The Wanderer

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the HarperCollins edition of The Wanderer published in 2011.
I. Preparations Quotes

And what I wanted to do was go on and on, across the sea, alone with the water and the wind and the birds, but some said I was too young and the sea was a dangerous temptress, and at night I dreamed a terrible dream. A wall of water, towering, black, crept up behind me and hovered over me and then down, down it came, but always I awoke before the water covered me, and always I felt as if I were floating when I woke up.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wave, The Open Ocean
Page Number: 1-2
Explanation and Analysis:

Written in her first journal entry, this quote by Sophie highlights the “push-pull” dynamic which characterizes her relationship with water. On the one hand, Sophie is mysteriously pulled towards and called by the sea—it seems like Sophie’s had this attraction to the water ever since she was very little. Yet on the other hand, a nightmarish vision of a towering wave—threatening to crush her and sweep her away—haunts her dreams, suggesting that there’s something deep down in Sophie’s mind that pushes her away from the water: a deep-seated fear of the ocean which expresses itself in her dreams. While Sophie begins the novel always waking up from the dream just in time to escape the clutches of the wave, later in the novel, after she encounters a similar wave in real life, she ends up always getting swept far, far away.


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II. Shakedown Quotes

Sophie talks about my aunt and uncle as if they are her real parents, even though they are only her adopted parents and she’s only been with them three years. Brian says Sophie lives in a dream world, but I think it’s kind of neat that she does that. At least she isn’t sitting around moping about being an orphan.

Related Characters: Cody (speaker), Sophie, Brian
Page Number: 23-24
Explanation and Analysis:

Written in his first journal entry, Cody here tells us something important that Sophie has left out of her journal entries so far—the parents she’s been telling us about are actually her adoptive parents. As we find out later in the book, Sophie has largely blocked out all of her memories of her biological parents from her conscious mind, as if something deep inside of her psyche wants to erase her past and start life over from scratch. While Brian thinks that the world Sophie has invented for herself is too dreamlike and irrational, Cody seems to be constantly fascinated by it.

We are barely under way with our journey, and already everything seems more fluid and relaxed. . . . I’m ready to get out on the open ocean, though. I want to be moving, to be sailing, where it doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, where time is all connected.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Open Ocean
Page Number: 27-28
Explanation and Analysis:

Sophie writes this while she and the rest of the crew are docked on Block Island. Though she excitedly awaits getting back out onto the open ocean to experience its vastness and interconnectedness, Sophie already feels that her brief time on the water so far has affected her view of the world. The environment around her already feels more fluid and interconnected—not divided into ordered moments or events—which resembles her ideas of how life far out at sea might be. Thinking of the ocean as a place where all time is connected—where all of time is just one giant, eternal moment—Sophie clearly wants to escape the ordinary way of thinking which she associates with living on land.

Out here, there isn’t day and night and then a new day. Instead, there are degrees of light and dark, merging and changing. It’s like one long stream of time unfolding in front of you, all around you. There isn’t really a yesterday or a day before, which is weird, because then what is tomorrow? And what is last week or last year? And if there is no yesterday or last year—or ten years ago—then it must all be now, one huge big present thing.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Open Ocean
Page Number: 46-47
Explanation and Analysis:

Finally out on the open ocean, sailing on to Gran Manan from Martha’s Vineyard, what Sophie anticipated about the ocean—that out on it, all of time is connected—is coming true, and affecting her sense of passing time and life itself. Faced with a vast body of water expanding out onto a seemingly endless horizon, the sense of past-to-present-to-future is eroding for Sophie. The word “day” seems meaningless, as if the vastness Sophie is experiencing cannot possibly be measured by our conventional, rigid ways of ordering time. If the days can all blur together like this, and the word “tomorrow” is just a concept that humans make up in their minds, then, Sophie thinks, time must really just be “one huge big present thing.”

IV. Under Way Quotes

Here we are, well out in the big blue, rolling, rolling, sailing on to England. Out here, I feel as if the ocean is alive, as if it is living and breathing, and moody, oh so moody! Sometimes it is calm and smooth, as if it were asleep; and sometimes it is playful, splashing and rolling; and sometimes it is angry and knocks us about. It’s as if the ocean has many sides, like me.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Open Ocean
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

Having left Gran Manan to head towards the main destination of the trip—Bompie’s home in England—Sophie writes this in the first days of The Wanderer’s long stretch across the Atlantic Ocean. Here, we can feel Sophie’s enchantment with the ocean: a moody body of water that leaps from sleepy smoothness, to playful, energetic rolling, and even to an angry thrashing.

