‘‘The Lifeguard’’ by Mary Morris is a short story that focusses on change over time. A lifeguard accustomed to be the lord of all he surveys and with a big self-esteem, has a rude awakening when he proves deficient in the first aid needed to save a toddler, Becky, on the beach. The author demonstrates that we realise what we have only when a shattering event occurs. Trough characterization, foreshadowing and symbolism, Morris infers that once we realise what we have, it’s too late.
The character outlook of what he sees has clearly changed from the beginning to the end of the story. At first, the lifeguard saw the beach just as a way of being seen and appreciated by the girls and envied by the other man. He was narcissistic, ‘‘Girls clung to my stand, […] and I could do no wrong’’ (p.98) and the way he was always talking about how much he loved his body, and it made him lose the real reason why he was at the beach.
He wanted to be admired by people on the beach. But when a child almost died in his arm because he was not really aware of what was going on near him and his incapacity to save Becky started to bother him. So he went to Mrs. Lovenheim’s house, where he realised something profound on the emptiness of his live. He thought he had all what he wanted, but the most important was missing, true love.
This reality changed his perception of life as he said: ‘’I’ve never seen the water and the umbrellas of summer in the same way again’’ (p.105). Mrs. Lovenheim made him fall into despair as she left him at the doorstep, him, the lifeguard who had a tremendous self-confidence. Ric Spencer acted as a foreshadowing character. He clearly missed the time where he was lifeguard. As soon as he could, he was going close to Josh to talk about the old time when he used to be lifeguard. Ric often gave advices to Josh to always be careful, because only a split second of distraction and a bad event, like the drowning of Billy Mandel, can happens. Ric was always there to tell the principal character ‘‘You don’t know what you’ve got’’, ‘‘You don’t know how lucky you are’’ (p.101), because the older man realised the chance he had to be lifeguard and because it is at about the age of Josh that he could choose a job he would have love more. So he is often telling Josh to enjoy while staying careful, because he knows you won’t always have the perfect job and that an accident has bad consequence. When Becky almost
died, it completely gave full meaning to Ric’s words. It is as if Josh hit a wall. This has ruined his summer. He should have listened to many advices given by his former lifeguard instead of laughing of him.
Mrs. Lovenheim was represented as a symbol superiority of throughout the story. As it progresses, he kept on talking about how Mrs. Lovenheim was always looking at him. It made him proud; otherwise he would not have talked about her all along the story. For him, the fact that this women was looking at him was a proof that he was admired by other people on the beach, that he was superior to people around him. But when the savior of Becky did not recognized ‘‘It suddenly occurred to me that she had no idea who I was, that she’d never really seen me at all’’. So he thought he was the real king of the beach, but this made him realised he had all wrong. Maybe all what he saw was wrong, maybe all he described was false. Therefore, what he had taken for granted was no longer what it was the day before. He may have to consider everything under another perspective. But the point is that Mrs. Lovenheim was used to be the symbol of admiration he wanted, but as he saw she barely knew him, his world rocked.
In conclusion, Mary Morris displays that we must enjoy what we have while we have it, because if we lose it, it can be on your mind for long time, and you may regret not to have taken good times out of it. The author has been able to illustrate it through his usage of characterization, foreshadowing and symbolism. The author showed why it is important to take care of what we have, because a little nothing can make us lose it all.