Analysis Of Guy Vanderhaeghe's Short Story, "The Watcher" In Relation To Margaret Atwood's Essay "Survival: A Thematic Guide To Canadian Literature."

1245 words - 5 pages

Drama at the Farm: A Canadian Survival StoryCanadian Writer Margaret Atwood would argue that every country in the world has a single unifying and informing symbol, to act as a belief system that keeps everyone together and working for common ends. These unifying symbols manifest in the literature produce by authors and literary thinkers; whether or not it is done consciously or subconsciously. According to Atwood, in the United States "Frontier" is the unifying symbol, the exploration of new land, the west and independence from imperial powers. In the United Kingdom the "Island" is a distinct symbol of common national sentiments, the idea of the central island nation controlling its lands and wealth from behind the safety of its metaphorical walls; this symbol is perfectly represented by the medieval castles and fortresses of that nation. With these examples in mind Atwood states that the unifying symbol for Canadian Lifestyle, and consequently literature, is "Survival". As a result of the Canada's geographical shape, its vast landmass and bitter climate, as well as the nation's origins as subordinate to imperial rule, Survival becomes the common thread which bonds the lives thought and experiences of all Canadians. It is more real to us than the frontier or the island. In her essay, " Survival : A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature", Atwood goes into great detail about this idea of survival and victimization, she outlines her four victim positions with the intention of increasing understanding of Canadian literature, and how these guidelines apply to anyone, Canadian or otherwise. In "The Watcher", by Guy Vanderhaeghe, Atwood's concepts can be used to identify and understand the position of Vanderhaeghe's main character, Charlie Bradley, as well as increase understanding of Vanderhaeghe's work as a piece of distinctly Canadian fictional Literature. Atwood's four victim positions can be used to understand characters from Canadian fiction from the distinctly Canadian point of view, survival. The hero of most Canadian fiction is the survivor, the main character or protagonist survives where the other characters do not, or they survive one ordeal only to succumb to something else, "The survivor has no triumph or victory but the fact of his survival; he has little after his ordeal that he did not have before, except gratitude for having escaped with his life."(Atwood 33). The Canadian protagonist or survivor doesn't portray the myth that they can beat adversity to better themselves or their situation, rather they are no better of than before their ordeal, or maybe worse, by are fortunate to have escaped with their lives. The survivor is therefore inherently and unavoidably a victim in one form or another, and Atwood's position can be use to identify and grasp a greater understanding of the survivor character, his actions, thoughts, and decisions. To understand Charlie Bradley one must first understand the four basic victim positions. A...

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