Personal Response

Continue the story …
The protagonist from “The Sea Devil” is a more specific character – but he must be a character from a story you have studied. Any other character you choose to add must also be a character from a story you have read. Continue the story.

The protagonist is actually Neville from “The Tower.” Write a new ending in which he returns to the house and begins a conversation with his wife, Kay.

Imagine that the protagonist is actually, Mr. Berryman, or Martin Collingwood, or better yet, Bill Kline.

Imagine the protagonist is an immigrant from New Zealand. Transform him into grown-up Ned from “The Quiet One” and have him meet up with Sid and Wally for breakfast the next morning.

“The Sea Devil” by Arthur Gordon (United States)

There is a striking parallel between “The Sea Devil” and the plot of Everyman, a medieval morality play. Everyman’s action begins in heaven: God, looking at mankind’s sinfulness, summons Death, his mighty messenger, to call Everyman to a general reckoning.  Everyman searches high and low for something to stand by him in his hour of need and finds only his own Good Deeds. Good Deeds, and her sister, Knowledge, instruct Everyman in the right way to behave. Thus, at the eleventh hour, Everyman is saved.

“The Sea Devil” is a secular morality tale based on a similar structure: it is a retributive, although uncaring, Nature whom this modern Everyman offends by his tacit belief in man’s proud mastery over Nature. It is this pride that puts him in danger of death and devil (both figured in the giant ray), while his good deed (kindness to the baby porpoise) and his ability to reason finally save him.

Whereas the moral of Everyman is that we should forsake sin and devote ourselves to good deeds, which alone are pleasing to God; the chief moral of The Sea Devil is that we should never let our pride and greed blind us to the fact that we along with beast and bird and fish are all Nature’s creatures. In any fair battle, Nature is more able to turn her giant fist against us than we are to turn ours against her.

But the moral here is somehow not as convincing as the one in Everyman, perhaps because it is constantly being undermined by the diction, pacing, and tone of the whole tale. The man may free the half-dead mullet and vow never again to go casting alone at night, but the reader cannot forget how much of the tale is a celebration of the fierce exhilaration of the hunter at the moment of ambush.

  1. Review the traditional literary conflicts:Character v. Character, Character v. Nature, Character v. Machine, Character v. Self, Character v. Supernatural, Character v. Society, Character v. Destiny. Can you think of other categories? Recall stories, films, novels, poems, myths, and television programs that would fall into the character-against-nature category. Make a list and add suggestions from other students.

Arthur Gordon, 1912—

Arthur Gordon has a reputation for excellence in many pursuits.  He attended Yale University where he earned a B.A. in 1934, and then travelled to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.  He graduated in 1936.  When the United States joined World War II, he entered the U.S. Army Air Forces as a lieutenant; when the war was over, he was a lieutenant colonel who had earned an Air Medal and Legion of Merit.  His writing career was equally meritorious.  He was managing editor of Good Housekeeping  from 1938-41(post interrupted by Pearl Harbour), and editor of Cosmopolitan from 1946-48.  He has written both novels and non-fiction and has contributed over 200 stories and articles to major magazines.  He makes his home in the city of his birth, Savannah, Georgia.

Exploring the Text

  1. Describe the part of the story that you liked the best and explain why.  Describe the feelings you had when you were reading this story.  Have you ever had similar feelings when you were reading another story?  Explain.  Share your thoughts with a partner.
  2. Reread the four paragraphs describing the protagonist near the beginning of the story, starting with words, “The man turned abruptly” (p.67).  Working with two other people, make a list of all the things we learn about the protagonist in these paragraphs.  Now select any three of these things and show how they become significant later in the story.  Share your ideas with two other students.
  3. Reread the part of the story describing the man’s actions just prior to catching the mullet, then reread his actions just prior to netting the ray.  Compare these two passages looking primarily for difference.  In what ways do these differences prepare us for the accident?
  4. Consider what qualities humans possess that fish do not.  At times during his struggle the man fights as all creatures, including people, fight when they are trapped; at other times his struggles are different.  Analyze the difference in the two fighting techniques.  Are there times when the first technique might work well?  Why does it not work well in this situation?


Reread the paragraph beginning, “Then the sea exploded…” (p. 70), and the two paragraphs that follow it. Make a list of all the action verbs you can find and all the adjectives that indicate a struggle. Using three of these verbs and three of these adjectives, write a paragraph about a very different kind of struggle–one in which no water is involved.

“The Hobby” and “The Sea Devil” Essay

In The Hobby , the old man’s hobby is recreating a world similar to the one he knew for sixty years.  In The Sea Devil,   the man’s hobby is fishing—a world that contrasts with the man’s regular occupation.  What do the two hobbies have in common?  In what way do they differ?  Referring to at  least three details from each story, compare the two works.

“The Sea Devil” and “The Tower” Essay

The man in The Sea Devil, and Caroline in The Tower, both begin adventures in the late afternoon or evening.  In one way or another both come up against an evil force that seems to be bent on their destruction.  Work with the two stories, analyse (a) the nature of this force, (b) the protagonist’s method for dealing with it, and (c) why the force did or did not triumph in the end.

“The Hobby” and “The Sea Devil” Essay

The Hobby and The Sea Devil focuses on the relationship between a man and his hobby. Compare the two stories under the following headings: the nature of the two hobbies; their relative importance to each of the protagonists; the pleasure derived from each hobby; the danger associated with each hobby; and the conclusions of the two stories—what, if anything, has each protagonist learned?