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How the theme of isolation is reflected in Canadian literature.

In this essay all of the literature I have chosen will have to do with isolation. {1} When people have been isolated they don’t see other people for a long time and this can lead to make a person stronger or make them weaker. In a live and death situation in can give them the extra will to live that you didn’t have before. It can make him stronger and become his ally or it can beat him. When you are alone it makes you think about things that you never thought about before and make you work harder at the task at hand. “Never Cry Wolf” by Farley Mowat, is a plea for understanding and preservation of the wolf that is being harried into extinction by humanity. Mowat’s philosophy is that it does not pose a threat to other wildlife and, in fact, is not a danger or a competitor of any consequence to humans. In 1973, the Canadian government’s wildlife service assigned Farley Mowat to investigate the rumor that hoards of bloodthirsty wolves are slaughtering the arctic caribou. Mowat is dropped alone on the frozen tundra, where he begins his mission to live among the howling wolf packs and study their ways of life. He learned something of their language and how they conveyed “news” over great distances. He found out the meaning behind the Eskimo saying, “the wolf keeps the caribou strong.” Mowat observed strong family ties among wolves and he finished his long assignment by having great compassion for them. And he concluded with the realization that the wolf in fact is very different from the wolf of a legend. When the book was published there was no more than 1200 wolves existing. Compare this to the 2000 the year before. I hope there is still time to prevent another human error against nature. “the elimination from this planet of a fellow creature which has at least an equal right to life” {2} I think people need to look at how we coincide with nature in the future. Only 1200 wolves in the whole north, at this rate our destiny surely spells disaster. Are there any circumstances under which people should be permitted to kill wolves? You could come up with a reason, just as there are circumstances when people should be permitted to kill other people. The point is that not many reasons are legitimate. If it is posing a threat to you alright, but don’t eradicate the whole species because of one incidence. According to a article in the JuneJuly 1987 issue of “Outdoor Canada” people in the N.W.T. are learning to adapt and work with the wildlife rather than against it. People are starting to take their environment less for granted. Isolation, in term of its influence in the novel, remains incredibly prevalent. I think that if you, the reader, were to focus on how isolation influenced Mowat’s methodology of study, you would recognize how it inadvertently became his ally. Upon receiving his assignment the “Lupine Project” we learn about Mowat’s interest and love of the study of living animals in their own habitat. Once assigned to this futile and desolate tundra his task flourishes with great resolution and interest. Because of extreme isolation, with very little room for distraction, Mowat communicates new discoveries of the Canis lupus and through time he reveals that wolves are fellow creatures and have a equal right to live. “The Mad Trapper” by Rudy Weibe is an insightful novel that provides the reader with a excellent three-dimensional picture of the adverse conditions that are confronted in the northern setting. Many hours of research, writing, and speculation has resulted from the famous arctic pursuit of the mad trapper by the R.C.M.P. during the winter of 31 and 32. The attempts to reveal some understanding of the unorthodox manhunt which still even today remains futile, have lead Rudy Weibe to provide us with a fascinating perspective on the story itself. Spike Millen is the leader of the manhunt who undergoes changes as the novel progresses. He begins as a dedicated competent and helpful law enforcement officer. There appears to be transition in his character. It transpires throughout the novel and Spike Millen becomes a man driven in a compulsive desperate hunt for the mad trapper. Through time Spike dissects the mad trappers obstinate yet unique character. Spike reveals reveals that the mad trapper does indeed have an unknown origin, a profound impact on his surroundings, and an excellent ability to disappear. Upon this revelation he accepts the ultimate challenge. His inciting force appears to be wrapped in the glory and stature of accomplishing the ultimate feat; apprehending the mad trapper. I find it hard to account for the dynamic change, however I do in fact feel that it ties Spike’s occupation and the manner of living that he at the time engaged in. This was not some taboo to follow a through greuling blizzards and -40 temperatures, it was his occupation, this was accepted as part of the job. Through time Spike took his trade beyond the limit. The mad trapper acted as his nemesis, and the life of a pair of fools ended. When the mad trapper was isolated it made him stronger and be able to do feats that no other human had done. He was able to climb over mountains in blizzards and sleep without shelter in -40. He had found a way to live by himself and he didn’t want to break that pattern. “Death on the Ice” by Cassie Brown is a compelling reconstruction of the “Newfoundland” disaster in which 78 sealers died. It tells how the captains of the sealing ships did not consider the men in their decisions, they were based on wether they could get seals or not. The men from the newfoundland were sent across the ice to get to the seals and find their own way to stay outside without perishing. What they didn’t know was that a horrible storm was blowing there way. As it turned out their ship was not able to catch up with them to get on board so they had to stay out all night in the blizzard. There was other ships nearby but they weren’t their responsibility, the newfoundlands captain new what he was doing. There was many decisions that lead to them not being rescued such as not touting your horn because it wasn’t worth the time because they were probably on another ship anyway. Most of these men perished when they made a mental decision that they weren’t going to survive. As soon as this decision was made they gave up and fell to the ice and died. But the survivors they made a decision that they weren’t going to die and they managed to survive till they got help. Some of their group leaders when faced with the danger didn’t know what to do, so their members had to fend for themselves. When this happened the true leaders came forward and convinced some people to live. When one of these leaders gave up the whole group got dejected and lost there sense of hope and died. “Walk Well, My Brother” by Farley Mowat is set in the year 1951. Mowat’s writing generally carried a romantic attitude toward the native peoples. This attitude is brought forth, and used extensively throughout this S.S.. Mowat believes that the eskimo can teach the white man not only techniques of survival but also such moral values as patience, kindliness, and