Teen Angst and the Essence of Adolescence The Highest Tide has two prominent themes, exploration of marine life and teen angst. The main character, Miles along with his other adolescent friends and foes (A. K. A. , Frankie Marx) perfectly exhibit the symptoms of the phenomena that is teen angst. Symptoms such as defiance of authority figures, selfcentered tendencies, emotional turmoil and adventures of sexuality both fit under the category of teen angst/adolescence and are examples presented in the book by the characters of teen age. The first and most repeated “symptom” seen in the book is defiance of authority figures.
In fact, it is shown within the first chapter, page three to be exact; wherein Miles sneaks out of his room to collect specimens for his summer business. He obviously knows he’ll get in trouble, yet he ventures out into bay in his kayak in the dark of night. He partakes in many other events of contempt, such as sneaking past the bouncer in the rock club in chapter nineteen with Phelps, or perhaps one of his biggest acts of defiance where he gives the Eleusinians a tour of the beach in chapter eighteen or agrees to go to the Eleusinian school against his mother’s orders and without alerting anyone about his venture in chapter twenty-one.
When Miles does this, he shows a particular selfishness due to him putting aside his privacy to bask in the limelight; he even admits this, which contrastingly shows a certain level of self-awareness and maturity, but both ultimately support growth and adolescence, so I’m including both sides. Perhaps Miles does all of these things to get the attention of his somewhat negligent parents, or maybe he thirsts for a freedom that can only be quenched by going against blatant orders. Perhaps he just doesn’t care, or a combination of the three.
For whatever reason it may be, he is embracing his inner rebellious nature ranging in different levels of spite. With the help of Phelps, Miles also thoroughly explores his sexuality in the book. It is no secret that Miles has a crush on Angie. No, the word, “crush” is an understatement. A better word to describe Miles’s feelings towards Angie is utter infatuation. Miles expresses, to say the least, his fascination towards Angie quite brazenly in the story, but on a large spectrum ranging between emotion and pure physicality.
On the emotional side of the spectrum, Miles inadvertently states in chapter eight, page fifty-four that he would do anything for Angie even though he never expects anything in return when he was describing his definition of love. Phelps on the other hand did not care for this notion of love and stated that he was purely interested in the physical part of a relationship. Miles seems to flip-flop in between morals regarding what love is. Also, regarding the emotional side of the spectrum, in chapter twenty-six, page two-hundred nine, Miles tells Angie that he can take care of her, no matter how ridiculous it sounded, to paraphrase.
As previously mentioned, Miles flip-flops in between his fluctuating definition of love and being a curious teen boy, he explores the more physical side of the spectrum. He fantasizes, such as in chapter twelve, page seventy-seven and makes certain phone calls with his fellow comrades such as in chapter twenty-three, page one hundred seventy-five, and borrowed a book on the subject from Florence (whether she knew it or not) and shared the knowledge he gained from it with Phelps (in chapter nineteen, pages 144-145).
Miles is just a curious teen trying to determine his standpoints on love and relationships, and that sometimes entails rather graphic details, but it is a fundamental factor to his maturity as a person and character in the book. Emotional turmoil is also a prominent theme of angst in the book. Miles on numerous occasions storms out in a rage. Whether it is from him telling his incohesive parents to stay together at the end of chapter fifteen n page one hundred-ten, or if it is from his parents telling him that they were “taking a break” in chapter twenty-three on page one hundred eighty-one, or if it is after Miles and his mom debating whether Angie was a saint or Satan. Behind the slamming of doors and stomping of feet is Miles’s inability or rather, repression of expressing his feelings and verbalizing his issues. This (this meaning hostility and apathy) comes as a factor of teendom where the need for privacy and solitude rings true for those of juvenility.
However, this stigma seems to go deeper than wanting some “alone time,” this sprouts from Miles’s mother being so unsentimental and encouraging insensitivity when she makes a bet with Miles that he can’t go the whole without crying which can be referenced to on page 45, chapter seven; a bet which Miles recalls when paddling around trying to, “feel the way he should feel” about his parents’ divorce chat. Miles seems to carry this mentality with him throughout the book until he finally breaks in chapter thirty.
In chapter thirty, Miles made a major breakthrough, maturity wise. His best friend Florence has died, his parents relationship stands who knows where, and he is being constantly bombarded by the media about his findings. where I thought he was going to just remain stoic, unfeeling and suppressive, he finally showed some emotional maturity. He cried. He let out all of his frustrations, because it was the best and only thing he could do.
So yes, Miles has faced the trials and tribulations of pubescence and will continue to face them for awhile. He will continue to voice his angst, but the important thing is that he knows what he is going through is okay and that he should be able let it out and verbalize his feelings and show his true emotions. And that’s really a strong message to send to the youth readers of the book, that it is okay to feel, to lose, to win, to love, to be frustrated, to be a teen.