64 pages 2 hours read

Watt Key

Terror at Bottle Creek

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2016

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Symbols & Motifs

The Swamp

The swamp is highly symbolic throughout the novel, reflecting Cort’s struggle with his sense of belonging. As a child, it felt like home, a place filled with happy memories of helping his father in his work as a river guide. However, after his mother left, mostly because of his father’s stubborn dedication to a life on the river and swamp, Cort’s view of the swamp begins to change. Now it is a place of isolation and loss, and he is increasingly aware of how much his lifestyle alienates him from other children his own age.

The swamp shifts from a familiar and welcoming place to somewhere unfamiliar and threatening. This is first seen when Cort nearly gets bitten by an alligator, something he should have known to avoid. However, it becomes even more pronounced when the storm hits. Familiar landmarks are submerged underwater or washed away, and the usually-hidden animals are now watching from the treetops or fighting for higher ground. Struggling to survive this now harsh and dangerous world, Cort becomes even more sure that he does not want to live there anymore. However, by the time he has survived various perils, reunited with his father, and rescued the girls, he realizes that he can still love the river and the swamp while enjoying aspects of a “normal” teenage existence.