Though Sophie points out the ocean’s angry side here, the ocean doesn’t yet appear particularly threatening, like it will later in the book. For now, the ocean is a site of transforming wonder. It’s not a stage of death, as it later becomes for the crew. Further, Sophie’s identification in this quote with the ocean’s multi-faceted nature—with the fact that it has many sides, like her—harks back to the first chapter of the book, where she says that her father describes her as “three-sided.”

I stared out at the water and up at the sky and had the strangest rush of feelings. First I was completely peaceful, as if this was the most perfect place on earth to be, and then suddenly the peacefulness turned into wide, wide loneliness.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Open Ocean
Page Number: 144
Explanation and Analysis:

Sophie writes this entry while The Wanderer is sailing from Gran Manan to England—the crew hasn’t yet encountered the nearly-fatal storm of the fifth chapter.

Here, the conflicted dynamic which characterizes Sophie’s relationship with the water reappears. Sophie, looking out over the horizon of the ocean, experiences both a sense of blissful tranquility, and then a sense of vast emptiness and loneliness. The water, for Sophie, has this central ambivalence to it. At one moment, the ocean calls to her—pulls her to it in an enchanting excitement—but in the next moment she fears the ocean, or it inspires feelings of immense isolation.

This ambivalence is the central mystery of the ocean; at once beautiful in its seeming endlessness, it is also terrifyingly powerful, and almost too vast, too limitless, such that it could mean human life is essentially empty and meaningless. Perhaps this mystery is what provokes so many of the philosophical questions about life which the characters raise while out at sea.

V. Wind and Waves Quotes

Last night I dreamed about Sophie, and this morning I asked Uncle Dock if Sophie knew what had happened to her parents. He said, “At some level, Sophie must know. But consciously? That’s something only Sophie can answer.”

Related Characters: Cody (speaker), Sophie, Dock
Page Number: 178-179
Explanation and Analysis:

Cody writes this while The Wanderer is sailing from Gran Manan towards England, before the ship encounters the nearly-fatal storm.

Dock’s response makes a crucial point about Sophie’s psyche. At some level, deep down in her mind, she must still have memories of her parents and their deaths. But at the conscious level—at the level of her everyday awareness—Sophie doesn’t seem to remember. Sophie’s mind is therefore split in two. At the level of her conscious thoughts, she lives in something of a dream world, imagining her adoptive parents to be her real ones, having no apparent recollection of her past life before them.

However, at a deeper level that Sophie isn’t aware of consciously, there must still be in her mind a knowledge of her past. This fact, that Sophie still remembers her true past in some form, is evidenced by the “little kid” she sometimes mentions. Often bringing up a story about the little kid whenever she’s asked about her (Sophie’s) past life, it seems that Sophie has projected the past she doesn’t want to remember—that is, her own—onto the fictional “little kid.”

I was going overboard; I was sure of it. Underwater forever, twisting and turning, scrunched in a little ball. Was this the ocean? Was I over the side and in the sea? Was I four years old? In my head, a child’s voice was screaming, “Mommy! Daddy!”

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wave, The Open Ocean
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:

Sophie writes this passage after a violent wave has hit The Wanderer in the nearly-fatal storm it encounters en route to England. Here she reflects on her experience of being swept up by it.

The most significant part of this passage is perhaps the child’s voice that Sophie hears. We can infer that the screaming she hears is actually her own—that the screaming is part of Sophie’s past, of Sophie’s memory of being with her parents when they died at sea. We can imagine that when she was swept away from her parents in that tragic accident, a very young Sophie would cry out for her mommy and daddy.

And now that Sophie has encountered another, similarly violent wave at sea, it makes sense that—in the moment of being swept away—the traumatic memory of her parent’s death (which she’s blocked out from her present awareness) would surge forth to her conscious mind. This newly experienced sensation of being swept away must have triggered her blocked-out memory of being swept from her parents as a small child—a memory which reappears in a particular form: the voice of a younger Sophie screaming. Of course, Sophie does not recognize this yet. She does not process what she hears in this way; she simply reports what she heard, and leaves it at that.

