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.

3 thoughts on “Vivid Oppositions

  1. I agree with your argument about how AS Byatt’s use of oppositions leads to her main point about how humans need to have more appreciation for the ocean. AS Byatt’s use of oppositions helped me to look at this stories with multiple perspectives which I believe was her intention. In addition, the specific and graphic diction she uses with these oppositions made her oppositions more powerful. The powerful oppositions she uses display how poorly the ocean is treated and why society needs to treat it with the highest respects.

    I especially enjoyed the opposition you mentioned about the love letter in the Perrier bottle and the damage it causes to the ocean. It forced me to consider what would have happened if Laura had read the letter which brought me to one specific line. Towards the end of the story it states, “Parts of this mess did in fact reach their intended destination”(Byatt, 5). Shortly after this line the reader is informed of Laura’s death. I believe AS Byatt does this in attempt to show readers that even if the Laura saw the letter, it would not have meant anything. This created a sense of irony that would have been a nice asset to your argument.

  2. I agree that A.S. Byatt has used a lot of opposition to make contracts and connected a lot of themes. I like how you wrote about the theme of bottle, “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”, it mentioned the love story between Harold and Laura and also talked about the pollution which is an important message to the reader.
    I also find a series of comparisons. The writer first compared Harold’s life with and without the sea, then compare Laura who studies about sea creatures and work near the sea with Harold who stayed in Cambridge with no sea. Finally, there is a contrast of Harold’s peaceful life that he had go back to the seaside and tried to protect the seaside environment and the old days that he was crazy for love and desire to the sea. As A.S. Byatt described,” Harold married a fellow poet, had three daughters whom he loved, strode along Filey Beach collecting plastic bags and debris, retired and died.” These contracts indicated that Harold turned in his love and passion for the action of protecting the sea environment, and is also a hope that the reader can also give some contribution.

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