A number of unifying ideas or themes run through the poem. Different readers may attach more or less significance to each of these themes, depending upon how they view the poem.
|The sea: the traditional way of life and its close links to the sea have a timeless quality.||Mentions of fishing boats, different types of fish, the 'green-blue translucent sea', the shore, pebbles, 'the turbulent inrush of breakers', 'salt-sodden', 'awash'.||The pilot remembers details of the games he played with his brothers, the colours and patterns of the fish and the taste of the sea salt. These vivid memories suggest what he is about to lose and conveys a powerful sense of home-sickness.|
|Family life: there are repeated references to family members as the poem unfolds.||Mentions of father, brothers, grandfather, mother, children.||The story of the pilot is at last told to a whole new generation of grandchildren, who perhaps never met him. These references establish the consequences of the pilot's decision - his entire family and community judge him. The reader is invited to question whether the pilot is being judged too harshly, and to reflect on the practice of suicide missions in war.|
What does the phrase '- yes, grandfather's boat' suggest about the way the daughter who tells the story has come to see her father?