It seems a hundred years ago that we were lobstering and clamming on Grand Manan and trekking around Wood Island, and it seems a hundred years ago that we were eager to get under way, oblivious to what lay in wait for us. I feel as if I have to start to love sailing again, because I don’t love it now. I just want to get to Bompie and forget about the ocean for a while.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker), Bompie
Related Symbols: The Wave, The Open Ocean
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:

In the aftermath of the violent Wave, Sophie writes this journal entry as the crew begins to escape the nearly-fatal storm and regain control of The Wanderer’s course towards England.

The time-warping effects of the ocean on Sophie’s mind resurface here. Already having lost her normal sense of time by being out on the open ocean for so long, the traumatic storm she went through must have absorbed all of her attention. Causing her to think about only survival and the possibility of her death—about the present and the future, not the past—the storm must have halted all of Sophie’s thoughts about the past, which were already hazy enough because they were lumped into “one big huge present” of time. The storm has then disconnected Sophie from a sense of the past even more than the ocean already had.

Regaining a sense of control over the waters and refocusing her thoughts on getting to Bompie—and therefore putting the wave behind her, into the past—the time Sophie spent on Gran Manan now indeed seem like it was an unbelievable amount of time ago, separated from the wave’s attack by a rift of one hundred years.

Further, it is hard for Sophie to enjoy and feel confident about sailing again after being nearly killed by the storm. But Sophie and the crew must push on, and reacquire their sense of composure if they are to successfully make it to Bompie.

I feel as if there were things inside me that were safely tucked away, sort of like the bilge down there, hidden under the floorboards of The Wanderer. But it feels as if the boards were blown off by The Wave and things are floating around and I don’t know where to put them.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wave
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:

Sophie writes this shortly after the last quote, in the aftermath of the violent Wave.

The sense that Sophie’s mind is divided between things she blocks out from her conscious mind (her everyday awareness) and things of which she is aware is further highlighted here. Sophie has blocked out the pain of her past, and what she’s consciously aware of are largely things she dreams and makes up, and which are therefore false beliefs (like her belief that her adoptive parents are her original ones). She’s conscious only of what it pleases her to believe, what she wants to believe, blocking out the pain of her past.

The floorboards Sophie describes are like a line that separates the painful stuff she’s blocked-out from what she wants to believe is real. It’s the line that keeps what’s blocked out totally inaccessible by Sophie’s awareness. The violent wave, however, has ripped up those floorboards. Reminding Sophie of the traumatic accident which killed her parents, the violent wave brings up pieces of her blocked-out memory of the accident up through the broken “floorboards” of her psyche. Things which were “safely tucked away” and “hidden” are now “floating around” like confusing fragments in her conscious mind.

I am thinking about Bompie. At last I will see Bompie. Why am I scared?

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker), Bompie
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

Sophie writes this in the aftermath of the violent Wave, as The Wanderer continues towards Bompie. Here, the conflicted dynamic which characterizes Sophie’s relationship with water once again appears. Finally, Bompie is starting to get within her reach; Sophie is honing-in on Bompie’s house in England, and after waiting and hoping for so long, she’s finally going to get to meet him. The possibility of meeting Bompie, which used to be just something Sophie would imagine, now seems like a real thing that will actually happen.

But, despite all the excitement and anticipation she’s had about meeting her grandfather, Sophie is suddenly scared about seeing Bompie. Why? Though Sophie is pulled towards Bompie, as she gets closer to him she feels a fear which pushes her away. Why the push?

Perhaps Sophie is starting to doubt whether meeting Bompie will mean all the things to her she’s imagined it would. She’s thought about meeting him for so long, and what it would be like—but what if Bompie’s nothing like she’s thought? What if her sense of a deeply special connection with him gets crushed when she meets him in the flesh? What if the reality is a disappointment in comparison to her imagination? Perhaps these thoughts are subtly pulsing in the back of Sophie’s mind.

There's a little kid. And the little kid doesn't know what is going on. The little kid is just cold or hungry or scared and wants Mommy and Daddy. And when other people tell the little kid that Mommy and Daddy have gone to heaven . . . the little kid feels bad and wonders why they didn't take their little kid with them . . .
And everywhere the little kid goes, people ask what the little kid remembers about the grown-ups, who have gone away to the beautiful place, but the little kid doesn’t want to remember that painful thing. . . . The little kid wants to be right here, right now . . . not back at those times the little kid got left behind.
But no matter what the little kid might want, something inside pushes the little kid ahead while something or someone pulls the little kid back.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker), Cody
Related Symbols: The Little Kid
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:

Cody writes this in the aftermath of the nearly-fatal storm, as The Wanderer regains control of its course towards England. He’s recording the response Sophie gave when he asked her if she “remembered things from when she was little.”

