Should we begin Again?

So the end of English 222 is here. If we followed Green Grass Running Water we would just simply begin again right? I think that if given the choice, I would take this course from the beginning again. I really enjoyed the beginning of the course. The idea of beginning again is great because we get to find out the things that we missed the first time around.

Looking for allusions in Canadian literature has helped me to realize just how hidden Canadian history is. Sure we get the bits and pieces that make Canada look good, but there are always pieces missing and in order to get the full story, we must search for them. While reading Thomas Kings’ book I have learnt to not simply accept the version of a story that is given to us, but to look for other meaning behind it. For instance many times in class people assumed that First Woman was Eve, instead of letting her be her own character. Many have accepted the story of Adam and Eve as being THE creation story and instead of looking for new creations stories we accept the one that has been told to us. The same can be said for Canadian history and literature. I have learnt that many have accepted the European or Euro-Canadian version of history  and because they simply accept it they do not go searching for other versions of Canadian literature and history. I believe that after finishing this course I have become someone who is not going to simply accept the stories that have been given to me and will instead look deeper into Canada and find out what other aspects of Canada that have been hidden.

I hope everyone else enjoyed looking for Canadian allusions as much as I did!

 

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Understanding the Past

At one point, Irv, a friend of Barney’s says “remember how when we were young the pepsis marched down Main chanting ‘Death to the Jews’ and Le Devoir read like it got its ideas from Julius Streicher?” (202). This one sentence is packed with allusions, allusions that I was for the most part unfamiliar with. Let me see if I can break down all the allusions is this sentence.

The first thing I had to look up was the part about ‘pepsis’. Luckily for me there was a footnote about this. Pepsi was used to describe French-Canadians because they have a stereotype of drinking pepsi for breakfast. I am not really sure where this comes from.

In the 1930s-1940s a fascist group was created in Montreal and was led by Adrien Arcand. This group was named the Parti National Social Chrétien or in English the Christian National Socialist Party. This party brought on anti-Semitic rallying, boycotts, propaganda and literature. It also would encourage other Nazi-like organizations to form in Canada. It is likely that some, if not all of the pepsis shouting “Death to the Jews” were part of the Parti National Social Chrétien.

Le Devoir is a French newspaper in Montreal. Julius Streicher was a prominent Nazi writer who had a newspaper in Germany called Der Stürmer which he was used as propaganda for the Nazi party. He also had a publishing firm that published Anti-Semitic books for children.  To have the paper appear as though Streicher, a man who was later convicted and executed for crimes against humanity shows the amount of Antisemitism that was coming out of Montreal.

Okay so now that I fully understand the allusions in this quote I am able to better understand the Antisemitism in Montreal. Sure the having people shout ‘Death to the Jews’ should have instantly made me realize how bad Antisemitism was in Montreal, but the added image of Streicher-esque writing and Antisemitic political groups allowed me to fully understand just how bad it really was.

 

While analyzing this one sentence I have been able to see just how different my Canada and Barney/Richler’s Canada is. Today Antisemitism is absolutely wrong, but for Richler it is something seem everyday and something as that he had to deal with everyday as a Jewish Canadian. Barney talks about these things with Irv as though is remembering the good ol’ times of his childhood instead of the terrors. This is another example of how aspects of Canadian history have been hidden in the shadows.

So Many Choices!

I am not entirely sure what book I want to read. For English Honours I will have to read Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen. I don’t have to read it until March though. The book sounds interesting, plus if I read it for this class it might be interesting to see the different points of views that I get just because I am studying it in a different class. But will that sort of count as cheating reading the same book for two different classes? Or is it like hitting two birds with one stone?

I am really interested in reading something by Mordecai Richler as I said in Where is Canada. I have looked up the The Apprenticeship of Buddy Kravitz, Barney’s Novel , Joshua Then and Now and Solomon Gursky Was Here and all four sound pretty interesting.

I tried to read Life of Pi a while ago but for some reason was unable to finish the book. I have heard many great things about it, so maybe it is about time I tried reading it again.

The one last book I can think of that might be good is Obasan by Joy Kogawa. I was told by a friend that it is about the Canadian-Japanese people who were forced to go into the internment camps during WWII.

There are so many possibilities… I just can’t choose!

Plus as I read everyone else’s blogs and what they want to read my list grows longer and longer!

* Just as an update, my group and I have decided to read …. none of these books. We are actually going to be reading the Gum Thief. I am really excited about this because usually I read books that are based in places places outside of Canada or if they are in Canada, ones not based in Vancouver. It will be interesting to see the difference in perspectives that I have with the author concerning Vancouver. And possibly to see not only Canadian-ness-ness (as Erika says), but maybe a little Vancouver-ness-ness.

** Another update… We are actually going to be reading Barney’s Version by Mordcai Richler. Here is our site: http://jjjbarneysversion.wordpress.com/. This novel is placed in Montreal, so it will be interesting to see how I consider Canadian-ness in Vancouver compares to what Canadian-ness means in Montreal.

It’s delovely, it’s dynamic, it’s De Soto

If you can’t tell from my title I am concentrating on the allusion of the De Soto car that Eli and Karen take to their first and last Sun Dance together.

I believe that the allusions involving the De Soto the car are extended to it’s namesake Hernando de Soto. Hernando de Soto was a Spanish explorer who lived from 1496-1542 who made his first sailed to the New World in 1514.

Eli says that while he sat on the bumper of the De Soto he “watched the world turn green and gold and blue” (202). This is how Hernando de Soto approached the New World. Hernando de Soto first came to the New World in hopes to colonize Florida. In other words he came to the New World to get more land for Spain … for more green.

Later de Soto would travel from Florida into Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi in search of gold.

Okay, so I’ve mention the green and gold that Eli mentions seeing, but what about the blue. What is the first thing that you think of when someone mentions the colour blue? If you said water, that is exactly what de Soto found.  De Soto was the first recorded European to have crossed the Mississippi River.

So now the colours that Eli sees make sense, but what does de Soto have to do with Aboriginal Peoples and why did King place him in Green Grass Running Water?

Along with his explorations de Soto was also known for terrorizing any and all Aboriginal Peoples that can into his path. Like many explorers he is known for the “good” that he brought to the history of the New World, and the terror that he brought to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada is hidden in the background. So like the de Soto that Eli drives at first it appears that it is “floating over the landscape like a bird in flight” (201), but later Eli sees that it becomes an entirely different car that leaves behind a “huge towering dust plume [that] rose off the road into the night sky” (201).

Eli says that if he were to get a car he would want a De Soto. Knowing the history of de Soto the person I find this intriguing. Does this mean that he want to get rid of all his cultural background? Once he leaves for Toronto he spends much of his time trying to  stay away from his home. Norma seems to indicate this slightly when she looks at the De Soto and shakes her head (203). I interpreted this as her disappointment. A disappointment that Eli is not embracing his culture and is instead trying to distance himself or even go as far as to kill it as de Soto did.

I find it amazing that I was able to find so much that King was able to allude to that concerned a car that only appeared in the novel for 5 pages. I can’t wait to see all the other seemingly small allusions that people have extended!

Assigned Pages: 200-220

If you are wondering about my title I got it from a 1957 De Soto ad.