The Wanderer

The Wanderer III. The Island Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
15. Grand Manan. Sophie writes a journal entry about arriving at Gran Manan, an Island in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia. Dock’s friend Frank meets them when they dock, and they all go to his house to meet his family. Later, Frank and the crew of The Wanderer go lobster fishing, and Sophie is fascinated by imagining what it would be like to live the life of a fisherman, while Cody thinks she’s bizarre for being excited about something so seemingly boring and laborious.
The extent of Sophie’s imagination perplexes Cody, who doesn’t understand how such seemingly ordinary, uneventful things and people around her can be the source of such fascination. This daydream-like way in which Sophie lives her life certainly sets her apart from others: she observes the world around her with a curiosity that makes it always fresh and exciting.
Themes
Dreaming vs. The Real World Theme Icon
16. Stranded. Cody writes an entry in his log saying that he asked Uncle Dock what happened to Sophie’s parents. Dock replies by saying that they’re back in Kentucky, but Cody tells him that he means Sophie’s biological parents, not her adoptive ones. Dock says that he won’t tell Cody what happened to them, because it’s “not a pretty story.”
The mystery around Sophie’s biological parents and her seeming inability to remember them continues to perplex Cody. This mystery is only intensified by Dock’s refusal to tell Cody what happened. Thus uncovering Sophie’s past is becoming one of Cody’s main preoccupations on the trip.
Themes
Family and Personal Identity Theme Icon
17. Tradition. Sophie then writes an entry about how Frank and Frank’s wife treat Sophie as if she’s somehow different from the other crewmembers, in terms of skills and interests, because she’s a girl. Frank’s wife calls her a “brave soul” because she’s sailing and hanging around a bunch of men, and assumes that she does all the cooking and cleaning, but none of the actual sailing and handiwork. When Sophie says that Cody does most of the cooking, Frank starts calling him Mr. Mom, and tells him that someday he’ll “make a great wife.” Later, when Frank, his father, and the crew of The Wanderer go clamming, he tells Sophie that she’s going to have a lot of cooking to do, but Sophie snaps back at him, saying that she’s not the only one on board who can cook. She says she wishes that she had handled comments like that with Cody’s sense of humor, since he ended up laughing about “Mr. Mom” and making it into a joke. Sophie gets irritated when people assume that she can’t use a power tool or climb a mast, but she wants to learn to start laughing such moments off.
The stereotypical way Frank and his wife view gender roles irritates Sophie, who does not conform to their viewsof girlishness. After being cast by Frank’s wife as somehow needing bravery in order to be in the company of men, and assumed to do stereotypically feminine housekeeping tasks, Sophie is discouraged by how her sailing skills, strength, and independence aren’t being recognized. Unlike Cody, who’s unfazed by how Frank mocks him, Sophie is unable to stay coolheaded when Frank makes his comment about cooking. While Cody may not feel any pressure to correct how Frank views his behavior with regard to conventional gender roles, Sophie feels this kind of discrimination more personally, and tries to correct how she’s represented by the men around her.
Themes
Men and Women Theme Icon
18. Bompie and the Train. Cody writes in his log that he can’t figure Sophie out. She’s amazed by the smallest things, like a simple lobster pot, and will get close to it, observe it, and ask tons of questions about it. But Cody says that Sophie’s enthusiasm is inspiring; her fascination and excitement convinced him that maybe living the life of a lobster fisherman could actually be quite interesting. After he admits to catching a bit of Sophie’s sense of amazement and imagination about the fishing life, he says that he thinks she’s afraid of the water.
Though confused by Sophie’s fascination with the lobster pot and fisherman lifestyle, Cody finds her way of dreaming and imagining somewhat contagious. Sophie is beginning to influence the way Cody thinks, and he’s starting to register just how unique and peculiar she is. But now he’s picked up something crucial about her character which we’ve already known all along: she fears the water.
Themes
Dreaming vs. The Real World Theme Icon
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Cody then writes about another Bompie story Sophie tells. When Bompie was young, he lived near the Ohio River, where it was very deep and about a mile wide. Across the river ran a train track, and one day Bompie decided to cross the river by walking on it. When he got to the middle of the bridge, however, he heard the train coming, and when it got close, he decided to jump from the bridge into the water below. When he finally made it to the surface, he swam to shore like a madman. Arriving safely back at home, his father whipped him for getting his clothes dirty, and his mother gave him apple pie.
Following the same pattern of the last Bompie story, Bompie has another dangerous encounter with water, and faces the same reaction by his parents when he returns home. Though Cody’s not sure if Sophie’s stories are real or not, he persists in recording them down in as much detail as possible. This persistence could be read as Cody having faith that Sophie’s stories are worth listening to, whether “real” or invented.
Themes
Dreaming vs. The Real World Theme Icon
19. Wood Island. Still on Grand Manan, Sophie writes that she and Cody met an interesting woman who told them about an abandoned island haunted by ghosts, called “Wood Island.” Sophie and Cody then take the dinghy out to the island, seeking out hermits and ghosts. They visit an abandoned church and a deserted house, and Sophie at one point says she feels the presence of other people around them—maybe ghosts. When they leave Wood Island, fog has accumulated over the water, and Sophie and Cody can barely see twenty feet in front of the boat. Sophie panics and has a hard time breathing, but Cody helps her stay calm; using his compass, he successfully guides them back to Grand Manan.
Sophie and Cody’s shared sense of adventurousness and passion for exploration—traits which Brian doesn’t possess—are showcased here. Sophie’s panic attack in the fog proves as an opportunity for Cody to show that he’s more competent than the crew typically gives him credit for—he successfully guides himself and Sophie through the blinding thicket of fog, comforting Sophie at the same time. Sophie’s claim to having felt ghosts reinforces her sense of imagination and openness to the world around her.