Unsurprisingly (by this point in the book), Sophie, being asked about her past by Cody, starts talking about the little kid instead. The little kid, a fictional character onto which Sophie projects the truth of her own past in order to disconnect herself from it, wants so very much to be able to live in the present. Having gone through a very painful past of losing their parents, and then being, as we learn later on, chucked from place to place—from their grandpa’s (who died), to their aunt’s (who didn’t want the little kid), and then from foster home to foster home—the little kid has felt rejected and unwanted. The little kid even felt rejected by their own parents, wondering why they wouldn’t take their child to heaven with them. In order to get on with life and live happily, the little kid just wants to be able to look ahead, and not backwards at the pain of the past.

The “push-pull” dynamic at the core of Sophie’s psyche shines through here. Sophie (the little kid) feels pushed by her painful past into a better future, where she can live a happy, fulfilling life where she feels valued. Yet, at the same time, she feels pulled back by her painful past, for she can’t totally erase it, even though she tries.

In trying to get totally beyond her past by wholly forgetting it, Sophie, or the little kid, gets caught-up in this back-and-forth of being pushed and pulled. Perhaps if Sophie would try to reconcile herself with the past by remembering it and coming to terms with it—by recognizing the good parts about it—she could achieve a steadier state of mind. Cody, at the end of the book, tries to help her recognize this.

I could understand what he was saying, but I wondered if the same was true of children, that sometimes you can’t control things and sometimes you have to let go. Maybe you even have to let go of your parents. But then I was all muddled in my head and I couldn’t make sense of anything, not even where I was or why I was there.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker), Stew
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:

Sophie writes this in response to a moment she shared with Uncle Stew as The Wanderer nears the coast of Ireland. Uncle Stew was saying that when it comes to being a parent, sometimes you have to just let go of your children and pray that they’ll be okay—that, eventually, you have to let go of trying to control everything about your child’s life.

Sophie reverses Stew’s statement by considering that maybe children eventually have to let go of their parents. It seems significant that Sophie writes, in the very next sentence, that her head started to get “muddled.” It seems as if the thought that children have to let go of their parents has troubled her and unsettled her in some way.

This makes sense, though, for it’s precisely what Sophie has had (understandably) a very hard time doing—letting go of, or moving on from, her original parents. By trying to block their memory out of her mind, she hasn’t let go of them; rather, she’s simply buried them deeper into her psyche. The idea of letting go of one’s parents, then, confuses her, precisely because she hasn’t let go. To truly let go of her parents, she’d have to remember them, and thereby come to terms with their death in order to move on with her life.

And I keep thinking about the wave dream I used to have. What seems especially eerie is that the wave in all of those dreams was The Wave—exactly the same: the same height, the same shape. The only difference is that the wave in my dreams was black, and this one was white. . . .
I can’t get rid of the feeling that the waves of my dreams were all pointing to The Wave that got us on the ocean.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wave, The Open Ocean
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:

Sophie writes this in the aftermath of the nearly-fatal storm, as The Wanderer is on its final stretch to England. Perhaps the most significant element of this passage is Sophie’s connection of The Wave of her dreams with the violent wave she and the crew of The Wanderer faced at sea in real life. She says that the two are nearly identical in form, except for their color—and she feels that somehow the waves of her dreams were all leading to the wave at sea.

This last point is interesting, because it might explain two important things: one, why Sophie’s been having her nightmares about the wave, and two, one crucial motivation for her to embark on her trip over the ocean. We might say that Sophie desired to embark upon the ocean in order to master her fear of water, a fear represented by The Wave in her dreams. But why?

Well, if Sophie has blocked-out the memory of her parents’ death (when they died at sea in her company) from her conscious, everyday awareness, then The Wave nightmares might be a way for Sophie to relive, in her dream-world of sleep, that blocked-out memory in order to conquer it and strip it of its pain. If we accept this as the case, then the dreams in a way propelled Sophie to try and remember what she’d blocked out—to face and conquer her fear of water or The Wave, and therefore reconcile herself with her parents’ death.

