his way of life may never change and that his dreams are out of his reach. Furthermore, the clothing in his closet symbolizes the father’s imprisonment with tradition.
The narrator mentions “his ill-fitted serge suit, the two or three white shirts that strangled him and the square black shoes that pinched” (Macleod 4) The square black shoes that pinched him means that the life of fishing that he inherits does not fit, the life he lives is simply to overpowering that it damages him. The white shirts that suffocates him shows the struggles he faces everyday that he is unable to separate from. His attire is so inflexible that it was leaving him trapped in one place incapable to grasp his own desires.
Lastly, at the father’s death his departure speculates that it is suicide to liberate his son and himself from an unhappy future bringing the fishing tradition with him. When the father’s body is discovered “the white green stubble of his whiskers had continued to grow in death. Physically as he lay there with the brass chains on his wrist and seaweed in his hair”(Macleod 15) The brass chains indicate a connection with the sea similar to handcuffs and the seaweed represent the crown of thorns which shows his pain that he lives through everyday.
Even at his death the brass chains are never taken off sending a gesture that the sea will forever follow him wherever he may go. The fishing tradition that he inherits torments him incompetent to run away leaving him in one place unable to reach his goal. In conclusion, the symbolic meaning of the boat and his attire exhibit the father’s limitation to achieve his ambitions due to tradition.