"Material" is a story about a young man's search to find his inner self. Michael Byers, also the protagonist in the short story, writes a story filled with different accounts of a summer he spent on a fish processor barge in order to relate his struggle to overcome issues that have plagued him as a writer and as person in general. Foremost, Byers worked on the barge to make money for college. A second underlying reason that Byers works on the barge is to find material to ignite his writing. During the time he spends on the barge he grows as a writer, but more importantly as a man. His uncles, which help him find the job for the summer, are men that Byers looks upon with admiration, describing them as "massively, thrilling competent people"
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While at first it might appear that the eagle is being used merely to demonstrate a usually wild and haughty being in a confined state, a closer look reveals that it's most essential use is actually to validate the idea that it should, in reality, denounce its bearer. With the use of the captive eagle Byers manifests the story's focus, distinctively, that a man behooves courage and independence. Throughout the story, Byers is in search for material to use as a writer, hence, the title of the short story is "Material." When he is reflecting about the events that occurred that summer many years later with his wife and colleagues, he realizes that he always had the material he needed, rather he just "lacked the courage to write about it" (5). Byers found it difficult to write about the subjects that really affected his life: his parents' relationship, his relationship with his parents, and his relationship with his siblings. The author recognized all of these aforementioned subjects as material that tormented him internally. Byers lacked the strength to take a stand and relinquish the hold that his parents had over him.
The essential struggle for the author was making his presence known when he was around his parents. In the story, Byers states that they "fought over, around and through me" (5). Byers never stood up or added to his parents dueling. He sat back, never saying a word. He never