10 September 2013
Exploration of “The Third Bank of the River”
The short story, “The Third Bank of the River” is by Joao Guimaraes Rosa. This story starts out by the father describing a boat that he is getting. It is made of mimosa wood, sturdy enough to last twenty or thirty years and just large enough for one person. When the mother heard of him getting the boat she acts is upset, she thinks the whole idea of him getting this boat is absurd. “Are you becoming a fisher or hunter?” she asks him. When the boat finally arrives the narrator (son) describes his father as emotionless he put his hat on, said goodbye to the son, daughter and wife and went on his way. The father took no food or any other items with him. Why did he not take any food or survival items with him? His son walks with him down to the river until the father motions for him to go back to the house. The son starts walking back but when his father has his back turned he runs and hides behind a bush. As he watches his father get into the canoe and start paddling away he gets a feeling that his father is going to be out on the river for some time or may even not come back.
The title of this story confused me at first because a river only has two banks, but in this story it has a third bank. From reading the story I took the third bank as being the father because of the time he spent on the river. “Father did not come back. Nor did he go anywhere, really.” When I read this line it made me think that this whole story is a metaphor for the father passing away. Was the father sick? Another reason I believe that the father is dying or possibly did die is the narrator says that he would leave food by the river side and the father would come and get it. And the son does this day after day. Eventually days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months too years and there is still no sign of the father. The son worries every day about his father safety and health. He remembers when he left he did not take anything with him besides the boat and the clothes on his back. With the weather changing from hot to cold, sunshine to stormy nights. Was the father still alive? If so, how was he surviving? People around town would talk about how he had gone insane or that he had a deed to make to the lord. But the son did not want to hear that, he did not believe what they were saying. He knew in time his father would return home to be with his family. As time goes by the family get older they get tired of waiting for the father to return home. The daughter gets married and moves away and has a baby boy. In a last chance plead to get her father back, she returns to her home and introduces her son to her family. One day they all go down to the river and hold the baby in the air hoping to see her father paddling to shore to see his first grandson. As the daughter holds up her baby she looks out over the water to see nothing, not a shadow or any movement in the water. She begins to cry in such disappointment that her father won’t even come up to see the new addition to the family. I thought this was very odd that the father did this. Why not come back to see your grandchild? After that unfortunate event, the daughter goes back home and the mother eventually moves away as well the only one that stays behind is the son. For some reason he feels like the father will return. Towards the end of the story, the narrator keeps repeating, “He needs me, I know he needs me.” Is the son finally realizing that his father isn’t coming back? Does he understand what has happened to his father? The son says he only has sad things to say. He starts blaming himself for his father staying away…