If this is the purpose behind the dreams, then what does it tell us about Sophie’s motivation for embarking on the trip? When Sophie says that The Wave of her dreams pointed to the wave in real life, it suggests that she, on some mental level, desired to endure a trip over the ocean in order to face the fear that’s been the cause of her nightmarish dreams—to face the fear in real life. Sophie wanted to conquer her fear of the ocean on the ocean, to kill the fear once and for all—a fear caused by her parents’ death.

Last night, Cody and I got into this very serious talk about Life. We wondered if maybe people never die, but simply live on and on, leaving other planes behind. When you come near death, you die on one plane—so to everyone you are with, you are dead, but you—the you in you—doesn’t stop existing. Instead, you keep living the same as always and it just seems as if you’ve had a close call. We wondered if maybe we’re not each just one person, but many people existing on millions of different planes, like a line that branches off and branches again and on it goes, but it always has one central trunk.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker), Cody
Related Symbols: The Open Ocean
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

Having endured the violent wave and passed through the storm, Sophie writes about a conversation she had with Cody regarding, rather appropriately, life and death.

Since they both were the most injured by the wave—the most brutally swept up in its overwhelming force—Sophie and Cody have probably come the closest to death among the crew. Having had near-death encounters, their minds must subsequently be fixated on the fact that they saw their lives vanish before them, only to be saved because they both had their safety harnesses on at the time.

Their question about death—about whether one ever really experiences death, or rather just keeps being reborn on different “planes”—is therefore fitting. Did they actually die when the wave struck? Have they been reborn? While they do not give the question an ultimate answer, the fact that they’re raising it shows that the ocean has deeply changed them. They’re asking questions about the fundamental nature of life, of existence—they’re thinking about life in a way they never have before. Had they stayed on land and never ventured out onto the open ocean, it’s not likely they would be wondering if, in a single human lifetime, there are actually millions of different life-branches.

What I wonder is this: how come you don’t notice the time going by, and you don’t think you are changing in any way, but then all of a sudden you realize that what you are thinking today is different from what you thought yesterday and that you are different from what you were yesterday—or last week—or last month?

Related Characters: Cody (speaker)
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:

In another interesting philosophical moment in the book, Cody raises this question as he’s recovering from his encounter with the almost deadly Wave. The violent storm has changed Cody, as well as his dad (Mo). Having faced death, Cody’s way of perceiving the world is different—and this includes his perception of his father. He now sees his father in a totally different light, as if he’s a stranger with a history that Cody is totally ignorant of. Mo has also changed—he realizes how poor of a father he’s been to Cody.

It’s therefore fitting that Cody raises this question about the nature of change. Why don’t we notice that we’re changing as we’re doing it? Why do we only have knowledge of our changes after they’ve run their course on us—after the fact that we’ve changed? Though Cody never gives an answer, it’s remarkable that he’s even asking the question. Cody, as we knew him in the beginning of the novel, is not someone who lives a “life of the mind”—he doesn’t typically ask questions like this. But now, his life having been altered by an encounter with death, Cody is thinking more about his life as a whole. The wave has changed his outlook on life.

Everyone is talking about reaching Ireland, but I feel weird, as if we’re not really going to get there, or as if I’m not ready to be there. And what will happen with Sophie when we do reach Bompie? Maybe that’s part of the reason I don’t want to get there. I’m afraid for Sophie.

Related Characters: Cody (speaker), Sophie, Bompie
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

Cody writes this shortly after his previous quote. The crew is mostly recovered from the storm, and soon Cody and Sophie will spot land—the coast of Ireland.

Cody’s initial fascination with Sophie’s weirdness and mystique has now turned into a genuine concern for her mental health and well-being. He seems to know that there’s something peculiar about Sophie’s relationship with Bompie—but not in the way that Brian thinks their relationship is strange.

While Brian is downright infuriated by Sophie’s insistence that she knows Bompie, believing her to be making up everything she says, Cody doesn’t seem to doubt Sophie, at least entirely. Though he’s unsure about how she knows Bompie’s stories, he seems more concerned about how she will react to meeting Bompie—how her emotions will hold up—and not so much about whether she’s lying or not.

Cody seems to understand that Sophie has identified with Bompie in a powerful way, and, knowing Sophie’s capacity to dream her world, perhaps he’s worried that Sophie has thought Bompie is someone he’s not, that he means something to her imagination which he cannot uphold in the flesh. Cody is perhaps worried that Sophie will meet Bompie, have her illusions about him shattered, and be deeply saddened.

