How Minor Characters Affect the Character Development of Saul in Indian Horse

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Every character affects the development of the main character. In the book Indian Horse, written by Richard Wagamese, minor characters prove to be positive influences on the protagonist. These characters encourage Saul to triumph in various aspects of his life, and offer support through emotional turmoil several years later. The support given by minor characters in the novel highlights their importance throughout Saul’s life and healing process.

The hockey team, as well as the Kelly Family help Saul to develop in all aspects of his life, showing the importance they have on his growth. To begin, Virgil helps Saul in school, acting as a brotherly figure in his life. Saul especially mentions Virgil’s guidance as “ He sat up late with 1me and helped me with my lessons. He taught me how to understand school, how to present myself in class... to help me learn faster.” (Wagamese 114) Virgil provides Saul with the unconditional love, guidance and comfort of a brother.

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The ‘Mooses’ quickly become Saul’s second ‘clan’, each player supporting one another with care. Such small, yet simple gestures of support and comfort highlight Virgil’s and the team’s importance in Saul’s life. In addition, they cherish Saul’s talents which boosts his self-image making him want to improve further. The team believes Saul to be their “secret weapon” (111), giving him feelings of being appreciated. Receiving recognition creates positive self-image, which boosts Saul’s morale.

By showing Saul his self-worth, minor characters begin to restore faith and identity lost at the residential school, justifying their importance in Saul’s life and recovery. Also, supporting characters justify their importance as they give Saul a firm sense of belonging, which holds great importance as Saul has been treated like an outcast since childhood. He feels these powerful emotions as he says “ I was a Moose.” (107). In the moment, we can sense the feelings of pride and attachment Saul has being alongside the Moose’s. As a child who is raised in an environment surrounded by death, depression, and racism, feelings of alienation would be common. The strength of unity brings Saul closer to healing from a traumatic and unaccepting past. Emotions are exceptional motivators, and the team’s familial bond motivates him to work harder to ensure success. Thus, minor characters on the Moose hockey team have a significant and positive influence on Saul’s life.

Years later, when Saul begins his healing process, these characters welcome him with open arms to help lessen the burden of his past. To emphasize, minor characters such as Erv Sift, become great allies as Saul decides to begin his recovery. Saul expresses gratitude as “Erv Sift was an angel...He understood that I bore old wounds and didn’t push me to disclose them. He only offered me security, friendship and the first home I’d had in a long time.” (186). The connotation of the word ‘home’ provides safe and affectionate emotions, which are crucial to understand how supporting characters have lasting effects on Saul. Saul has longed for safety, friendship and ‘home’ as a child, hence Erv’s hospitality affecting him deeply.

Next, when Saul reconciles with his past, he visits the Kelly’s, where he is greeted warmly. When Saul returns many years later, “Fred Kelly opened it, his face cracked into a wide grin...‘Look who’s here,’ he said. He held the door open and I walked in.” (208) Smiling is commonly known for being ‘contagious’, and may be foreshadowing a happy outcome for Saul in the future. Inviting Saul into the house may also foreshadow Fred ‘letting Saul enter’ his past and vice versa. Furthermore, ‘discussion’ is known as the first stages of recovery, which Saul undergoes as he speaks about the abuse endured at St.Jerome’s. As they reveal their unspoken thoughts, Saul says:

“‘I’m just tired of the way I’ve been living. I want something new built on something old...This is the only place I felt like something was possible for me.’” to which Fred responds, “‘We’re not responsible for that...None of us are..But our healing - that’s up to us. That’s what saved me.’” (210)

The first steps of recovery is acceptance and discussion. The Kelly’s provide Saul with emotional strength and comfort as he accepts his past, and discusses the future. Fred and Saul’s bond deepens, and brings Saul closer to reconciliation with his past. Fred and Martha’s support hold great importance in Saul’s healing, and focus on the crucial role they play in his life.

Saul receives a tremendous amount of support from minor characters that shape aspects of his personality. Members of the hockey team encourage and guide Saul throughout his growth and recovery. As a result, they have a great influence on his persona and development as he matures throughout the story. Although overlooked and painfully underrated, minor characters can have major positive influences on the protagonist.

Works cited

  1. Wagamese, R. (2012). Indian Horse. Douglas & McIntyre.
  2. Kirmayer, L. J., Simpson, C., & Cargo, M. (2003). Healing traditions: Culture, community and mental health promotion with Canadian Aboriginal peoples. Australasian Psychiatry, 11(sup1), S15-S23. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1665.11.s1.3.x
  3. O'Connor, D. (2017). The Magic of Hockey: Analyzing Richard Wagamese's Indian Horse. Journal of Canadian Studies, 51(3), 860-883. doi: 10.3138/jcs.51.3.860
  4. Clark, C. (2016). Encountering the Indian Horse in Richard Wagamese's Indian Horse. Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 36(1), 53-65.
  5. Barman, J. (2012). Indian Horse. The Canadian Historical Review, 93(4), 681-683. doi: 10.3138/chr.93.4.681
  6. Castellanos, J. (2017). ‘I Wasn’t There. I Was Inside Myself’: The Ethics of Trauma in Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse. English Studies in Canada, 43(4), 109-132. doi: 10.1353/esc.2017.0008
  7. Deiter, A., & Ruiter, J. (2014). A Personal Journey of Healing and Discovery through Richard Wagamese's Indian Horse. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 37(1), 152-164.
  8. Haldar, P. (2020). Postcolonial Trauma and Healing in Richard Wagamese's Indian Horse. Labyrinth: An International Journal for Philosophy, Value Theory and Sociocultural Hermeneutics, 21(1), 56-72.
  9. Amago, S. (2014). “I Was a Moose”: Indian Residential School Survivor’s Journey to Healing in Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse. Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, 14(1), 1-13.
  10. Woods, L. (2019). Reading the Body of Indian Horse. Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 39(1), 49-67.

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