Shop H.E. Bates Online
ID
b119
Title
"The Ship."
Genre
Story
Page Count
19
Word Count
3910
Publisher
Harper's Bazaar
John O'London's Weekly
Publication Year
1938
Document Types
Autobiographical
First-Person Narratives
Topics
Boyhood, Blacks, Mothers, Coming of Age

The narrator recalls his aunt Franklin, her sailor-son Ephraim, and the "nigger gal" Ephraim brought home from the South Seas to be his wife. When Ephraim sails away, his wife's sole companion is the boy, and they use a beautiful model of a ship, painstakingly constructed by Ephraim and long coveted by the boy, to communicate simple emotions and thoughts regarding her love and the island of her people. Twenty-five years later the narrator writes that "nothing can change the fact that for one afternoon I knew what it was like to be Ephraim Franklin...and sail the seas in that ship, and anchor off the little island of Kimusa in the South Seas, and fall in love with a coloured girl." The setting for the tale, a taxidermist shop of the late uncle Franklin, is based on Bates's uncle Joseph Bates (Baldwin, 20). In John O'London's Weekly (October 7, 1938), Harper's Bazaar (May, 1939), The Flying Goat (1939), Thirty-One Selected Tales (1947).