The seemingly contradictory relationship between human and sea

In Sea Story by AS Byatt, I am much impressed by the fantastic experience of the main character, Harold, and the description of the bottle’s trip in the sea. So, I get a question: is the relationship between human and sea contradictory? From the experience of Harold, I could found that he lived in an environment sufficient of water: he was born near the sea, with his father working as an oceanographer and mother as an English teacher who read Harold a poem about sea; and he studied on the anthology of sea, which propelled him to express love to a woman, Laura. The good conditions created a great space for Harold to think about the sea. However, Harold did not expect that the bottle he sent out could reach Laura’s studying site, as it says in the article: “He did not know whether casting his love away into the sea was an attempt to drive his love from his life, or a hope for some improbable luck.” (Paragraph 19, which starts with “He signed”) This represents a person’s uncertain knowledge to the sea, and this can be contradictory when the person is exposed to the sea for a big part in his life.

 

However, when we focus on another main track of the story, the love from Harold conveying to Laura, we could find the rule of nature applies to the relationship between human and sea. When the bottle floated across ten different sites on the Earth, the bottle changed from the originally elaborated one to a bottle with decayed and much mixed content inside. Adding with the bottle’s successful reaching Laura, the article’s latter part builds a symbol that true love can stand in front of serious, suffering conditions. This is similar to the uncomfortable situation that Harold experienced when he knew that Laura was going to Caribbean for studying, but he changed his situation to a brave trial of love expression to Laura: “He wrote her loveletters in his mind, studded with quotations” (Paragraph 16, which starts with “He wrote”). It is the nature’s law that anything matters is hard, so it could be normal that Harold had good conditions without experiencing challenges from the sea, while those were foundations of his life. Hence the contradiction could be interpreted.

 

In all, Harold’s unmatched recognition to the low-level situation of the sea and his full exposure to the sea creates a literal contradiction between human and sea, but then the truth rooted in the challenges to Harold’s love breaks the contradiction and creates a stable, harmonic order of human and sea, and we can reach the conclusion that in the end there is no contradiction when we understand the progress.

Unrequited Love

In AS Byatt’s, Sea Story, the ocean and the water hold a special place in Harold’s heart. The slightest idea of Harold being away from the sea cripples him and makes him feel a sense of depression and loneliness. This idea of unhappiness is encountered while Harold is away studying in Oxford and is unfortunately surrounded by nothing but land. It is clear that Harold depends on the ocean as a source for happiness and assistance. This is evident when Harold depends on the sea to use its currents to send a bottled love letter to Laura, but Harold’s actions end up damaging the purity of the ocean. Does Harold’s indirect actions of littering due to his dependency upon water as a messenger reflect society’s one-sided relationship with the ocean?

We, humans, depend on the ocean and find love and joy in water as much as Harold. Water is one of the most critical sources to help mankind continue and prosper. The idea of having water be a common item that society can buy anywhere, distracts people from appreciating it more than we should. People tend to forget what the world would be like if society did not have water or oceans. The quote, “The cap detached itself, and was swallowed by a green turtle which mistook it for a glass eel” (Byatt), allows the reader to see the result of Harold’s actions. Harold and society both depend on the ocean for assistance, but peoples’ actions only continue to weaken the ocean with trash and waste. Oceans present humans with so many vital things, while humans present the oceans with filth and trash that only makes our most abundant source less common. Just because Harold might have a deeper connection to the ocean than someone else does not give him any right to harm it for his own personal reasons. Both, Harold and society, must not think of water as a resource that can help individuals but as a resource humans can give back to by being more environmentally friendly.

Vivid Oppositions

In A.S Byatt’s short story, “Sea Story,” she carefully constructs vivid oppositions throughout. She discusses the contrasts between the sea and the land, “The land is ‘this green, gentle and most docile earth.’ The sea is violent, dangerous, inimical.” Along with this contrast, she discusses the contrast of beauty and destruction, “the bottle sidled between an ethereal shopping bag and a cracked shoehorn, was sucked down and spat up, its green sides glittering in the sun.” These contrasts are so vivid and stark that they make me wonder what Byatt’s intention may have been in using these oppositions throughout her story.

