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Hardships Of Life Portrayed In Medicine River By Thomas King

1417 words - 6 pages

During the course of life, shadows and dark times will come. It’s a fact of life. However, seeing the good, or light in those situations, is sometimes hard for us to do when the darkness is upon us. In “Medicine River” by Thomas King shows us that sometimes we need to take a retrospective look at past difficulties to fully grasp the positive aspects of them. One of the advantages of the dual-narrative style that Will writes in is that it allows the reader to draw parallels between the stories he tells in each chapter. In three of the chapters in this novel, Will describes past shadows in his life that correlate with more current ones he’s dealing with.

One of the stories Will tells about his past is of his mother’s death. This event was obviously very traumatic for Will and one of the largest shadows he’s ever endured. The fact that Will was away in Toronto when his mother passed away has left him with a lingering regret, even though it wasn’t possible for him to have known that she was sick. Will’s brother James, recounting to Will some of what their mother talked about on her deathbed, mentions a vacation that the three of them took to Lake Pokagon. In this story, Will remembers that his mother chose to rent a row-boat instead of a canoe because “a row-boat was safer” (233). The irony strikes the reader when their row-boat collides with a rock and springs a leak, causing the children to fear for their lives. In the more current contrasted story, Harlen and Luise convince Will to purchase a canoe so that they can all go boating together. In the inaugural trip, though, the canoe began to take on water. After Harlen urges him to start bailing water, Will realizes that “[they] didn’t have anything to bail with” (235), and soon, the canoe flips, sending Harlen and Will into a stream of rapids. In both of these accounts, we see Will in a scenario that looks very bleak for him. He was not in control of what happened to the boats, and there was nothing he could do to remedy the situation once it had happened. Similarly, in the case of his mother’s death, he had no control over the fact that she got sick, and he was unable to make her better. He had no tool with which to bail the water from his life. Back to Will’s childhood trip to Lake Pokagon, they soon discovered that the water where they struck the rock was very shallow, and that they were going to be alright. Will and Harlen’s canoe accident resolved with both of them safely making their way back to the shore. Through these experiences, Will learns that in hind-sight hard times can be fondly recalled and even laughed at. Just as Harlen, after the canoeing incident, says “Hey, Will, wasn’t that great! What a ride!” (236).

Another pair of stories Will tells about is that of Mrs. Oswald’s and January Pretty Weasel’s abusive relationships with their respective husbands. Although these aren’t times in Will’s own life that were shadows, he includes them because they still hold a valuable truth in...

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