Rescue: The Essence of the Title

Stephen Chang



Rescue: The Essence of the Title

Anita Shreve has aptly titled her book Rescue as this happens to be the main theme in the book. It leaves the reader with no surprise concerning the focus of the book. Thus, one is prepared to encounter many scenes where people are in trouble, and they need help. People rescue each other in different situations. Some of the characters clearly need to be rescued to save them from hurting themselves and those around them. Other characters may not be aware of the need to be rescued. Such characters actually avoid any attempts to rescue them for they consider that an intrusion into their lives. This article focuses on numerous instances where the dominant subject of ‘rescue’ occurs repeatedly by looking into ways in which characters within the story rescue each other, or are being rescued knowingly or unknowingly.

Shreve tells the story of Peter Webster, a rookie EMT paramedic in Hartstone, VT. He and his partner receive a call to save someone from a car wreck. They pull Sheila Arsenault out of the car and take her to the hospital. However, Webster cannot help thinking about Sheila. The rest of the story covers his successful efforts to pursue and marry her and the struggles that the young family faces. Webster rescues his wife from different situations several times during their time together. Different characters in the book reach out towards others in different ways. Some of the instances where the characters rescue each other are apparent, but others are not so obvious.

After their first encounter, Peter rescues Sheila from other situations. When they meet, he learns that she is an abusive relationship. She is in a relationship with a police officer in Chelsea who mistreats and abuses her. Peter falls in love with her, and he does not let her strong and stubborn nature derail his attempts to know her better. He abandons the plans he had for his life once he learns that Sheila is pregnant with his child. He ends up marrying her, and in the process saves her from her predicament.

Peter’s efforts to rescue Sheila continue once he discovers her problem with alcohol. Sheila had faced many troubles in her lie, and she had turned to alcohol to help her cope. Her previous relationship was especially abusive, and it largely contributed to her alcoholism. However, things changed for some time when she became pregnant with Rowan (Shreve 34). Her marriage had helped her change for the first few years as she reduced her intake of alcohol. Peter managed to convince her to go to rehab. However, she was not ready, and she ended up relapsing. Consequently began to sneak alcohol into the house for her secret indulgence.

Webster’s love for this wife and his daughter saves Sheila from jail time. Although Sheila told her husband that she had stopped taking alcohol, it was clear to him that she was lying. His doubts were later confirmed when Sheila had another accident. She was driving under the influence of alcohol and Rowan was in the car. The other driver sustained injuries (187). Peter suggested that she leaves so that she could avoid the legal repercussions. He gave up the love he had for her for her freedom. He saw this as the only way he could use to save her. 

The second accident seemed to have a sobering effect on Sheila, and it rescued her from alcoholism. When she left her young family, Sheila seems to have realized how alcohol almost led to young Rowans death and how it contributed to the separation of her family. In addition, she knew that Rowan would miss a mother figure when she was growing up. This realization led her to quit alcohol altogether, and she took on a new profession as a painter.

Despite her rough streak in life and her roughness, Sheila rescued her family from future problems. Her decision to leave was the turning point in her life. In addition, she agreed to return when she learns of her daughters problems. Rowan seems to be the source of her father’s joy and happiness until she reaches 17. She becomes rebellious and even starts drinking. Peter becomes worried that Rowan is inheriting the ways of her mother, and she is living a dangerous life (276). He decides to look for Sheila in the hope that she will be of more help to Rowan, and she will help her rectify her behavior. However, Sheila’s return raises many hard questions as the family tries to forgive, forget at the same time.

            The theme of rescue is predominant in the book as seen by the decisions and actions taken by many people and by the occurrence of certain situations. Peter’s life and career as an EMT has contributed immensely to the subject of the story. The theme seems to have been centered around him because he rescued Sheila many times. Some of the cases, such as the car wreckage were obvious. Other cases such as his decision to send her away were not so obvious. Circumstances and incidents also saved characters in the story. Sheila’s marriage was the first step towards stopping alcoholism. The second car accident was a wake up call for Sheila. She realized that she was a danger to herself and her family.

Work Cited

Shreve Anita. Rescue: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. Print

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