Throughout Little Plastic Shipwreck, Kennedy uses images associated with the ocean to symbolize the frightening and mysterious darkness that lies beyond consciousness. While the name “Oceanworld” seems almost ironic due to how profoundly the sea creatures seem disconnected from the ocean itself, there are references to a deeper underwater world that lies just beyond the periphery of the understanding of both narrator and reader. Roley describes the penguins, for example, as “gimleteyed,” without knowing what this word means. It is as if the word, which he associates with “something ice cold, anyway, that twisted in the deep,” has come to him through a subconscious thought process. This unintended metaphor is sinister and unsettling, as if Roley has tapped into the world of the deep ocean without intending to. Furthermore, Roley describes lying next to Liz at night and feeling her hand graze across him “like seagrass in the current,” imagining “silvery bubbles escaping their mouths.” This dreamlike passage draws an explicit connection between the subconscious territory of dreams and the ocean. Whereas here it is almost peaceful, his earlier reference to something that “twisted in the deep” implies that the deeper realms of this underwater dream world are much more frightening. Reflecting on his wife’s induced coma, Roley imagines “how it would feel waking up knowing that’s where you’d been.” In comparing the induced coma to a place, Kennedy appears to suggest subtly that Roley, at least subconsciously, believes that Liz in her induced coma has travelled to a state comparable to the dark, inaccessible realm of the deep ocean, and that perhaps part of her is still there.
The Ocean Quotes in Little Plastic Shipwreck
And Oceanworld, clearly, was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy anyway; a sad cluster of concrete pools and enclosures surrounded on all sides by murals depicting a far bigger, shinier aquatic adventure park, like those billboards of sleek apartment blocks which were nailed up around the shabby prefab bunkers on building sites. It was only once you'd paid your money and clicked through the chrome turnstiles and properly looked around, scenting that whiff of rotten fish on the air, that you realised you'd been had.
Roley had a theory that the reason visitors loved Samson so much was that he was the only creature at the aquarium who seemed to be able to create a facial expression, apart from the sea-lion Rex, whose eyes were so fogged over with milky-blue cataracts […] The turtles were totally vacant—they had the hateful, icy glare of an old drunk—and of course the fish had no expression whatsoever. Just looked at you as they cruised past, a vegetable with fins. No short-term memory, that's what Kaz said when he told her his theory. “That's the cliche, right?” she said, tapping the glass of one of the tanks. “Nothing going on. You put one in a fishbowl, and they start swimming around in circles, and every time it's like: Look, a little plastic shipwreck! Five seconds later: Look, a little plastic shipwreck!”
And the penguins, even the ones with the little tufty eyebrows, still had to quirk their whole heads even to convey a response. Mostly they just looked shifty. Gimleteyed, thought Roley, whatever that meant. Whatever gimlets were. Something ice-cold, anyway, that twisted in deep.
Sometimes at night he'd feel Liz's hand land uncertainly on him and graze back and forth. Like seagrass on a current, it felt to him, and just as random. He'd take her hand and imagine silvery bubbles escaping from their mouths, floating up towards the ceiling fan, him keeping his breaths measured and even.
“I’m home early,” he said.
“Are you?” she replied.
“Can I get you anything?” he said, emptying his pockets onto the dining-room table, watching her stop and consider, slow as a tide turning.
“No,” she said finally, “there's nothing I want,” and Roley thought, that's right, there's nothing: want was what they had taken out of her, back when they were assuring him nothing was removed.