 

Similar to when one sees gold next to black; the black looks a whole lot darker and the gold looks a whole lot shinier and more beautiful than they each would alone, Byatt uses opposition as a theme in her short story to accentuate the prevalence of larger issues. In Byatt’s case, she is trying to show the horrors of the destruction and pollution of the ocean contrasted against the beauties of both love and the nature of the sea. For example, she uses the contrast of love and death to make the reader sympathize with the sea animals and force the audience to think about the issues that come with polluting the oceans. Often people think and persuade in a way in which their point is very one sided. This doesn’t allow for as strong of a reaction or response from the audience because it is harder to see the bad when the good isn’t presented. Byatt masters the use of presenting contrasting emotions when the “lovely,” “green perrier” bottle Howard sends into the ocean that was meant to bring love ends up causing death of birds, turtles, hagfish, and eels. Hopefully this contrast of emotions and thoughts will provoke the audience to make changes in their lives much like Laura and Howard did as they both die trying to study and clean up the seas that many people know and love.

Do Humans Truly Love Their Enviornment?

In AS Byatt’s Sea Story, she chronicles the aspirations and desires of a man named Harold. Harold has deep connections to the Ocean, or so he thinks. Byatt uses the addition of Laura, a Marine Biologist, to further describe Harold’s Love of the Sea. Therefore, my question is: Does AS Byatt use Laura to symbolize mankind’s relationship to the sea, or to simply show how Harold failed to attain her?

I think that AS Byatt uses Laura to depict the complex relationship between man and water. From the early stages of their relationship, Byatt makes it very clear that they will simply not work out, due to the career paths they have chosen in life. Laura says, “I’ve just been offered my dream job. I’m going to be part of a team studying the life-cycle of eels. This letter is my acceptance. I’m off to the Caribbean next week.” Eventually, Harold uses the sea as motivation, and decides to use his immense knowledge of the sea to try and get a letter to Laura via bottle. The bottle goes on to kill several sea creatures, which was not the intention of Harold. By including this, I think Byatt provides a possible propostion about mankind’s love of the sea. Harold says he loves Laura, but can he really? He has just met this girl, and yet he is able to think, “He wrote her love letters in his mind, studded with quotations. He wrote her love letters in his mind, studded with quotations.” Byatt is comparing Harold’s ‘love’ of Laura to human’s ‘love’ of the sea. Byatt is merely pointing out that humans claim to love the sea, yet it is so heavily polluted, with the wildlife being tormented in the process. Byatt is further able to show this when Harold’s bottle kills several animals, and Harold is thought to have a deep love for the ocean. When describing the later work of Laura, Byatt says, “The message she read was the human occupation and corruption of the masterless ocean.” Therefore, in the short story Sea Story, AS Byatt uses Laura to symbolize the ocean, pointing out that humans may not truly love the ocean as much as they claim.

Should Humans be Selfish or Selfless?

Nature gives out its resources without expecting anything in return. With its selfless act, the ecosystem flourishes with beauty. However, there are those who seem to usurp a bit of nature for their gains. Some might argue that its the way of developing a successful civilization while others may use the system of education to preserve the beauty of nature. From the story, ‘Sea Story,’ it brings up a discussion to what extent humans can use nature for their selfish motives.

We have a protagonist, Harold, who shows love and passion for the sea that he grew up in. His countless visits to the beach give us readers an illustration that the water was his friend and shared lots of memories. However, the memories seem to have dissolved when he experiences love for the first time- more like one-sided love. He writes many letters to Laura who seem to be unresponsive “for the address she had given him was Scottish and she was in the Caribbean. ” This shows that Laura does not truly feel the same way back for our protagonist. I believe AS Byatt creates this setting to have it all connect back to the sea.

To make sure he gets his way to Laura, he decides to drop a glass bottle. Here, his intention is selfish, not thinking of what would happen during its potential journey to the Caribbeans by sea. Also, I find a contrast between his past and present self. He grew up collecting bottles and ends up throwing one of his own. Because of his action, “…a green turtle which mistook it[bottle cap] for a glass eel. When this turtle choked and died, the cap was picked from its remains by another turtle, which also choked…a hagfish lunged at it[the ring], swallowed it and choked.” As readers, we see that many marine animals are starting to suffer one after the other. It shows that a small issue can create a huge impact. In this case, the story ends up losing baby birds, two turtles and eel etc.

