The Wanderer

The Wanderer IV. Under Way Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
23. Whoosh!.The fourth section of the book begins with Sophie writing about The Wanderer finally setting sail from Grand Manan towards England. Sophie says that the intensity and immenseness of the project of crossing the ocean is finally hitting her, and she realizes that the crew won’t be able to leave the boat and walk around for a while. They’ll all be confined to the boat, and Sophie wonders how everybody will be able to get along.
Now that the major portion of the journey is underway—the actual crossing of the ocean towards England—Sophie is beginning to realize just how overwhelming the ocean really is when compared to the mere idea she had of it on land. Further, it’s doubtful that being confined to the boat is going to help the crew’s conflicts.
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24. Oranges and Pizza.Cody writes that it’s unbelievable that the crew is finally getting under way. He says that he caught his father practicing juggling, and when Mo noticed Cody watching him, he dropped the oranges he was using, and said that juggling was stupid.
Cody similarly seems to be in disbelief that The Wanderer is finally taking off for the last stretch of its trip. Further, the scene with Mo reveals how Mo doesn’t want to show Cody any sign of interest or enthusiasm.
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25. Fired. In Sophie’s next journal entry, she describes how one morning on The Wanderer, she overhears Uncle Dock and Stew having a discussion in the galley—Uncle Stew has been fired from his job. When she first hears them talking, Sophie knows something is out of the ordinary, because “Stew didn’t sound like his normal bossy self.” His voice was cracking and he was having a hard time articulating himself.
Here, we get a rare glimpse of Stew behaving in a way that isn’t overbearing and bossy, but rather in a way that reveals his own vulnerability. Stew, who’s used to acting like a boss on the ship, has been fired by his own boss—his usual sense of authority, therefore, has been challenged.
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26. Code.Codywrites that his dad gave his first lesson in radio code. While Cody thought it was going to be “mega-boring,” and that Mo was going to be a cranky teacher, he says that he found it really interesting and that Mo was actually enthusiastic about teaching. He also says that it’s nice that Brian and Stew, the two know-it-alls, don’t know the radio code, so it’s something everyone’s learning at the same time.
Cody is surprised to see his dad being so engaging and interactive with his radio code lesson—this is a side of his father which Cody is not used to seeing. Further, the fact that radio code is a form of knowledge which Brian and Stew don’t yet possess means that Cody has a fair shot at proving himself to them as an equally able learner.
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27. Insurance.Sophie writes about a conversation she had with Uncle Stew; she asked him about what he did for a living (before he was fired), and he explained that he worked in insurance. Sophie asks him if he likes selling insurance, and Stew says “Not really.” Sophie then says that, now that he’s fired, Stew can do what he really wants—but Stew says that he doesn’t have any idea about what he really wants to do. Stew says that this is pitiful, and Sophie agrees.
Stew’s inability to say what he really wants to do with his life is—incontrast to Sophie’s youthful idealism about finding one’s passion in life—a sobering, sad example of how a person’s excitement and enthusiasm about the possibilities of life can diminish in adulthood.
Themes
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28. Charlie-Oscar-Delta-Yankee. Cody again writes that The Wanderer is really moving along, with no detours, but that the “spooky fog . . . makes everything look like a horror movie.” He then translates his,Mo’s, Sophie’s, and Brian’s names into radio code.
The Wanderer is continuing its cruise towards Bompie at a steady pace, though the fog Cody mentions gives us a sense that the ocean isn’t necessarily the crew’s friend.
Themes
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29. Blips. Sophienow writes about a big argument that broke out on the ship. The grommets (metal rings around the holes in the sail which rope goes through) on one side of a sail had all popped, and Uncle Stew and Brian were looking for someone to blame. Naturally, they both pointed their fingers at Cody. When Cody described what had happened to the sails, instead of using the proper sailing terminology, he used phrases like “hole thingys” and “metal thingys” that greatly upset Uncle Stew, who called Cody an “idjit.” Overhearing this, Uncle Mo got angry at Stew for being rude to his son, and then at Cody for starting the whole incident. Cody and Mo then have a yelling match below deck. At lunch, everyone just sits quietly and tries to forget the fight.
Sophie’s earlier uncertainty about how the crew would fare while confined to the boat gets justified here. Stew and Brian, bossy and argumentative as usual, blame the problem with the sail on Cody, despite not really knowing whether or not it was his fault. Cody’s lighthearted silliness once again clashes with their cold sense of rationality and seriousness, to the point where Stew feels emboldened enough to directly insult Cody. Mo, for once, actually sticks up for his son—revealing a side to him we haven’t seen so far.
