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.

4 thoughts on “Do Humans Truly Love Their Enviornment?

  1. I agree with the evidence that you used in your post, and I liked the point you made connecting the killing of sea creatures from the bottle as a resemblance of how humans claim to love the sea but damage it. There exists another example in the short story that supports your response through the description of the Atlantic Gyre, he says, “It is composed of human plastic waste, and beneath it hidden under the movement of the sea surface, vast curtains of tiny particles hang fathoms deep”(Byatt AS pg 5). In addition, he states, “It is like a pop painting, containing white plastic forks and beakers, shoals of toothbrushes, phantom threads of ghostly ropes and lines bottles and jars (Byatt AS pg 5). The reader can interpret these descriptions of the Atlantic Gyre as a negative consequence that resulted from people not taking care of the sea. It is clearly demonstrated that there is severe trash problem in the sea. AS Byatt also compares the Atlantic Gyre as the Carribean Trash Vortex making it clear that it is a place where a large amount of disposal is found and that we are hurting the sea more than appreciating it for its beauty. Overall while I do agree with your opinion I believe that it is crucial that you can provide as much text evidence in order to back your argument.

  2. I honestly had not thought of the possibility that the relationship between Harold and Laura could potentially be symbolic of the relationship between mankind and the sea. You clearly depict the love that Harold has both for the sea and for Laura within your post. I think that it is important to note that the way that Laura is introduced to us depicts her as a product of the sea in the eyes of Harold. This potentially could contribute to why he fell in love with her the way he did. However, the relationship between Harold and Laura is clearly so one-sided as Harold is the only one making an attempt at remaining in contact: “He wrote a painfully ordinary letter, posted it, and had no reply, which was unsurprising, for the address she had given him was Scottish and she was in the Caribbean. The emails he sent were returned to him as undeliverable” (Byatt, 3). Harold’s love for Laura is clearly abused and exploited by her lack of consideration for his feelings and the effort that he puts into trying to be with her. Your idea that Laura is symbolic of the water really made me consider how this quote could be interpreted in terms of mankind’s relationship with the sea/ocean. Therefore, I started thinking about how just how Harold’s feelings and actions are unrequited much like how mankind treats the ocean. Water in general is such an incredible resource for humans. And yet, as Byatt points out, it is so abused by humans and we have little regard for the consequences of our actions. This is very similar to how Laura does not seem to care about Harold and his attempts to woo her. Ultimately, your question was a very good reminder about the fact that this story was published in an attempt to remind humans about our negative effect on the environment.

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