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.

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.