Alligator River

alligator 1Once there was a wide and deep river separating two islands. The river was inhabited by dangerous and deadly alligators, and the only way to get from one land to the other was by ferry.

Mary, whose boyfriend was critically ill, was on the opposite side of the river from her lover, Luke. Mary approached her brother Mark for help with the cost of the ferry fare, but he responded, “No way. It’s not my problem, and I’m not wasting good money.”

Next, she went to Caesar who operated the only ferryboat on the island and asked if he’d take her across the river, even though she didn’t have enough money. Caesar eyed the lovely Mary speculatively and replied, “Yes, if you spend one night with me.”

Angry and disgusted, Mary nevertheless agreed to Caesar’s terms and spent the night with him. alligator 2

Later, however, she told her close friend Andrew what had happened.  Andrew, indignant on Mary’s behalf, went to the river and attacked Caesar, beating him viciously with a baseball bat until he was hospitalized with serious injuries.

When Mary heard what Andrew had done to Caesar, she felt gleeful, laughing that Caesar had gotten his just desserts. 

Meanwhile, across the river, Luke recovered from his illness, but when he returned to Mary’s side of the river and learned what Mary had done, he renounced her for her unfaithfulness to him.

Which of the five characters in this allegory is the most culpable?  Which is the least?  Let’s clarify their “sins” or wrongdoings:


1.  Mary – guilty of infidelity, anything else?

2.  Mark – guilty of indifference and lack of support, anything else?

blackmail3.  Caesar – guilty of blackmail, anything else?

4.  Andrew – guilty of deadly assault, anything else?baseball bat


5.  Lukeguilty of being unforgiving, anything else?

 Re-evaluate each character’s actions and consider which carries the greatest burden of blame.  Be sure to explain why you think so.

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  • Mozette says:

    1. Mary – guilty of infidelity, anything else?

    yes… guilty of infidelity. If he was ill and was going to get better, there were better ways to communicate than to bed the ferryman… honestly.

    2. Mark – guilty of indifference and lack of support, anything else?

    Nah… he just didn’t want to get involved.

    3. Caesar – guilty of blackmail, anything else?

    yes… guilty of blackmail. but really Mary shouldn’t have done it with him.

    4. Andrew – guilty of deadly assault, anything

    On one hand he was defending the honour of a friend, on the other hand it was premeditated assult on another person… so, yes, guilty on more levels than one.

    5. Luke – guilty of being unforgiving, anything else?

    Luke has every right to have this feeling… he’s not guilty at all… I’d feel the same way if somebody did this to me.

    • Mozette says:

      Woot! GR is coming to my place!

      Well! I better hide the chocolate! 😛

      I hope he likes romantic films… as that’s what’s on tonight for viewing. 🙂 I’ll make popcorn for him. 😀

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Good comments, Mozette. So, are you saying that Mary, who betrayed her boyfriend, is more guilty than any of the others?

      • Mozette says:

        Wellll, yes.

        She started off the chain reaction of everything that happened… she could have waited for her lover to get better.

        I’m kinda in the same situation right now. My man is horribly sick with the flu, and I really want to see him, but can’t. But I’m not going to bed some other dude because I want to be with my man… just to piss him off.

        I have too much respect for my man, Michael…

        Mary has no respect for her man or herself or anyone else around her for doing what she did.

        • Jo Robertson says:

          I see your point, but what if Luke died? Would it be worth it to see him once more? Or would her betrayal destroy both her self-respect and her love for Luke?

          • Mozette says:

            Still, not matter how sick he was… the way she acted was terrible.

            And if he had died, she would have felt so much worse because she knew she would have betrayed him through sleeping with another just to see him… and then when the chain reaction occured with the others, her guilt would have been just as bad; and she’d have nobody all the same to lean on.

