The Unchanging Sea (1910) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • In this story set at a seaside fishing village and inspired by a Charles Kingsley poem, a young couple's happy life is turned about by an accident. The husband, although saved from drowning, loses his memory. A child is on the way, and soon a daughter is born to his wife. We watch the passage of time, as his daughter matures and his wife ages. The daughter becomes a lovely young woman, herself ready for marriage. One day on the beach, the familiarity of the sea and the surroundings triggers a return of her father's memory, and we are reminded that although people age and change, the sea and the ways of the fisherfolk remain eternal.

  • A young married couple are living happily in the little fishing village and at the opening of the story the young husband is one the "Three fishers went sailing away to the West, away in the West as the sun went down. Each thought on the woman who loved him best, and the women stood watching them out of the town. For men must work and women must weep, and there's little to earn and many to keep. Though the harbor bar be moaning." As the days rolled by the "three wives sat up in the lighthouse tower...They looked at the squall, and they looked at the shower," but no sign of their husband's return could be seen. Ah! Little did they know that on a distant shore "Three fishers lay out on the shining sands, in the morning gleam as the tide went down." When the rescue party brings the fishers in they find life in one, the young husband. With the tender care of the folk in this distant land he regains his health, but his memory is a blank. All efforts to recall the past prove futile. Meanwhile, the poor wife, with her baby, sits gazing out to sea, still hopeful of his return, but in vain. The years roll by and her child grows into young womanhood to be courted by one of the young fishermen of the coast village, and it is upon the day that the young couple are preparing for their wedding that the long lost husband, having started out to sea once more lands on the shore of his native village. The familiar scenes restore his memory. It seems to him that it was only on the yesterday he left, and he rushes eagerly along the coast to meet his wife. There she stands, ever hopeful. At first they hardly recognize each other, time having wrought such a change, but enwrapped in each others' arms they realize fate's injunction: "For men must work and women must weep, and the sooner it's over the sooner to sleep, and good-bye to the bar and its moaning." The scenic beauty of the subject is exceptional, being taken at a fishing village of Southern California.


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