When Harold seems to give up on Laura, the story concludes his marriage to another woman, and “…strode along Filey Beach collecting plastic bags and debris.” AS Byatt could have allowed the readers to portray Harold as the bad guy for the marines. She is recognising the reality that we, humans can give up on our selfish acts and give in to selfless acts. She also shows one should let go of their selfish act and allow life flow like the body of water.

A Love Story or an Environmental Tragedy?

In Sea Story by AS Byatt, the author tells a love story that also focuses on the environment, specifically the ocean. The main character grew up close to the shore and loved it. He expresses his love for ocean throughout the story, but does not follow his father’s career path as an oceanographer. He is a writer that evidently falls in love with a girl he met at sea. She loves the ocean dearly, but does not love him. Harold desperately tries to reconnect with Laura after she leaves for the Caribbean to work at her dream job, but by releasing the bottle with a letter to her in the ocean he is putting sea life at risk. My question is, does AS Byatt want the reader to sympathize or critique Harold for his actions?

AS Byatt makes it unclear whether or not we are supposed to feel sorry for Harold. Harold is heart broken after he was given the wrong address and email to contact Laura. He desperately tries to reach her and at the end of the story his love letter reaches Laura only after it had broken and decomposed in the ocean. The author purposefully had the letter be so close to being seen by her, but he nevertheless failed. This could create empathy for him. On the other hand, the author made the bottle go through the “Caribbean Trash Vortex.” AS Byatt thoroughly describes the all the bits of trash, their colors, variety, and immense quantity. This description was more detailed than the explanation of Harolds letter. Due to this, I think that this proves we should be skeptical of Harold and not supportive.

Harold could have been seen as a vulnerable, relatable character when he decides what bottle to use and what to put in it for Laura. He is thoughtful when he picks out Laura’s favorite drink as his bottle and AS Byatt calls him “serious” because he puts his grandfathers ring in the bottle as well. A reader could feel bad for him after reading that he really cares for her and never gets his love story with Laura. I do not think that the author wants the reader to feel this way at the end of the story. AS Byatt purposefully explains to the reader all of the harm that Harold causes. His fathers ring does not get to Laura, but it does reach a hagfish and the ring kills this animal. The bottle disintegrates and “the mollymawk tore at it and carried away a smeared strip to feed to its chicks, who would die with bellies distended by this stuff.” Furthermore, two turtles die, an eel, swooping gannets, and fish in general. The author vividly portrays all of the destruction one bottle, a letter, and a ring can cause. Without any trash in the ocean, Laura would not have had to study it and that would not have been the cause of her death. AS Byatt does not want the reader to feel bad for Harold. We should be mad at Harold for his careless mistake and we should not make the same one.

Love hurts

Finding a soulmate and discovering what true love feels like is something hopefully we all can experience in our life. However, attempts to finding this passion may create unforeseen dilemmas. Accordingly, my question is: Did Laura rejecting Harold have a bigger impact on Harold or in turn have a bigger impact on her work?

I think Harold getting rejected definitely impacted him, but inevitably impacted Laura’s work more. When Harold saw that none of his emails were being delivered and that the address she gave him was a lie, he wrote a love letter, put it in a bottle, and dropped it in the sea to hopefully reach the Caribbean. As time passed that bottle was making its way to the Caribbean. However, the effect it had on aquatic life is saddening. AS Byatt states, “The mollymawk tore at it, and carried away a smeared strip to feed to its chicks, who would die with bellies distended by this stuff. The cap detached itself, and was swallowed by a green turtle which mistook it for a glass eel. When this turtle choked and died, the cap was picked from its remains by another turtle, which also choked.” Harold’s message in the bottle ended up killing lots of animals in the ocean. Laura’s job involves eels and other marine life, so having these animals die impacts her work. In addition to the bottle killing marine life, Harold ended up marring a different women. Showing that he moved on. Laura rejecting Harold definitely impacted him, but not as much as it impacted her work as if she was truthful with her address than a couple of animals lives would have been saved.