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Sophie then says that, while she was helping to repair the sail by sewing the ripped grommet holes back together, Brian tauntingly proclaimed: “It’s a good thing we have a girl aboard so she can sew things.”
Here, Sophie yet again bears the brunt of another crewmember’s sexism. Brian applies a stereotype to her about what sorts of tasks, like sewing, are properly feminine.
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Sophie writes that morale seems to improve among her boat family the next day, though they are all sleep-deprived. Every little thing they do, she says, requires great effort. Even just walking several steps is “like rock climbing.” Yet despite all the hassle, Sophie says that she enjoys living on the boat—she likes being in a self-contained group of people who can brave the ocean together.
The gravity of just how challenging boat-life really is comes through here in Sophie’s comparison of walking to rock climbing. Yet Sophie’s enthusiasm about sailing shines through—despite the hardships and difficulties, she likes being in a small community on a tiny boat.
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Sophie concludes her entry by saying that her recurring dream about “The Wave” happened again the night before. She says that the wave, as usual, rose up very high above her, “a huge black wall of water,” and she was like a “little blot” below it about to be crushed—but she woke up just in time, on the verge of screaming.
Once again, The Wave returns in Sophie’s sleep to haunt her. It’s starting to seem as if this wave represents something she’s avoiding, that she’s running from, and wants to catch up with her—something from her past she’s forgotten.
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30. Knots.Cody writes that he learned how to tie a new kind of knot from Sophie. When he asks Sophie where she learned how to tie all kinds of knots, she gets a “look that she sometimes gets when you ask her questions,” and just says that she doesn’t know, adding that maybe someone taught her along time ago.
Sophie’s mysterious inability to remember her past or explain how her past has affected her shows again here. Cody’s comment about the “look” Sophie gets indicates that he’s starting to notice that her forgetfulness is a pattern.
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31. Rosalie. In her next entry, Sophie writes about how, while she was watching whales with Dock, he started to tell a story about a woman he’d known, Rosalie. Rosalie loved whales—she’d read everything about them and saw every movie that had a whale in it, and she had pictures of them all over her walls and collected little whale toys and figurines. Yet, Dock said, she’d never actually seen a whale in the flesh. So, one day, Dock arranged for him and Rosalie to go searching for whales, trading in his best fishing rod just in order to be able to pay for the boat. Right when they thought they should give up trying to see a whale and start to head back to shore, a gray whale appeared and slowly rose out of the water. Rosalie was amazed. Sophie asked what ever happened to Rosalie, and Dock responds that she married someone else.
Here, we learn something important about Dock’s past—we learn about the love of his life, Rosalie, and get the sense that losing Rosalie has greatly impacted his life. The story about Rosalie and the whale sighting shows another side of Dock: while he’s usually quiet and mellow, here he’s very talkative and passionate, recalling perhaps one the greatest moments of his life. Later, we will learn that Rosalie has played a role in directing the course of The Wanderer up the coast of North America—Rosalie essentially shapes the journey for Dock.
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32. Bompie and the Swimming Hole. Cody then writes a log entry that records another one of Sophie’sBompie stories. When Bompie was growing up, next to his house there was a swimming hole surrounded by big rocks and tree limbs shooting out on the side, and you could climb them and jump into the water. Yet the swimming hole also had rocks and tree limbs below the surface of the water that weren’t always visible, which made jumping into it very dangerous. Bompie was therefore not allowed to swim there. Yet on a very hot summer day, Bompie really wanted to go for a cool dip in the water, and so he climbed up onto one of the rocks and jumped anyway. Of course, once he hit the water, Bompie sank down a little bit and banged his body and head against some underwater rocks and tree limbs. After Bompie pulled himself onto the bank and waited for his head to stop throbbing, he went home, where his dad gave him a whipping and his mother gave him some pie.
Yet again, Sophie tells a story where Bompie has a dangerous encounter with water that is potentially life-threatening. His father and mother both have the usual reactions, the former doling out a whipping and the latter giving a piece of pie to Bompie. While Bompie’s father always feels inclined to punish Bompie for what he’s done wrong, his mother feels inclined to celebrate that Bompie has stayed alive. Further, we’re beginning to see just how reckless Bompie’s behavior was in his youth—how he frequently put himself directly in harm’s way, knowing fully well that he was getting into danger, as well as the consequences he’d face from his father for doing so.
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After Sophie finishes her story, Brian asks why Bompie, in story after story, keeps going in the water if he always gets in trouble whenever he goes into it. Sophie doesn’t answer, and Cody writes that she suddenly looks incredibly fragile after hearing Brian’s question. Cody replies to Brian’s question by suggesting that Bompie keeps going back to the water because he feels like he has something to prove—if Bompie has some kind of fear of the water, then he’d feel free if he could conquer it.