  • Helen says:


    You want me to think LOL I have just got home from my DIL baby shower fun but tiring 🙂

    I would have to say they all are guilty of a few things one of the things for me is being uncaring and to bash someone is really bad two wrongs never make a right

    Have Fun

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I know what you meaning about thinking too much, Helen!! I just got up at 7:30 am, as I had a long day yesterday. And my mind is still boggy.

      Yes, they’re all guilty of something but which one do you think is the worst kind of person?

      If you don’t wanna think, that’s okay LOL. Have a nice treat instead!

      • Helen says:

        Hi Jo

        I would say Luke forgivness needs to happens so as people can move ahead with their lives

        Have Fun

        • Jo Robertson says:

          It does seem that Luke will never be able to move ahead with someone else unless he forgives Mary. On the other hand, Luke may be so devastated by her “infidelity” that he can’t get over it.

  • Amy Conley says:

    Wow! Not making this easy. Here goes:
    Mary; She did the only thing she thought she could do…in the moment. Had she thought things through a bit more, she may have been able to work out some sort of deal like cleaning the ferry every night.
    Mark was just being selfish and thinking of himself.
    Ceasar just wanted to get laid. He was the most selfish.
    Andrew acted without thinking for the most part. Had he been a real man he would have realized everything Mary did, she did for him, right or wrong.
    In the long run Mary was the most gullible mostly because she didn’t stop and think, she just gave in.

  • Amy Conley says:

    Ok I got Andrew and Luke mixed up,so what I said about Luke should really be about Andrew. And Luke really wasn’t a friend or he would have helped Mary out to begin wj th, again, she would have gone to this so called friend before sleeping with Casear, he probably would have done things a bit differentky. This would have made him the one duped the most.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Yes, I see you got Luke (the boyfriend) and Andrew (the assaulter) mixed up, so forget my comment before.

      I used to use this story with students to clarify their values (what things are most important to them) before we began reading LORD OF THE FLIES.

  • Shannon says:

    1. Mary – guilty of infidelity, anything else?

    It’s hard to like Mary because she quickly accepted a transactional exchange for something that she could have overcome. She’s also guilty of spinelessness. Surely there was some way to get money. Approaching someone else on the island, selling a treasure, But then again love prompts insanity.

    2. Mark – guilty of indifference and lack of support, anything else? It’s not put into context. Did Mary constantly borrow money? Did he approve or disapprove of the relationship? Did he know the Mary was going to be that stupid? Surely he could have floated a loan. Most ferries I know cost $1-$5. This is not a huge sum,

    3. Caesar – guilty of blackmail, anything else? He is slime. He sees women as objects. I would go so far as to label him as misogynist. An adulter to if he’s married.

    4. Andrew – guilty of deadly assault, anything else?

    While I in general disapprove of violence, I can see a protective male doing something to protect someone he cared about. He could have stopped after a few blows. I also suspect he has deeper feeling for Mary than this outline suggests.

    5. Luke – guilty of being unforgiving, anything else?
    It depends on Luke’s code of living. It makes me wonder about hie commitment to Mary. It raises the question of what he expects from a relationship. It may be he was sick with the flu and Mary’s reaction was overkill. In other words, he might not be able to forgive her because she’s stupid or shortsighted. The unforgivingness may be a result of seeing her as a woman who will drift, blowing with the wind at the least thing.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Wow, Shannon, excellent analysis. Details of the story are deliberately left out so the reader can make value judgments about the individual characters.

      So, just given the facts, who do you think is the most guilty party?

      BTW, I like your analysis of Luke, the boyfriend. I’d never thought of going so deep into his character. The story does say that he’s “critically ill” (which suggests he’s close to dying), but he DOES recover.

      Does that make a difference in Mary’s behavior?

  • Debbie says:

    They were all culpable, except for Andrew. None of the others wanted to actually cause harm. However, that being said, I want to throw a wrench in the works and ask “how can Mary and Luke be such great lovers if she can’t get across the river?” LOL

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Good point, Debbie! So you think Andrew, the assaulter, is the worst person?

