Nov 6, 2017 in Art Category

Different Times, Different Values


In his book, The Boat, Alistair Macleod builds his story around a protagonist who has a tough decision to make. To be more specific, the character can either stay home and follow in his farther’s footsteps and become a farmer or move to the city and receive a higher education at a university. Like in many of his other stories, Alistair Macleod discusses issues such as lost culture, isolation and choices as well as the consequences of these choices. In the discussed book, Alistair tries to show the sharp contrast between the quiet rural life and the modern, often hectic urban life. This theme is relevant not only to the maritime culture the author grew up in; it can also be related to other cultures. The book shows the contrast between the conventional and newer ideas of family, friendship, and other main values. It appears that modern values are not always better than traditional values.

Alistair Macleod addresses the theme of modernity versus tradition in such a way that many of his readers can easily relate to it. He allows the reader to analyze issues in order to see that sometimes the modern way of life is not better than the traditional one. The story uses the character of a Midwestern University student who leaves his fishing community behind and goes to the city. However, he feels miserable in the city. The story revolves around how the protagonist feels bad about abandoning his traditions in exchange for a modern life. Even after neglecting fishing, he still cannot decide whether he should practice tradition or he should adopt a new way of life, a life that the rest of people in the city are leading.

The modern values that are presented in the book conflict with the values that the protagonist is used to. Therefore, the protagonist wishes that the two systems of values could exist in harmony, as he found both of them rational and acceptable. Alistair Macleod does not idealize traditional values, but at the same time tries to explain how the modern world can be frustrating and devouring. Thus, male characters in The Boat are mostly the ones that bear scars and wounds of their traditional professions. Although the women in The Boat have been mistakenly stereotyped by critics as being only concerned with the task of running the house while the men run the boats, Alistair Macleod points out that the “traditional values are structured in such a way that the men depended on the women for support even as they go about their businesses” (MacLeod, 18).

It is obvious that traditional values are defended by Macleod in The Boat. Indeed, the author emphasizes in his story that “tradition was not all wrong” (MacLeod, 13). Through the lives of his characters, he argues that some of the values that are referred to as traditional are just as important as modern ones, and should not be disregarded or looked down upon.  In my view, some of the values that are traditional can be borrowed and used together with the modern values for a happier life.


Many analysts have argued that most of the Alistair Macleod’s works can be compared to those of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Thomas Hardy. Just like Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Thomas Hardy, Alistair Macleod uses the local color, the techniques of predetermination and a lot of realism. At the same time, many critics praise Alistair Macleod’s ability to use lyrical historical past in his writing. Macleod is able to relay past events in the present tense in a show of his immediacy of memory. That is why, his short stories have gained publicity all over the world, attracting a lot of scholarly attention, applaud and criticism all in equal measure.

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