As a livelihood, pastime, industry, and literary theme, fishing has been perceived and portrayed as singularly masculine, and, as such, it has played a distinct role in constructions of American manhood. Both recreational and commercial fishing have long represented a haven where men can escape from society and engage in contact with the natural world. With most recreational fishing, this interaction is regarded as contemplative and sublime; with commercial fishing, it is viewed as courageous and potentially tragic.

Predating capitalism, fishing represents an atavistic masculine pursuit that recreates a primal connection to nature. The nineteenth-century naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau associated fishing with “the lower orders of nature,” as opposed to man's “instinct toward a higher…spiritual life” (Thoreau, 140, 143). But many men have regarded ...

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