self-sacrifice. Charles Lavery, the disillusioned protagonist, believed that any challenge, whether by humans or nature, could be dealt with by good machines in the hands of skilled men. Charles was an expert pilot, and carried many years of flying charter jobs in almost every part of the arctic. The monochromatic wilderness of rock and tundra, snow and ice, existed outside his experience and comprehension, as did the native people whose world it was. Lavery, on one of his expeditions, managed to latch onto a deathly ill woman named Konala. This of course was not out of kindness, instead the walrus tusks that he was given for the exchange of bringing Konala to the hospital in Yellowknife. There was a flaw in the plan of action. On the way to the hospital he lost his twin engines to altitude and crashed. From here on in, the story becomes a battlefield in which these to individuals encounter a wide array of obstructions that they are forced to deal with and conquer. Initially Lavery is extremely pessimistic and indignant towards Konala. He treats her as an lesser being that is no better than the dirt he walks over. Lavery abandons Konala in a burning rage, in all likelihood, with very little understanding of one another does she guess his sole intention. The fact that ten days latter and nearly 60 miles later to the south of the downed plane, the sick women halts beside the unconscious body of Charles. Konala nurtures him and through time brings him back to considerable health. Lavery awakens and instantly a transition occurs within his character. Lavery views this woman as an equal. He is very grateful for her perseverance and forgiving personality. Lavery joins forces with Konala and they continue on there journey for civilization. As Lavery begins to show sufficient evidence of recovery, Konala begins her journey into dire straits. On the eve of her death, Lavery began to nurture her, as she once did. Finally she handed him a pair of skin boots and spoke, slowly and carefully so he would be sure to understand. “They are not good boots but they might carry you to the camps of my people. They might help return to your land…walk well in them my brother.” Konala from the very beginning was very infirm of purpose, carried iron-will, and displayed incredible patience. Even when encountering the most incredibly adverse conditions, she persevered. The conditions that they faced allowed and brought them to a new level of understanding. Not only did she discover a new realm of survival, but they also brought two distinct cultures together. When Charles was faced with isolation he panicked and did not think things through and went of on his own without the experienced native. When she found him her goal was to save him and let him understand. When he awoke he had a new understanding of her. This gave him the energy to live and persevere over nature and the obstacles. When she realized this was done she lost her mental ambition to live so she perished. In the S.S. “The Furs” Yves Theriault depicts the white mans exploitation of the native. The trader McTavish has developed a barter system which favors the trader and not the trapper. The fur company has created a monopoly because the opposition never lasted long. On a previous occasion when Agaguk, the native trapper, had been cheated he took revenge and burned the trader alive in his tent. However on this occasion he finds solace in alcohol. As a trapper with a oncoming family, Agaguk must act as support. In order to fulfill this position he must go out and lay a trapline, gather the furs, and take them to trade or barter. Consequently Agaguk felt cheated and the credit he was given did not support their needs. As it was a three week journey to another post it did not seem feasible so he left home to become a alcoholic. Before Agaguk left he made a decision that he could not take this isolation and the stress from the growing needs of his family. So he left them to fend for themselves and he was going to be a drunk. Quite a concept. In the “Law of the Yukon” by Robert Service it is set in the gold rush of the Yukon. It tells about the hard ships that were faced by the men who toiled for gold under the midnight sun. In the first portion of the poem he illustrates the type of mentality that was in high demand during the gold rush. He tells of the people who succeed and how he succeeded in in deducing them both physically and spiritually. Service elaborates on the people that they have failed to make the cut and are rejected by the Yukon territory. He illustrates the frustration involved, those who fatten on the work of others, and the writers that exploited the rush. He discusses the adverse physical conditions and isolation that commonly occurred. When these gold miners faced these adverse conditions they had to be tough mentally so they could stand up to the isolation they faced while trying to find there fortune. If they weren’t tough, they couldn’t take the Yukon and didn’t make the cut and died. In the “The poem of Albert Johnson” by Robert Kroetsch, there is a feeling of remorse. It is a poem that illustrates the characteristics of the silent man, dedicated to the mad trapper. Who begins his journey, as a stranger without a name, and when it ended, he was the most notorious criminal in North America, the object of the largest manhunt in RCMP history. It is a poem about a quiet individual who is out of adversary’s reach. However he does come back and bait their self worth and pride. The returning has cost this individual an overwhelming price, physically. He releases a scream that the energy is after. But the silent man remains and manages to keep his inner silence. This ties it back to the mad trapper. When he did not scream in pain he was giving them what they wanted. His mind was at peace so he was able to control his body and kept his silence. The isolation had made him stronger and he was able to face it without wimpering. In conclusion in all of the above literature selections the protagonist is in a state of isolation. He can choose to overcome the isolation and become stronger like the survivors in the newfoundland disaster and Farley Mowat in Never Cry Wolf, or like Spike or the mad trapper in The Mad Trapper. The people that made the cut in Law of the Yukon were strong mentally so they were strong physically. Or you can make the choice too not survive like the 78 dead in Death on the Ice who lost there moral and died. Agaguk just couldn’t take it so he became a alcoholic. People like Charles in Walk Well my Brother who got another chance when Konala nursed him back to health were lucky to get another chance. After she had done this she didn’t have something to strive for mentally so she died. (r))9 (r))4 Endnotes(r)): (r))1 (r))0 (r))1 {1} Webster Universal Dictionary, 1970, p761 {2} Brown Dick “Cry Wolf? Never” Outdoor Canada JuneJuly 1987, p20-24 (r))9 (r))4 Bibliography(r)): (r))1 (r))0 (r))1 Weibe Rudy, The Mad Trapper, Canadian Publishers, Toronto 1987 Mowat Farley, Never Cry Wolf, Canadian Publishers, Toronto 1971 Brown Cassie, Death on the Ice, Doubleday Canada, 1974 Service Robert, Songs of a Sourdough, Ernest Bean, 1972

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