Wild At Heart

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Katie Robinson English 20 Mr. Langmead Paper #2 Love Lies Beneath the Surface of the Water The excerpt from Wild at Heart, by Barry Gifford, is the story of a ex-convict and his girlfriend who are traveling across country to escape the problems at home. Sailor and Lula are typical "runaway lovers." Only, they are being chased by a hit man, and Sailors parole officer. In the expcerpt from Wild at Heart, the author uses the symbolism of water in relation to Sailor, Lula, and Johnnie to illustrate and expound their relationship.

The excerpt begins in the Cape Fear Hotel where Lula and Sailor have stopped for the night. Lula is watching the "river as it enters the Atlantic ocean(1)." This is symbolic of their coming together. Sailor is similar to the ocean. Oceans are usually thought of as wild, unpredictable, and dangerous. Sailor was in jail for two years for the manslaughter of Bob Ray Lomon, and after he was released, he ran away from his parlor officer, which would classify him as wild and unpredictable.

Lula's mother is horrified that she could date a convict, and is certain the he must be dangerous. Lula is similar to a river. Rivers just follow the river bed and drift along until they meet the bigger ocean and then become part of it. Lula has decided to go along with Sailor and follow him wherever he goes.

Lula has left her mother and is in a new world with danger and risk. She is trying to navigate her way thought he new life she is making for herself. While Lula is in her Hotel Room she "watches the fishing boats navigate the narrow channel(1)." As boats come out of the channel they have to watch out for each other and be wary of the rough waters as they leave the protective walls of the channel.

Sailor is fascinated with Lula's eyes. When he was on the chain gang in prison he thought about them often. They kept him sane. When he was in a horrible place, what kept him hopeful and never let him get down was the thought of his love for Lula. By thinking of her it almost took him away to a paradise. "He swum in them[Lula's eyes] as if they were great cool, gray lakes with small violet islands in the middle.(1)." Lula loves Sailor more than anything. She must if she could leave everything behind to be with him. He "marks her deepest(1)". She didn't break-up with him after he killed someone, and after her mother forbade her to see him.

Lula and Sailor talk about the brand of cigarettes they smoke and the kind their parents smoked. Sailor tells her that his mother died of lung cancer. Later on in the excerpt Lula "took one more puff and threw her cigarette out the window into the river(1)." This is symbolic of her throwing death away to Sailor. Not physical death, but emotional death. She has given herself to Sailor and he has loved her back, hence saving her from a life of mediocrity. He has given her something spectacular, love.

The love between Sailor and Lula is in its purest form. They love like children. Sailor asks Lula how she got such nice strong shoulders. She responds, "Swimmin', I guess, even as a child I loved to swim(1)." In this case the water she swims in is representative of Sailor. She is like a child, innocent and trusting. He is the strong powerful ocean, keeping her afloat, and making her strong, with his support and love. Lula also talks about when she was little she was swimming and a leach stuck to her, "it was awful(1)". This can be interpreted as Lula having past bad experiences with love. But this time she is totally in love and is trusting of her lover.

Sailor and Lula are meant to be together. When Lula is in the Cape Fear Hotel, she looks out the window and says, "how spooky it is to be at the absolute end of a body of water(1)". In this case the river she is looking at is representative of the journey of looking for your life partner. She knows that it is over and she will be with Sailor for the rest of her life. She is a little anxious because she knows she will never be with anyone else again, and that commitment is overwhelming.

An attribute of water is the fact that a body of water may be one thing at the surface, but something totally different underneath. The ocean is beautiful with a sunset in the background, but underneath the surface their could be blood hungry sharks swimming around; or it could be violent and stormy on the surface, but calm and cool underneath. This theme is seen throughout the whole excerpt. Johnnie Farragut is introduced at the very end, he is a hit man, hired by Lula's mother to kill Sailor and bring her daughter back home. He sits in a bar and watches baseball. He feels a "ripple in his locus ceruleus, the place where dreams emulate(1)," and decides finding Sailor can wait, because he should write a story. Through the character Johnnie, the author exhibits man's ability to have two divergent personalities, or dimensions to them. He is a paid killer, yet he wishes he was a writer. Johnnie fantasizes about the television show The Twilight Zone, and is sad that it has been canceled. He is sad about a TV show, yet he kills people for a living. In a simmilar way Sailor is different on the surface than he is on the inside. He is a ex-convict, who has killed a man. Yet, he is so tender and loving toward Lula. On the outside Lula is a young, naïve, girl who is just following her lover. But, it takes courage and strength to leave a life behind and start a new one.

Throughout the excerpt Wild at Heart, love and trust cone into play over and over again, especially in relation to water. The protection offered by water is also relevant in a loving relationship. If one exercises in, and takes advantage of water is makes them stronger; in the same way if someone takes advantage of love it makes them a stronger person because they have someone else who has their best interest in mind. Gifford helps the reader understand love, by using Sailor and Lula in correlation with water to illustrate love.

1. Postmodern American Fiction. Geyh P, Leebron FL, Levy A."Wild at Heart." Gifford, Barry. New York and Chicago:W.W. Norton & Company, 1998. 281-286.