In the short story God is not a Fish Inspector by W. D. Valgardson, Fusi Bergman, a man with a youthful heart, struggles to accept his failure to fish efficiently due to his feeble body. As a result of the conflicts that dominate his life, Fusi gives in to his inevitable fate, and loses the single thing that sets him apart from his former friends and acquaintances. The deterioration of his body, his opposition against the old folk’s home, and the adverse relationship with his daughter contribute to Fusi’s ultimate defeat. To begin, Fusi struggles with his aging body and its affect on his ability to fish.
Once Fusi is away from shore, he is reminded of his younger years. When he was twenty, he had the ability to bring in “five to six gangs of nets,” now, “one net is nearly beyond him. ” (pg. 47) Although others are “amazed at his condition,” Fusi is aware of the changes that have taken place within his body and describes it to be “this invisible deterioration that was gradually shrinking the limits of his endurance. ” (pg. 47) Fusi’s thoughts suggest that he wishes to be an example to the elderly and prove that age is only a number. Despite Fusi’s efforts to cope with his frail body, he is helpless as his age is something he cannot control.
He must learn to live with the fact that his body can no longer handle the harsh conditions required to be a fisherman. Although Fusi can no longer bring in several gangs of nets, he will never give up. Fusi perceives every obstacle to be temporary. He pushes his limits in spite of the fact that his body cannot handle all that it was able to in his youth. Fusi does not hold significance in his external appearance, he desires to be strong internally. Over time, he learns how little his physical characteristics mean when his body is shutting down on the inside. What is on the outside, is not what is on the inside for him.
Fishing gives Fusi motivation to live, but his age puts a limit to his abilities. This puts Fusi in a position where he is forced to be at war with himself. Next, Fusi’s resistance towards the old folk’s home makes room for fear. Fusi describes the old folk’s home to be like a prison, where “someone is watching over you every minute of the day. ” (pg. 48) The tenants of the old folk’s home are people Fusi had once known. Now, “they all seemed to be interchangeable as time erased their identities. ” (pg. 48) This illustrates that Fusi assumes living in the old folk’s home is the equivalent of losing the right to be an adult.
He will no longer be independent, expected to follow the same routine as the others. Fusi believes age does not matter and refuses to let the old folk’s home be his fate. He wishes to die in his own home, knowing he did not adhere to the rules of anyone but himself. Fusi is troubled that life inside the old folk’s home will cause him to lose his identity and eventually lead him to become another elderly man awaiting his death so that he can be free. The cycle of life comprises of childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age, the last stage in the human life cycle. To Fusi, the old folk’s home signifies the final stage of his life.
Finally, Fusi and his daughter Emma’s clashing views lead to Fusi’s loss of individuality. Emma feels fishing without a license is unethical and suggests that “God will punish” Fusi. (pg. 43) When Fusi returns from fishing, his daughter attempts to make him feel guilty by asking if he is “satisfied” and that she has had “no sleep since he left. ” (pg. 51) In response to Fusi’s joy in outplaying the fisheries department, Emma discloses the bitter truth by saying, “they’ve known about your fishing all along. ” (pg. 54) These events indicate Emma is a selfish woman who abides by the law and is driven by control.
In contrast, Fusi values autonomy and standing up on his own two feet. Emma is an extremist, and is almost impossible to overpower. She is a firm believer and will crush those who oppose her. Emma is certain what she is doing is right and asserts her authority over Fusi. She exploits religion to manipulate her father, claiming his actions will be the cause of their demise. For the most part, Fusi is able to defend himself against Emma as he believes he serves a purpose. He is seventy years of age and can still fish. Emma takes away his sense of self-worth when she reveals that he has not been deceiving the authorities.
In reality, they have watched over him like a child to ensure his safety. The last thing he has left to prove himself is taken from him, and the power of Emma’s words lead to her victory. In the end, Fusi loses his battle and is put into the old folk’s home. His daughter Emma proves to be his greatest adversary, as she held his biggest fear in the palm of her hand and used it against him. Fusi has no escape, and is forced to go into the one place that to him, is worse than death. With this, Fusi’s struggle to uphold his pride and dignity is put to an end, along with his ambition to live.