      But you imply that Mary should’ve tried much, much harder to cross the river if she and Luke were so much in love and he thought he way dying?

      I’m wondering about Caesar; he’s slime, yes, but is blackmailing Mary during a vulnerable time worse than Andrew beating him up so badly?

      • Debbie says:

        To me Andrew’s was a planned attack, he wasn’t just standing there and lost his temper, he went out looking for him.
        Mary, just made a stupid mistake, although it never says if Caesar followed through on his end and took her over.
        Caesar, although slimy, is looking out for Caesar.
        Mark, he just stayed out of it.
        Luke, the poor man was sick in bed. To find your supposed great love slept with someone for a ride, well, it kinda makes you wonder what else she would do. It doesn’t seem that she made it across after sleeping with him.

        • Jo Robertson says:

          It does look like Andrew’s attack on Caesar is premeditated. From a legal standpoint, his act would receive a greater penalty.

          What about Mary showing no remorse for Caesar getting beat up?

        • Jo Robertson says:

          Yes, it’s clear that Andrew’s attack on Caesar was premeditated; he came armed with a bat! Legally the offense would be greater than if it were an act of impulse.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I think that’s an excellent point, Debbie. Surely she could’ve tried other ways to get the money needed to cross the river. Or maybe Caesar wouldn’t have accepted the money anyway. He just wanted her in exchange for the ride.

      Is Mary more foolish than bad, I wonder?

      • Debbie says:

        The more I think about it Mary, I’m wondering about her whole story. Did she set up Caesar? She didn’t seem to get her ride and she was quite happy that he got beat up. Why did she wait to tell Andrew? Why tell him at all? The more I think about it Mary is looking like a queen of set up. Oh, the twists that you can put on this story, lol.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Great analysis, Amy! So do you think Mary, who slept with another man, is more wrong than Andrew who seriously beat someone up?

    Is cheating more wrong than assault to intent?

  • Laurie G says:

    Caesar- Lack of compassion , human decency, honor and integrity

    Luke- lack of forgiveness, lack of understanding, lack of faith and love

    Andrew – Revenge- He acted out of anger and compassion and love. He should not have taken the law into his own hands.

    Mark – lack of family honor, lack of compassion, lack of love
    Tie-Most culpable -if he would have borrowed his sister the money everything would have worked out.

    Mary-acted out of desperation We don’t have enough information if she tried other options to attain the money .It wasn’t the smartest thing to do but she thought Luke was critically ill and might die . Trust is essential to any relationship. I don’t believe in adultery.
    Tie Most culpable-Mary was responsible for her actions.

    She should not be gleeful that Andrew took the law into his own hands.

    I feel they are all responsible for their individual actions.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Great thoughts, Laurie!

      So you’re saying Mary and her brother Mark tie for being the worst persons in the story?

      Infidelity and indifference are worse than beating someone very seriously? Just trying to clarify :-))

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Just to get the story straight (I change the characters’ names every time I tell it LOL):

    Mary — cheated on boyfriend
    Mark — her brother, doesn’t give a sh**
    Caesar — blackmails Mary in having sex with him
    Andrew — assault with serious bodily harm
    Luke — unforgiving

  • Becke says:

    So if Luke likes her so much, why didn’t he send her money for the trip to the other island?

    Mary is not likeable- she’s a wuss and has no value for herself, can’t barter worth a flip, and has no imagination. She could have tried to cross as a stow-away, borrowed/stolen a boat. There are all kinds of ways to get there.

    Caesar is an opportunist. He didn’t force her-at least that wasn’t presented.

    Andrew comes off as a criminal. If Mary and he were close, why didn’t she ask him for the money or to arrange transportation? He’s also a coward to use a baseball bat. Seems that he used the incident to justify his lust for violence.

    Mark- is self-centered or possibly protecting Mary from Luke, which validates her lack of self-esteem.

    Luke-maybe didn’t care for Mary in the first place or he would have made the arrangements– unless he had serious health issues. I think he’s justified in dumping Mary. She’s a spineless wonder and gives up too easily.

