Reaching Compromise of Cultures by Manifestation of Contact Zone through the Character John
From the start of the novel, it is not difficult to see that Maggie, the chief and mother of Virgil, is having trouble with her life. She is busy and has many identities. When she is talking to her mother Lillian, she has her own thoughts and opinions about how to live her life. Her way is doing as much work and taking care of every matter because she is the chief, and also worrying about her son because she is the mother. This always crashes with what Lillian thinks. Lillian says that her work is “too much” (Taylor, 44) and that she “should be the chief of [her] own home, not Otter Lake.” (Taylor, 44) Maggie does not even have time to have lunch with her son, let alone talk and spend some time with him. When she came home after what happened with her tire, she cooked a decent dinner “for the first time in a week.” (Taylor, 93) Virgil, of course, knows this and feels the lack of his mother in his life in some way. He might be skipping classes because he is not getting his mother’s attention and care. Lillian suggested this many times before she died and Virgil’s teacher asked Maggie for special care for Virgil. She is letting down her family. When John came for lunch to her office, her answer is “but sorry, can’t do it. Priorities.” (Taylor, 226) Her tone is very determined and dry. She cannot sleep well at night. This proves that she is rushing herself too much with her work and schedule. Meanwhile, she thinks that she will manage all of this and be responsible. This way of thinking is very much the influence of western culture, Canadian culture in this book. Although she cares for the Anishnawbe society and knows the language and culture, her life is more of a Canadian life than an Anishnawbe life. John enters her life suddenly with his charming looks and approaches her without hesitation, intriguing Maggie’s curiosity and interest. She goes on a date with John and in such a long time, she feels romantic For Maggie, John appealed his sexual attraction because that would work the best since she lost her husband and there has been no space for ‘man’ in her life. She learns slowly how to chill out and have some break. Through John she also experiences some real Anishnawbe culture such as the carvings in front of Sammy’s house and an inukshuk that John made. The first time she encounters John and on their first date, she was definitely feeling confused. In the end, she managed to balance her life with “a more Zen approach” (Taylor, 340). She does not waste her time worrying too much and spend more time with family. She learned how to compromise between the two cultures somehow. She chose “what gets absorbed into” (Pratt, 36) her life from the Canadian culture and moved closer to her Anishnawbe culture. This is how John worked as a comfort zone as for Maggie. He approached her to show her a new perspective just like Guaman Poma did to “construct new picture of the world” (Pratt, 34). There are two more important characters that went through similar process with Maggie’s and found the way to negotiation: Virgil and Uncle Wayne. To begin with Virgil, he was just an adolescent boy who is going through puberty before his encounter with John and little chat with him on the rock that he visits often. He skipped class in school and went near the train station, sitting on his rock thinking. He doesn’t have many friends. Even Maggie was relieved to see that Virgil talking with Dakota before they were all together in Lillian’s house. Most importantly, Virgil does not receive his mother’s attention and care that he deserves that age. This is shown throughout the story. He feels jealous when Maggie cooks fancy dinner for John. He thought “the effort his mom was putting into” (Taylor, 110) the dinner was “upsetting” (Taylor, 110). Maggie never did this for “him” (Taylor, 110). His encounter with John was not that pleasant, but it was shocking...
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