Laura is a foil for Harold’s love of the sea

In AS Byatt’s, Sea Story, it appears as though she uses Laura as a foil for Harold’s love for the sea. It is made abundantly clear throughout the short story that Harold has an affinity for the sea and felt a deep sense of sadness when he left his seaside home to attend Oxford. While attending Oxford, he met Laura at a bar, where he fell in love with her at first sight. The manner in which he fell in love with Laura feels reminiscent to how he fell in love with the sea, or felt an innate connection with it as soon as he was born. Accordingly, my question is as follows: Do you believe AS Byatt had Harold fall in love with Laura because she reminded him of the sea, which he missed mightily while he was away from home, or was it because she truly was the “apple of his eye?”

 

I would argue the former, as I believe Laura reminded him a great deal of the sea, which he so dearly missed. I make the case based off of their initial introduction. The scene is brilliantly put together as AS Byatt wrote, “When he fell in love it was an immediate shock which was at once absorbed into his inner landscape. He was fishing from his boat, beyond the end of the Brigg when she rose up beside him, a pale women in a sleek black wetsuit, like a seal, her long lovely face streaming with sea water. She trod water and smiled mildy at him and stayed to speak about the weather, the beauty of the bay.” Within the text, I believe there are several key indicators providing evidence of how Laura is intrinsically connected to the sea, which is an enormous component of why he immediately fell in love with her. First, he was on his boat fishing when he first met her. Further, he compared her to a seal, a wild ocean animal and yet another reference to the sea. He then proceeded to talk about her face streaming with sea water and they then discussed the “beauty of the bay.” The amount of references to the sea when he first met her within such a small passage shows me that there was some other factor at play when he fell in love with Laura. As such, I believe that other factor to be his longing for the sea, and Laura is the first person to remind him of it. Thus, he immediately fell in love with her.

 

Why the horror of Martin’s beach happened?

Water, especially the sea, is a gift for the creatures on the earth. The fish and other marine animals live in the ocean freely, while human can get all kinds of resources from it. However, people need to face danger when exploring, for example, the unknown huge creatures, or the sudden storm that can take away our lives and treasures. ‘The Horror at Martin’s Beach’ is telling this kind of story that Capt. James P. Orne and his crew killed an infant monster and exhibits its body on a boat, and were finally killed by the revenge of another monster horribly.

 

What is the cause of this creepy and miserable story? Maybe some will think that people should never underestimate or underrate the sea which has a huge amount of unknown mysteries. I agree with this, and from my perspective, I have different ideas. As written in the article ‘wonder kept them at their task, and they hauled with a grim determination to uncover the mystery’ I believe that people should not have that kind of mad curiosity that can ignore the uncanny phenomenon and forget about the potential risk. Moreover, I think that human should not hurt or even kill another creature just because of our curiosity, and should respect other creatures. ‘Amidst a blinding glare of descending fire the voice of heaven resounded with the blasphemies of hell,’ is the prof by the writer that there will be a bad result.

An Inherent Human Flaw

For the past two-hundred thousand years, mankind has roamed the Earth doing their best to impose their power over other species. They believe themselves to be invincible to inferiority. As seen in, “The Horror at Martin’s Beach”, by H. P. Lovecraft and Sonia H. Greene, the captain and his sailors decide to kill a being of life for the simple reason of profit. The 4th paragraph reads, “On May 17 the crew…killed, after a battle of nearly forty hours, a marine monster whose size and aspect produced the greatest possible stir in scientific circles and caused certain Boston naturalists to take every precaution for its taxidermic preservation.” Although this is great for our advancements in the knowledge of marine life, are we pushing our boundaries as humans of what is justifiable?

The majority of mankind acts on their own agenda. It is extremely symbolic that the captain sailed out into the ocean, the monsters home, and killed it, then, when he returned to land he was given money. This theme of antagonizing other species comes at what cost? At what point is the money we receive from hunting, deforestation, etc., not worth the cost of another organisms life? I believe the day of August 8, 1922 is symbolic of how humans will have to face their repercussions for their ambitions and destructiveness. It proves no human is immortal or untouchable to the cycle of life and eventually it will catch up to us.