Summary and Analysis
Section 15 - High hopes for the coast" to "Loot from a boat""
The man hopes that the coast will offer hope, but he knows he has no reason to believe this will be true. They eat sparingly and when they do finally reach the coast, they find that life isn't much different there. The sea isn't blue, and the man apologizes to the disappointed boy. Along the shore there are the bones of birds and ribs of fish, a bleak scene up and down the beach. The boy asks his father what's on the other side of the ocean. The man says that there's nothing, then he says that maybe there's another boy and his father, carrying the fire. The boy goes for a swim after the man telling him he should try it.
The man remembers another night he was at the beach, before the world slipped into this dark state. He recalls the warm sand, the stars, and his wife there beside him; a comforting, nearly perfect night.
The man and the boy comb the shore for tools and supplies they can use. They come upon a sailboat keeled over in the water, and the man undresses and swims out to the hull. He explores the boat and gathers clothing, pulling on foulweather gear and returning to the boat's deck to check on the boy, who's a bit alarmed by the man's new appearance.
The man also finds a brass sextant from London, a navigation tool that stirs something inside him that has been hibernating for a long time. He finds rope, too, and cans of food that are rusting and bulbous. He selects those that look salvageable and returns to the shore, telling his son that he's found lots of stuff.
While the coast doesn't offer the relief or salvation for which the man and boy have hoped, it does restore a bit of the fire within them. The man thinks about a father and son on the other side of the sea, the boy hoping that they, too, are carrying the fire and remaining vigilant under these harsh circumstances. The man also encourages the boy to go for a swim, an attempt to keep a bit of the child alive in his son.
The man, too, has a moment on the boat when the sextant stirs old emotions in him, perhaps emotions of curiosity and hope for discovery. The man and boy are, in many ways, navigators of this new world and the sextant, as a navigational tool that is also beautiful in form, offers the man hope and a rekindling of heart.
The theme of shells and skeletons is exceptionally strong in this section. Not only are there bird and fish bones washed up along the shore, but there is also the boat, an empty vessel of the old world. Throughout the novel, the man and boy have walked through abandoned homes, empty shells that hearken back to the old world and reveal all that has been lost. The ship in this section functions as those homes have throughout the novel. While the boat offers the man and boy hope with the supplies it provides, it also stands as a reminder of something from the old world that is lost to them.