VI. Land Quotes

I reached across the bed and touched her hand. “Sophie,” I said. “Maybe that’s not Bompie’s story. Maybe that’s your story.”
Bompie whispered, “Sophie, he’s right. That’s your story, honey.”
Sophie stared at me and then at Bompie. She looked so scared and so little sitting there beside Bompie. And then she put her head down on Bompie’s chest and she cried and cried and cried.

Related Characters: Cody (speaker), Sophie, Bompie
Related Symbols: The Wave, The Little Kid
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage, written by Cody when he and the crew have arrived at Bompie’s cottage, is arguably the climax of the entire book. Before this moment, Sophie has spent a good deal of time retelling Bompie’s stories to him. With each story, however, when Bompie becomes submerged in a body of water—whether it’s the new car story, the railway bridge story, the swimming story, or the ocean story—Sophie makes sure to emphasize the fact that Bompie really struggled and had a rough time in the water.

Yet each time Sophie gets to this part, Bompie says he doesn’t recognize it—he doesn’t remember ever struggling in the water that way. Finally, Sophie tells a story about when Bompie was out at sea with his parents and a giant wave came upon them. She then stutters, trying but unable to say that the wave drowned Bompie’s parents, and Cody finishes her sentence for her. Sophie then gasps in agreement with Cody, but Cody and Bompie say that Sophie is mixing her own story up with Bompie’s.

Sophie, therefore, is gently encouraged to accept the truth of her past, the truth of her own story. Until now, she’s blocked it out and transferred it onto other people, like the “little kid” and Bompie. Now, however, Sophie has to realize that all the time she’s spent idealizing Bompie has been largely due to the fact the she thought, on some mental level, that he shared her history and her traumatic past—even though she’d blocked it out.

Sophie is finally left alone with her own truth; she can no longer project it onto anyone else.

It was strange reading the ones about the car in the river, and leaping off the train tracks, and Bompie’s baptism, and Bompie in the swimming hole, and Bompie at the ocean. Most of what Sophie had told us was pretty much the way he had told it to her in his letters, except for the parts about struggling in the water. He was in the water all those times, but he hadn’t written about struggling in it.
Those parts had come from Sophie.

Related Characters: Cody (speaker), Sophie, Bompie
Page Number: 250
Explanation and Analysis:

Cody writes this shortly after the last quote, after Sophie has given him a notebook with the letters Bompie had written to her over a period of three years. Cody writes that Bompie’s first letter welcomed Sophie to her new, adoptive family, while each one after told her a story about his life.

This quote is important because it shows an evolution in Cody’s understanding of Sophie. He’s now not only certain that Sophie hasn’t (entirely) made up Bompie’s stories, but he’s also coming to see firsthand how Sophie’s traumatic past and fear of the water has influenced all her versions of Bompie’s stories—how her memories and fear of water, to a great extent, propelled her interest in Bompie’s stories.

Cody can now see that Sophie recited each story very closely to the way Bompie had written them, but also that Sophie added a part which she must have not realized she was actively adding. The parts about Bompie struggling in the water were what Sophie wanted to read in Bompie’s stories—she wanted to learn about and know someone who understood her own struggles with water.

Cody’s book-long fascination with Sophie, then, develops here into a more nuanced understanding of how her inner world works.

Cody ripped off the wrapping. Inside was a pen-and-ink drawing of Cody juggling. He was standing on The Wanderer, and the boat was leaning way over, but Cody was perfectly balanced, and he was juggling not pretzels—or socks—but people. Each of us was a little wee tiny person up in the air, and Cody was juggling us.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker), Cody
Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:

Sophie writes this passage at Bompie’s. She’s writing about an evening when Uncle Mo distributed gifts of drawings and paintings he made on The Wanderer to Bompie and the crew.

This passage is significant because Mo’s drawing points out how Cody—though he was often framed in the book as a silly, unserious goof-off—has, in a way, been the most observant person on The Wanderer. While Sophie has a keen mind for observing people and things and investigating them, she’s often caught up in her push-pull world of struggling to know what’s true and what’s not. Cody, however, has carefully observed Sophie for a long time, and has come to an advanced understanding of why she thinks and acts the way she does.

