Canada is located on the northern hemisphere of the earth; hence, this country has a very cold environment. One may wonder how different culture is in Canada from the rest of the cold region countries in the world. Interaction with its people is one way of getting to know its culture. Another way is studying its literature. Literature is a product of real life experiences of people involved in that culture. Since this country experiences the worst of winters, it will be interesting to know how Canadians deal with isolation, and how they survive real tragedies of life by studying their literature.
Let us cite one famous Canadian author, Margaret Atwood. She was born in Ottawa, and most of her literary works are about women, surviving, and struggling for their rights in a very gender-biased culture.
This is titled, February, an excerpt of the poem, Morning in the Burned House. These lines described “winter” as the time of mourn and sorrow. The black cat’s color symbolizes death. Atwood addressed death as a common phenomenon in life, so one must have to move on, as stated in the last line “get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.” This is a call to overcome grief because death, like winter, is a natural cycle of life. After winter, comes spring, comes life.
This is a call to motivate Canadians how to survive the tragedies of life. Another Canadian author, Mary Lawson, wrote about a family tragedy that deals with surviving death and grief. She wrote her first book, “Crow Lake.” This is a story of four children who became orphans after their parents were killed in a catastrophic car accident.3 The following will be my answers using Crow Lake to the questions given: 1. Why, in your opinion, are these themes (isolation and survival) such a natural reaction to life in Canada? Canada is geographically located in the Northern Hemisphere, and has four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Unlike other parts of the globe where all throughout there’s fair weather year round, here, it’s not.
When winter comes, it is a natural, biological reaction of the human body to be “depressed.” Thus, if death comes in a family, grief is doubled. Depression is greater if one lives in a very cold region like Canada. This may be the reason why most Canadian authors tackle isolation and survival in most of their literary works. They tackle how difficult life is, and working very hard is a way to forget problems. Some cited lines from the book are: On isolation: “He headed west and south, traveling from town to town, taking work where he could find it when he reached Toronto he stopped for a bit, but he didn’t stay long. Maybe the city alarmed him…more likely he found city life frivolous and lacking in purpose.”
On temperature: “That night the weather revealed itself as the fraud it was and the temperature dropped to minus ten. Matt was uneasy.”5 On seasons: “Life cycles being as they are, spring is the best time for pond watching, and that spring every form of life.”6 Thus, “seasons” play an important role in a Canadian’s life for survival. 2. Identify important events and the major characters actions and reactions to life in Canada? Describing Matt: “Work carried out as a tribute to our parents, to wrest something good from the devastation of that year, to prove himself to himself and to Luke, for my sake, for his own sake, for its own sake, for the pure joy of it – perhaps that above all. Work so that he could in his turn support the rest of us, work for the future of the family.
Work because he knew he could do it, knew his efforts would be rewarded. As if life were as simple as that.”7 Matt moved on, viewing life as a cycle, and the death of his parents is not the end of the world, thus he should excel because he is the smartest among the siblings. Luke: “Listen carefully okay? I’m staying with the girls. And I don’t want to talk about it anymore, ever. If we both live to be a million years old, I don’t want to mention the subject ever again. What’s the matter with your brain anyway? I thought you were supposed to be smart.
There wouldn’t be enough money for me to go now even if I wanted to. That’s why you need scholarship, remember?”8 Luke grew up unselfish, and knew his role as the eldest brother to watch over his sisters, sacrificing his opportunity to become a teacher. He knew that’s his purpose in life. Kate: “And during that time, you’re bound to feel…disconnected. Anyway, that was how I felt – and still feel, to some degree. What I would really have liked to do was sit quietly somewhere, preferably under a tree, and watch the goings – on from a distance. In particular, watch Matt.
Let my eyes absorb this new view of him, this new perspective on our lives.”9 Kate held on to her closest brother, Matt, as a symbol of her wish that her family will not lose the bond, even though their parents are gone. It is important to notice in this story that a sibling will assume the role to take care of the younger sibling when the need arises. Thus, the orphaned brothers and sisters will tend to stick together in the end through the toughest times. 3. Discuss key relationships within the novel, which support the idea that these themes are important.
On Matt’s relationship with Kate: “If you could see him when he knows you’re coming home, Kate at first he’s so happy but then as it gets closer, he doesn’t sleep…”10 This is what Matt’s wife, Marie, told Kate. Matt knew that Kate needed him, as her older and closest brother. He knew he had a duty to protect his siblings because he’s the smartest, but his attention went to Marie and his son instead. Matt was very sad for the fact he felt he abandoned his siblings. On Kate’s relationship with Marie: “The thing is, she doesn’t even see it.
It’s not her fault, she doesn’t understand. But that’s a tragedy too, you see – that Matt is married to someone who has no idea, really no idea, what he’s all about.”11 This is what Kate thinks of Marie. Marie took the only person Kate really loved, as if life was taken away from her. Kate and her siblings thought that Matt would have been a very rich and successful man one day, had not it been for Marie.
On Kate’s relationship with Daniel: “I’d started telling him the story – the whole of it – just before we got to New Liskeard. I hadn’t intended to; in the main it is Matt’s story, and I have protected it from public gaze all these years. But as the miles ticked past I realized that Daniel would have to know; two minutes of conversation with Matt would tell him that Matt should not be where he was. Still I put off the telling of it until shortly after we passed Cobalt…”12 Kate was very private about her life and it took time before she opened up her true feelings about her family. The past hurt so much that she wanted that part of her life (relationship with her siblings) secured, and if Daniel had been very insensitive, he would not in the world be able to know who Kate’s family is. Daniel was able to make Kate unburden herself by exploring her past. In doing so, Kate was able to search for the truth behind the real feelings of her brother, and give her inner peace.