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Alistair Mac Leod's No Great Mischief Essay

1810 words - 7 pages

Alistair MacLeod's "No Great Mischief"

     In No Great Mischief, Alistair MacLeod proves to the reader that it is impossible to talk about the Scottish-Canadian heritage without mentioning tradition, family and loyalty. MacLeod wrote this book about loyalty to family tradition. It is common to talk about these three things when one describes his family or his past in general, but in this book, MacLeod has included every single intricate detail about each one of the three aspects.

     Family plays the biggest role in this novel. Anything that the characters say or do usually has to do with family. The first time Alexander MacDonald, the narrator of the story, mentions family it is not his own. It is one of the immigrant families picking berries along the road that he is driving on (MacLeod 1). This point takes him directly into a slight mention of his own family: the grandmother (3). Since there is no main character in the book, it is thought to be the narrator. However, I wish to disagree with this fact and say that the real main character in this book is Alexander’s brother, Calum, who lives in Toronto. The first time Calum is introduced, one of the first things to come out of his mouth is of family: “I have been thinking the last few days of Calum Ruadh,” (11). We find out that Alexander has a close relationship with his brother and he drives to Toronto to visit him every weekend. This has become almost a tradition because he does not visit him to actually have a constructive conversation or to resolve a problem, although Calum has many of them, the most serious of which is drinking, but instead he visits him only for the sake of visiting him. It is also a tradition in that they do the same thing every time: they drink, not so much Alexander as Calum. We later find out that Alexander has a similar tradition set up with other family members. The most distinct of which is his relationship with his grandmother: Grandma. When he visits Grandma, it is always the same routine: they sing long Gaelic songs, like the ones that their ancestors would. Alexander, for most of the first half of the book, does not talk about his present day family as much as his ancestors. He provides the reader with the information about how he wound up in Canada and what his ancestors had to go through to get here. Throughout this part of the book, Alexander makes it seem as if his family is more of an organization then a nuclear family of today, partly because of the things they do, partly because their relationships with each other, and partly because of their ultimate goal: survival. MacLeod gives us a blatant example of MacDonald’s family having this quality when he describes them walking across the ice (48-50). MacLeod shows us that they are a model with everyone perfectly aware of their roles: the elder siblings looking after their younger ones, with the parents as the chief supervisors of the whole operation. It seems that the goal of the ancestors is...

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