Here, we get a sense of what Bompie’s stories might mean to Sophie—what she might find in them that’s relevant to her own life. Cody’s reply to Brian’s question seems like an attempt to interpret how Bompie’s stories speak to Sophie and her fear of the water. She might admire how Bompie keeps facing the water despite his troubled relationship with it.
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33. Life. In her next journal entry, Sophie asks Uncle Stew if he knew Rosalie and if Dock liked her a lot. Stew answers yes to both, and implies that Dock has been unable to forget about Rosalie and leave things in the past—Rosalie was the actually the sole reason why the crew stopped at Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Grand Manan. Stew tells Sophie that Block Island was where Dock first met Rosalie, and Joey in Martha’s Vineyard is Rosalie’s brother. Joey told Dock that Rosalie’s husband died, and that she had gone to visit Frank at Grand Manan to see him and the whales. That’s why Dock wanted to go visit Frank. Sophie asked where Rosalie was when they were all in Grand Manan, and Uncle Stew sarcastically asks her to guess, implying that she’s in England.
This entry reveals to us the secret motivations behind The Wanderer’s stops on the east coast of North America—Dock’s desire to see or at least get information about Rosalie, the love of his life. It seems that a desire to visit Bompie isn’t the only reason behind making the trip, and that perhaps Rosalie, and the death of her husband, have been the subjects behind the serious conversations which Cody walked in on between Dock and Joey and Frank. Stew’s implication that Rosalie is in England raises the question whether they would have made yet another stop somewhere else if Dock knew Rosalie wasn’t in England.
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Sophie also writes that Dock had worried her the night before when they were both on watch duty. Dock asked “What’s it all about? …You know. Life.” Sophie thought that Dock looked like he was about to cry, and this shocks her, since he’s also such a calm, steady, level-headed person. Sophie writes that after Dock left, she stared out at the ocean and had a bizarre rush of feelings. First she felt totally peaceful, that the ocean was the best place one could possibly be, but this peace quickly morphed into an immense sense of loneliness.
This scene shows how the ocean has affected Dock’s mind. Thrust from his everyday life on land to the vast expanse of the seas, Dock’s normal perception of the world around him has changed, and fundamental questions about existence now haunt him. Compiled with the fact that his thoughts are constantly focused on Rosalie, his long-lost love, asking what the point of life is seems particularly relevant.
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34. Little Kid Nightmares. Cody writes the next entry, and says that he’s been sleeping poorly because his father’s been bickering at him, and because of other chaos aboard the ship—Uncle Stew and Brian arguing, things crashing on his head, etc. Cody says that, whenever he does finally get to sleep, he gets woken up by Sophie screaming, because she’s experiencing nightmares. While Sophie won’t tell Cody what the dreams are about, she does start talking about the little kid she always mentions. When the little kid was about three years old, Sophie says, she went to the ocean, possibly with her mother, but Sophie isn’t sure. The little kid laid down on a blanket and fell asleep, and a wave of water started pouring over the little kid. Before the little kid was swept away, her mother grabbed her by the hand and stood them upright. Sophie says that the little kid still dreams about a wave coming for her.
The entry reveals another clue about Sophie’s past and the meaning behind her mysterious nightmare about “The Wave,” though this clue is couched in another story about the little kid. The little kid, serving as a way for Sophie to project her own history onto someone outside of herself, is really Sophie herself in this story about the wave. This early encounter with water pouring over her and threatening to sweep her away must have been traumatic to Sophie, who keeps reliving the trauma in her dreams. Just like Bompie keeps encountering water in his stories, Sophie keeps encountering the wave in her dreams.
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35. The Blue Bopper. Sophie’s next journal entry focuses on recounting a story the three uncles tell about a rubber dinghy they found when they were kids called “The Blue Bopper.” They were so excited to use the dinghy that they immediately pushed it out into the water, but only after the waves had carried them far beyond the shore did they realize that they’d forgotten to bring paddles. Though they eventually got back to shore, they can’t remember how, exactly. This story troubles Sophie—the image of being out on the water without any paddles makes her anxious, and she decides to go below deck to be alone.
The way the uncles’ story troubles Sophie exposes more about her fear of water. Just the thought of being trapped out on the water without any paddles is enough to make her shudder, and feel the need to go into solitude to recover. While Sophie wants to be out on the ocean, the thought of it consuming and trapping her nonetheless terrifies her, exemplifying another way the “push-pull” she feels with water affects her.
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