Chapter 27

Lila received $2,225,000 for the sale of Melrose Island. She made four cashiers checks for $100,000 each for Tom, Savannah, Luke and Henry. Tom and Savannah accepted their checks gratefully. Henry was still sailing, so Lila deposited his share in a bank account. Luke, since released from jail, set his check on fire.


When the wrecking crew came to destroy the Wingo’s former home, Luke fired a rifle at them from the forest. The men ran away. When the crew was gone, Luke blew up their vehicles with Molotov cocktails. The next day, the crew returned with the National Guard. After all the residents left Colleton, Luke remained in the woods. He slashed tires, destroyed bulldozers, and shot patrol dogs. In the meantime, Henry Wingo was sent to jail for trying to smuggle marijuana. He was sentenced to ten years in jail and fined ten thousand dollars. Lila paid the fine out of the money she had set aside for him.

At first Luke’s actions on the island were mere vandalism. Often, at night, Luke would walk through the deserted town and think of how he would restore it. In March, he became more serious about his war. With bombs, he blew out four bridges and two railroad tresses. Four men were killed. Luke wrote letters to the newspapers explaining what he was doing and asking for volunteers.

FBI officer J. William Covington approached Tom with a deal for Luke. Tom was told that Luke could plea bargain for a sentence of three to five years. Savannah flew down to South Carolina and she and Tom went into the woods to search for Luke. They went to a place very remote that only the Wingos really knew about. They were correct about where to find Luke. Although Luke was not there when they arrived, it was apparent that he had restored an old fishing hut and slept there often. Savannah and Tom stayed there for a week before they saw Luke. They spent the time renewing their tenuous relationship.

When Luke finally returned, Tom and Savannah were able to convince him to take the plea bargain. Luke was ready to give up his war. Luke told them how he had been spending a lot of time talking to himself. He told them how he had visions about what the town should be like—an almost religious experience. Savannah tried to suggest that Luke was having hallucinations like her, but he said he was not crazy. He found Mr. Fruit hiding out in the woods. No one had thought to tell Mr. Fruit what was going on and he got scared and hid.

Luke told Tom to tell Covington that he would surrender at the Charleston Bridge. Luke requested that he surrender to a member of the National Guard; he wanted to surrender to a soldier. Luke said he would surrender on Friday. He told Savannah and Tom to return home. On his way to the Charleston Bridge to surrender, Luke made one last stop at the island. As he was standing next to the foundation of his home, he was killed by a single rifle shot by an ex-Green Beret, one of the many who had been commissioned to find Luke. The former Green Beret was not informed about the deal negotiated for Luke’s surrender.

After Luke’s funeral, Tom and Savannah took his body out on the boat and buried him at sea. Savannah read the poem she had written for him, “The Prince of Tides.”

Notes
This chapter provides the climax of the plot. As Tom said before to Susan, he thought the night on the island with the three men was the worst thing that could happen to a family until his brother was killed. Furthermore, the title of the novel is finally revealed—Luke is the Prince of Tides. It is almost ironic that Luke is the Prince of Tides since this novel appears to be about Tom. However, as Conroy repeatedly points out, this novel is really about the American male. Tom and Luke give us two examples of an American man. Tom has given in to his cultural surroundings (as he did as a child). He went to school, got a job, got married, and sunk into the routine of everyday life. Luke, conversely, was a part of nature from his birth. He never wanted to leave Colleton. The only time he did was when he served in Vietnam, which he viewed as earning his way back to Colleton. As soon as Luke was through with high school he returned to his island. He never appeared to have any intention of marrying. As the tides changed through out his life (figuratively) he always remained true to himself. He did not “sell out” so to speak.

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