Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch! (No,
seriously, don't. You might be disappointed.)
After rowing through treacherous waters in a boat that's about the same
size as a bathtub, the four men reach a nearby lighthouse. Hallelujah! They have
no doubt they're going to be saved—the lighthouse is right there in front of
them, and the life-saving crew should come rescue them any moment.
The correspondent finds some (miraculously) dry cigars in his coat, and
they smoke them in celebration. They even drink some of their precious water. And
they wait…and wait…and wait…but nothing happens. They finally admit that no one
is coming. They think it's too dangerous to try to reach the shore, and cannot
waste any more energy fighting the waves in the shallow water, so they row back
out to sea. Boy are they disappointed.
This is an important part of the story, because it's where a bad
situation goes from hopeful to worse. It serves as a pretty big test to the
four men in the boat, the first of many they will face, and forces them to
confront their own mortality and understanding of the world in a different way
A Flash of Insight, and a Taste of the Absurd
The men start to wonder if maybe the sea isn't out to get them after
all. In fact, maybe the sea doesn't care about them in the least; maybe it
doesn't even know they exist. Maybe there's no reason for anything, and the
universe is just a steaming pile of random chaos. Is your head spinning yet?
Because ours are.
For a moment, they resign themselves to death, but then, wait—what's
that on shore? It's a man walking on the beach, and he's waving his jacket in
the air. Once again, the men believe they'll be saved. Yee-haw!
Another guy even shows up, and he's…on a bicycle? And who are all those
people? And what's with that bus? Oh, no, it's not a rescue team at all. It's a
beach resort. The people on the beach are tourists.
That glimmer of hope back there? That was nothing but a flash of
lightning—gone in a split second.
As far as climaxes go, this is a pretty sarcastic one. It starts out so promising and exciting, and
ends up being a ridiculous and farcical scene. It's like biting into what you
think is going to be a delicious piece of fruit, only to realize it's made of
plastic. Yep, that's definitely happened to us.
Darkness, Sharks, and Death
Night falls. They row back out to deeper water. The oiler and the
correspondent take turns rowing through the night. While the oiler sleeps and
the correspondent rows, a huge shark shows up and swims in circles around the
boat. What a bully.
In case the correspondent thought things couldn't get any worse, well,
he was wrong. The thing is—he's so exhausted that the shark itself doesn't
really bother him too much. He just wishes someone else were awake, for the
Every Man for Himself! (Sort of.)
After a long
and dark night, the sun finally rises and a new day arrives. There's a lot of
action in this part of the story, so play close attention—it's not a typical
denouement, since everything turns around so completely. Here's how it all goes
decides that no one is coming to save them, so they should quit lollygagging
around and try to make it to shore on their own while they still have the
strength to swim. The men agree. They row toward shore, and—splash—a wave throws them from the
boat. The oiler somehow swims powerfully toward shore, while the captain clings
to the half-sunken boat. The cook and correspondent have life-preservers and
float on them. Someone shows up on shore and comes to help them. The
oiler drowns; the other three men survive.
Suddenly, a whole darn parade of people shows up at the beach carrying
blankets, coffee, and all sorts of other wonderful things. The oiler's body is
hauled up onto shore. That night, the surviving men hear the sounds of the
ocean, and feel like they can serve as interpreters.