Themes
Dreaming vs. The Real World Theme Icon
The Mysteries of Life and Death Theme Icon
When Sophie and Cody return to Grand Manan, Uncle Mo scolds them for getting themselves into potential danger. They could have gotten lost in the fog, swallowed up in a nearby current, or even hit by another boat. Sophie says she wonders why she never thought about such potential dangers before embarking on the trip, and wonders whether it’s better to worry about such things beforehand or to not know about them at all. If you don’t have to worry, she writes, then you’re actually able to relax and enjoy yourself.
Sophie and Cody nearly risked their lives going on their trip to Wood Island—but that possibility never crossed Sophie’s mind before embarking. Her question about whether it’s better to be ignorant or aware of potential danger reflects a problem at the core of her psyche: is it better to block the truth of her past out of her mind, or to know of her parents’ death and acknowledge the pain of their memory?
Themes
Dreaming vs. The Real World Theme Icon
Family and Personal Identity Theme Icon
The Mysteries of Life and Death Theme Icon
20. The Little Kid. Cody writes his own entry about his trip with Sophie to Wood Island. He says that he felt the presence of ghosts when he was there, but when he asked Sophie, she denied seeing or sensing any ghosts, and said they were all in Cody’s mind. While they were walking along, Cody decided to ask Sophie what happened to her original parents, but she said that nothing had happened to them, and that they were in Kentucky. She then starts to tell a story about a “little kid” whose parents weren’t with them any longer, and so the little kid had to go live with other people.
The “little kid” of Sophie’s story bears a striking resemblance to Sophie herself—a young child who lost their parents. It seems that Sophie has invented the character of the little kid in order to project her own past onto another’s story, thereby disowning the truth of her past. Yet the fact that she feels the need to talk about the little kid shows that, on some level, her past is still with her—it’s not totally forgotten or repressed.
Themes
Dreaming vs. The Real World Theme Icon
Family and Personal Identity Theme Icon
21. The Baptism. In Sophie’s next journal entry, she describes how she, Cody, and Brian all went to a boat-building shop owned by a man who specializes in using fiberglass. Brian comments on how the shop owner’s work makes Sophie’s look mediocre, but she shrugs it off. Brian then asks: “You don’t like me, do you?” Sophie denies not liking Brian, but Cody upsets Brian by explaining that certain personality traits he has can be irritating. Brian storms off.
The tension Sophie and Cody have with Brian reaches a new peak here, as Brian realizes that the other two don’t enjoy his obsession with organization or his constant seriousness. Cody’s decision to admit that Brian annoys him shows how he’s been waiting for the chance to say something, while Sophie doesn’t want to hurt Brian.
Themes
Later, the crew of The Wanderer goes to a baptism for Frank’s grandson. When Sophiesees the people being baptized get dunked into the holy water, she starts getting woozy. “Amazing Grace” is playing in the background, and this startles her too—she wonders where she’s heard it before, and thinks of a funeral. At the post-baptism feast at Frank’s house, Sophie can’t stop thinking about the people getting dunked into the water. At the end of the journal entry, she says that her boat family is starting to get “touchy and nervous”—the anticipation of leaving Grand Manan and sailing across the ocean is starting to grate on their nerves.
The baptism ceremony seems to triggerSophie’s forgotten memory of her parents’ funeral, as well as her general anxiety about drowning. Seeing people being forced into and held under water, in tandem with hearing the music played at her parents’ funeral, it seems, makes some part of Sophie re-experience anxiety she’s felt in her past. Since we later learn that her parents drowned at sea, it makes sense that this would be a very triggering experience.
Themes
The Passage of Time Theme Icon
Dreaming vs. The Real World Theme Icon
The Mysteries of Life and Death Theme Icon
22. Bompie and the Pastor. In Cody’s next journal, he says that he came up on Dock having another serious conversation—this time with Frank—and that the two hushed up when they saw him. Another weird thing happened, too, when he went below deck on The Wanderer and found his father (Mo) crying in his bunk. When Cody asked his father what was wrong, he said that nothing was, and that everything was normal. Cody says that he’s never seen his father cry before.
Yet again, it seems that something eventful is happening in the adult world that’s being kept from Cody, Sophie, and Brian. What it is isn’t clear just yet, but it’s perhaps connected to Mo’s crying. Since Dock has had such serious conversations with both Joey and Frank, we might suppose that they have something to do with Rosalie.
Themes
Men and Women Theme Icon
Family and Personal Identity Theme Icon
Cody then retells another Bompie story from Sophie, this time about when Bompie was baptized. When Bompie was a teenager, his mother decided that he needed to be baptized, and so she got in touch with the local pastor and they arranged to do the baptism in the Ohio River. Bompie and the pastor, however, were at odds with one another because Bompie was dating the pastor’s daughter and had brought her home past curfew too many times. Bompie, therefore, wasn’t pleased to hear that the pastor would be dunking him under the water. When the day of Bompie’s baptism came, Bompie’s reservations were justified—the pastor held Bompie under water for an excessively long amount of time, and Bompie eventually bit the pastor’s hand, freeing himself. As usual, Bompie’s father gave him a whipping and his mother gave him some apple pie.
Once moreBompie has a dangerous encounter with water, yet this time he’s not entirely responsible for why he ends up in it. The story otherwise follows the same pattern as the former two, and Bompiereceives a whipping and some pie. We can also now begin to see why Bompie’s stories are so important to Sophie—what deeper relevance they may have to her own life’s story. The fact that Bompie avoids drowning in every tale might be something which taps into Sophie’s fear of water—and, since Bompie always defeats the water, perhaps something in Sophie finds this reassuring.
Themes
Dreaming vs. The Real World Theme Icon
Family and Personal Identity Theme Icon