“Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat” Summary by Russell Banks

Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat Summary Russell Banks
“Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat” Summary

“Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat” is a short story by Russell Banks from his 1981 collection Trailerpark. It’s about a young man and woman who talk about a significant change in their lives while out in a rowboat. Here’s a summary of “Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat”.

“Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat” Summary

It’s early in an August heat wave and the sun has just come up. An older man walks from one of the trailers into the lake and swims out about two hundred yards and then returns to shore. He dries himself and goes back inside his trailer. Through the morning, some of the trailer park residents leave for work.

At midmorning, it’s hotter inside than outside, so people come out to sit in the shade. A woman reads, the older man waters his vegetable garden, the manager gets her mail, a teenager smokes and an old man works on a rowboat.

A young black man with fishing gear gets into a dark green rowboat, even though it’s too hot for fishing. He’s joined by a young blonde woman in a bikini with tanning lotion and a towel. They shove the boat into the water and the man rows them out.

They don’t talk for a while as the man rows and the woman rubs lotion on. She leans back in the sun and he looks at her body. Feeling the heat, the man takes his shirt off and wraps it around his head. The woman says he looks like a sheik; he says more like a slave.

He rows them out about a half-mile. In the distance are the trailers and the grounds, including the remains of Indian fishing weirs that go largely unnoticed by the locals, but that are pointed out to visitors.

The woman draws her feet back. She says she’s already gaining weight but the man says it’s too soon; she’s just eating too much. She says she told her mother everything last night.

“Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat” Summary, Cont’d

The man rows faster toward a small island. He drops the anchor and looks through his tackle box. The woman’s mother took the news better than expected. It would have been different if her father were alive, but her mother’s alright. The man seems doubtful but quickly apologizes; he knows her mother is okay.

The woman’s mother is worried about her, though, because of her history of depression combined with this new situation. She comes right out and tells him she’s going to do it this afternoon. Her mother arranged it and will go with her. The man hates the situation. She says things will go back to normal, but he doesn’t think so. He’d rather she did nothing. They’ve talked about it many times.

She has to be ready to go by three-thirty. The man plans to fish for about an hour. She lies back in the boat, enjoying the sun. While rummaging through his tackle box for a lure, the man yelps and looks at the woman angrily. He takes out a lure with six double hooks, and she commiserates with him.

He casts the line a few times while the woman flips through a magazine. He stops, saying there’s no point fishing if they’re not biting. The man pulls up the anchor. They’ve drifted closer to the island and the rocky bottom is visible beneath them. The woman warns him not to let them run aground.

The man looks back to the trailer park and says he wishes he could leave her where they are. He looks somber, old and weary as he softly repeats his statement. She says they have to get back; he says she has to get back.

He starts rowing, first around the island and then back toward home. The woman looks grimly toward the shore and they don’t speak. They reach the shore and the man pulls the boat in. The people who were sitting out earlier are on the beach. They watch as the black man takes his gear and walks away, and the young woman takes her things and walks for home.

(End of “Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat” Summary)

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