While trying to unravel Sophie’s mysteries, Cody has also had to juggle the aggressiveness and anger of his father, as well as the bossy, accusatory, and overbearing natures of Brian and Uncle Stew.

And, while Cody and Sophie are both outcasts of the crew in a way, Cody has probably felt less connected to Sophie, than she has with him, since Sophie always seems caught up in her own dream world, in a place where she can’t always be reached. Cody, then, has been uniquely alone on the whole trip, juggling his relationships with all the other crewmembers on his own, with little support.

Further, this passage marks an important moment for Sophie, as Mo’s gift to her is a symbol of her acceptance into the family. While she wasn’t expecting to receive a gift, she did, much to her happiness, get one—just like everyone else. Sophie’s finally landed somewhere stable, in a family of which she can be a permanent member.

I’ve been thinking about the little kid. I think that one day the little kid got lucky and she landed in a place where it was okay if she couldn’t remember all the time, and because it was okay if she couldn’t remember all the time, and because it was okay not to remember, she started to remember. And along with the painful things came the good things to remember and maybe she felt as if she’d found some things she’d lost.

Related Characters: Cody (speaker), Sophie
Related Symbols: The Little Kid
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

Written in his last journal entry of the book, Cody records here his final thoughts about the little kid—about Sophie’s younger self, whom Sophie has tried to forget. Perhaps, Cody wonders, Sophie (the little kid) needed to reach a place where it was all right for her to forget her past—where it was okay for her to live totally in the present, however she conceived of it. This achievement was probably a good thing for Sophie, since it allowed her to acquire a sense of belonging with her adoptive family. No longer remembering her old parents or her constant skipping from foster home to foster home, Sophie could finally feel accepted, valued, and wanted.

But now that Sophie’s reached this point, Cody suggests that it’s become okay for her to start remembering the past, which explains why Sophie has, over the course of the trip, been slowly starting to remember what she’s blocked out. Precisely because Sophie reached a place where she could stop remembering her past and finally feel a sense of being present in a new life that welcomed her is why she now seems more prone to remembering her past. Maybe, at some level of her mind, she thinks it’s finally safe to start remembering.

Cody seems to imply that he thinks this new stage in Sophie’s life will be incredibly healthy for Sophie—that it will allow her to live not in a false present, but in a real one no longer held back by the blocked-out pain of her past.

I can tell that my now-parents are awfully relieved that I made it back in one piece. They keep coming into my room at night and sitting on the edge of my bed, and when I open my eyes, they say, “You okay? You need anything?” and I say, “I’m just fine.”

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker)
Page Number: 266
Explanation and Analysis:

Sophie writes this in her last journal entry of the book; she’s back home in Kentucky, and Brian and Cody are staying with her for a couple of weeks. The trio intends to explore the Ohio River together.

Perhaps the most significant element of this quote is Sophie’s usage of the term “now-parents.” This is the first place in the entire book where Sophie has acknowledged that her current parents are different than her original ones—that they’re her adoptive parents, not her biological ones. This indicates that Sophie’s mind is starting to change: she’s starting to realize a truer relation to her past family as well as her present family. She’s no longer covering the former with the latter, and is starting to consciously recognize that she had a real past before her current parents. Sophie is beginning to understand her own story in a way she’s never been able to before.

I’m not in dreamland or earthland or mule-land. I’m just right here, right now. When I close my eyes, I can still smell the sea, but I feel as if I’ve been dunked in the clear cool water and I’ve come out all clean and new.
Bye-bye, Bompie. Bye-bye, sea.

Related Characters: Sophie (speaker), Bompie
Related Symbols: The Open Ocean
Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:

The last sentences of the book, Sophie concludes her journal with these words. Without going into any specifics, she claims to no longer be caught between the personality extremes which her father, as the first chapter showed us, has used to define her. By harking back to her first journal entry, Sophie gives a sense of closure to her journey. She’s changed from how she was before the trip, and she lives a more present life: a life not dominated by any one extreme of emotion, and which becomes freer, every day, from the painful past it once covered up.

Further, by suggesting that she’s been dunked in a cleansing water of renewal, Sophie subtly references the baptism of Frank’s son on Grand Manan. Though the baptism scared her back then—since seeing the people getting dunked triggered her fear of water—she now embraces the imagery of being baptized and reborn. Sophie is embracing the changes which, through acknowledging the truth of her past, are altering her view of herself, her history, and her world.

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