We all know someone. Someone who is not quite like everybody else. Somebody who does not fit in.
Whether it is because that person has a physical disability, a mental disability, or is just generally different people tend to make fun of them, look down on them, and use them as scapegoats.
This is the case for Michael who is the main character in Hilary Taylor’s short story Sea Defences. In Sea Defences, themes such as outsiders, guilt, and mental health, are explored through the protagonist
Michael, who does not quite fit in with the majority of the society and is accused of some horrible crimes due to his odd behavior around children.
“In summer the beach gets crowded. People jam-packed with their pop-up tents and dogs and picnic baskets and buckets and spades.
Parents turn their heads. Children wander off. If they didn’t have someone like me to watch out for them, they’d end up like Hannah Bird. So that’s what I do.
All year round. Up and down the beach, round the park, across the green. I keep guard. Pick them up if they fall. Make sure they never go near the road.”
It appears already shortly into the story that Michael has some mental and behavioral challenges and that he sees the world more so as a child than as the adult he actually is with his use of “Mumma” (l. 4) instead of mom.
The fact that he dropped out of school four years early, still lives with his mother as a middle-aged man, and the following quotation from the text also adds to this assumption about Michael.
“All the time I’m waiting for someone to say It’s all right, Michael. You’ve done enough. Paid the price. But they never do.” (ll. 32-33).