    And yes, we’re making many assumptions. And we all know how as-sume breaks down.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Ah, Becke, excellent point! There’s no indication that Luke financially is able to help Mary come see him, or that he is even able physically to do that. Not knowing this makes Mary’s actions seem more impetuous, doesn’t it?

      I like all of your points. Do you think, then, that Mary’s the worst one of the five people?

  • Deb says:

    At first, I thought of Andrew,as a caring friend who he’d deep feelings for Mary, but he didn’t beat up Caesar on the spur of the moment, and he did so violently with a bat. Guilty.
    Mary was too gleeful about Caesar’s thrashing. She also didn’t use common sense or critical thinking when trying to solve a problem. I don’t like her much, so guiltiest of all.
    I am okay with Luke’s decision to dump Mary. But, he may still be a jerk.
    Mark is hard to know….I mean, he sounds uncaring, yet his financial status won’t permit him to help, or he knows that there are other factors in the situation.
    Caesar—a flat-out jerk and scumbag. Guilty of using someone in a desperate situation. Opportunist, but in a scumbaggish way.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Good analysis, Deb. I agree that Caesar is flat-out a bad guy. He seems to be motivated only by personal selfishness.

      Do you think Mark, who is family to Mary, is just being lazy or does he just not care enough about his sister to try to help her?

  • Great exercise, Jo!

    I would have to say Mary is the most guilty. She had no respect for herself or her boyfriend. Her happiness at Caesar getting beaten shows a shallowness of character. He didn’t force her. The choice was hers and she took the easy route. AND her friend got in trouble because of it. It is selfish to take pleasure in a revenge that will cost someone else.

    The others acted on the emotional content of their characters. They’re men. Sigh. Tend to react rather than act. Women act and therefore need to think very carefully about what they do and the consequences not just to themselves but to others.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Louisa. Interesting perspective on men and women, men acting and men reacting. It does seem like men (at least in my life) are always trying to “fix” the problem. Sometimes you just want to vent, right?

    You’re the first person to mention Mary’s delight in seeing Caesar get beat up. Do you think that sort of cements her “character” in addition to her betraying Luke?

  • Jo Robertson says:

    As I said earlier, I use this story as a segue into the study of “Lord of the Flies.” Obviously there are no clear answers and the story is deliberately vague.

    But I thought you might be interested to know that among teenagers 16-17, the general consensus is that Mary is the most guilty. Teens tend to think that she should’ve been more innovative or creative or just plain tried harder to get across the river without betraying her values.

    Teens place a lot of value, apparently, on being faithful to the person you’re supposed to love.

  • Jo, it’s hard for me to pick who is most culpable. I think there’s the least excuse for Mark, who lacks empathy, and Andrew, who committed assault over an arrangement Mary agreed to.

    I wonder why Mary didn’t go to Andrew in the first place. Still, if Luke died, she might well have thought getting to see him was worth the price. Luke is quick to judge and unappreciative.

    None of them is in the clear.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      They definitely all have flaws. No one’s guiltless. I can help thinking that some of their flaws are human frailties and some speak of deeper traits that would extend to all parts of their lives.

  • Caren Crane says:

    Jo, that is way too much thinking after two glasses of wine! I would say Mark’s apathy is very damning. After all, we are all morally obligated to notice the needs of those around us and to meet those as best we can. I think Mark’s lack of understanding and interest and action are worse than the other sins. Then again, Luke’s lack of understanding and forgiveness are fairly damning, as well.

    I am more forgiving of Mary’s “cheating” because her intentions were good. While Caesar is a prick, he is who he is. This sin is probably not out of character for him and no one would expect him to act differently.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Two glasses of wine, yep; that’ll do it.

    I tend to be more forgiving of Mary also because she was more stupid than bad and wasn’t resourceful enough to look for another person to help her.

    What about Matthew, though? That was totally violent and thought out before hand.