“The Swan”

Sections: Information | Plot Description 


Plot Description

Spoiler warning! A boy named Ernie has been given a rifle for his birthday. Ernie is a violent, ignorant bully and hooligan. Raymond, another bully, is Ernie’s best friend. The two of them go off to hunt rabbits. On the way they run into Peter Watson, a small frail boy who is watching birds. Peter is their favorite victim. He’s smart and polite and nothing like them. They insult him and threaten to shoot him, but backoff when he reminds them that they’d be sent to prison. Instead they punch him and tie him up. Then they drag him to the railway line and tie him between the rails. When he realizes that they are serious about not letting him go, he tries to figure out how to survive the train. It passes over him and he is unharmed. The bullies are disappointed and decide on a new game. They march Peter to a nearby lake, a waterfowl sanctuary. They shoot a duck and force Peter out into the lake to retrieve it for them. When he tries to refuse, they hit him and beat him. Next they shoot a nesting swan. Peter retrieves it and hides the baby cygnets beneath from the bullies’ eyes. When he gets back on dry land, he turns on his captors. “That was a filthy thing to do! … You’re not fit to be alive!” Ernie gets an idea and claims that he can bring the swan back to life and make it flight around the sky. He takes the dead swan and cuts its wings off, and then he and Raymond tie them to Peter’s arms. Then they make him climb a high willow tree in order to jump off. When he doesn’t jump, they begin firing at him with the rifle. He remains hidden until one of the bullets hits him in the thigh. With a cry, he began to fall. Yet, the author tells us, there are some peoploe who will always be “unconquerable”. Peter Watson was one of these. He saw a light shining above the lake and spread his wings. Three different people reported seeing a great white swan circling over the village that day. Mrs. Watson happened to look out her kitchen window at the exact moment her son flopped down out of the sky. He fainted and she called for the ambulance. “And while she was waiting for help to come, she fetched a pair of scissors and began cutting the string that held the two great wings of the swan to her son’s arms.”