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.

3 thoughts on “The seemingly contradictory relationship between human and sea

  1. I agree with your main idea and believe that you have solid evidence to support your answer. Your statement about Harold not knowing whether he was pushing away his love or longing for a chance of hope in the letter, helped shed light on how the reader can view the contradicting relationship between humans and sea. However, I would urge you to look at the relationship between the sea and humans from a different viewpoint. I believe that the reader can interpret a connection between the main character and the sea. When Harold first meets Laura he falls in love her beauty and the emotions she stirs in him as she emerges from the sea. For example, at the point in the narrative when the author introduces Laura we encounter the phrase, “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”(Byatt AS pg 3). Her water eccentric attributes intensifies his romantic feelings for her due to the fact the he has a family history with water. The reader can analyze his attraction for her as the connection humans have with water. AS Byatt provides an imagery of Laura that is very water eccentric with words he uses. He relates her to a seal to show the reader the nurturing home for humans. Additionally, the author mentions that Laura’s face is streaming with sea water. The description demonstrates Harold’s feelings towards water because he is attracted to her face as he believes it is lovely. Those I believe that AS Byatt creates a relationship between the humans and the sea through the emotions that Harold has towards Laura in the short story.

  2. The way that you developed your focus on the contradiction between mankind and the sea creates a clear focus on this relationship especially for the main character. The first quotation from the article that you selected was an incredible example of Harold’s relationship with the sea. What I find to be most compelling about that instance is that as readers we are able to see that Harold views the sea almost as an outlet for his emotions. His constant yearning to be near the water and fact that the sea defines home for him already shows us just how much he values the sea. However, the fact that Harold chooses to communicate by sea but does not really know why he chooses to do such a thing, shows that he is putting his trust in the water to decide the fate of the letter. While the connection between Harold and the sea is evidently very deep, I feel as if at times it is also contradictory as you pointed out in your post.

    The way in which I see the contradictory relationship between man in the sea is that I believe that the sea can possibly be seen as Harold’s undoing. In the beginning of the article it is so clear how much he loves the sea as you expressed in your post. Also, he puts his entire faith in the gift that the ocean has given him; Laura. However, as readers we see how his love for Laura ultimately causes him much pain and just as the ocean gave him happiness, it strips him of it when his last attempt to get in contact with her is destroyed by the ocean: “It was beginning to disintegrate, its walls furring and feathering” (Byatt, 4). This is such a clear description of the destruction of the bottle, but it also seems reflective of Harold’s state. His unsuccessful attempts to get in contact with Laura broke his heart and yet see his final attempt to do just that, failed due to its journey in the water. Ultimately, Harold gives everything he has to the ocean and ends up never getting the thing that he wanted the most. This goes to show that despite how much Harold loved the sea, in the end it does not serve him in the way that he had hoped. This demonstrates the very literal message that nature does not serve mankind and that our actions in nature potentially have many different outcomes that we may not have expected. Byatt writes to remind us of mankind’s duty to preserve and protect nature, and to never underestimate its power.

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