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How the Society is Depicted in Richard Wagamese's Novel Indian Horse

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Society is a very powerful thing that has affected every single one of us in many different ways. It can push us towards greatness or do the complete opposite as well. The book talked about certain types of societies in very specific ways. Discrimination, racism, and effect on relationship in the novel Indian horse where shown through Richard Wagamese’s explanation of first nation’s people, hockey, and the white community. The author portrait society the way he did so he could show us how and what has affected Saul.

Richard W. portrayed first nation’s people and their culture as important influences in Saul’s life because throughout Saul’s best or worst days, the author always kept Saul connected to his Indian identity. Saul quoted “If hockey had been the only arena in which I was tested. I would have won in a rout. But it wasn’t. I was still the Indian kid from northern Ontario.” (Wagamese,) When Saul says this it shows us that even with hockey and all the other “routes” he had been tested in, like losing his family and growing up in residential school, he would still know and consider himself as an Indian kid. The author put a lot of physical and emotional obstacles in Saul’s life but Saul never forgot where he truly came from and who he really was. What Saul is referring to in the quote is that Hockey was not the only part of his life that he had to overcome, he had many other thing like residential school that Saul would have to deal with to “win in rout”. What Saul learned and knew from his early childhood of living with his family in the woods has stuck with him and helped him grow/learn as he got older. Saul stated “I learned to envision myself making moves before I tried them. If I could see myself doing it, then I could do it. It worked for any move. There was no explanation for how I could do what I did. I knew it as a mystery and I honoured it that way. My grandmother had always referred to the universe as a great mystery.”(waganese, ). What Saul said showed us that he still had his aboriginal part of him because when he lived with his grandma she encouraged him to understand his own culture and learn from it. Saul found a connection between his visions and his grandmother, this helped him pursue his love for hockey, not only did it showed him what he was capable of but it gave him a whole new life of opportunities, like leaving residential school, that would only benefit him.

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Hockey and the relationships Saul made through it had a very big impact in Saul’s life. The author made sure that this point was taken into consideration because wherever Saul was in life he would always find a way to come back to hockey. Through family/ relationships or the game, Hockey took a big part of Saul’s life throughout the whole book “when Fred Kelly opened it (the door) his face cracked into a wide grin. He’d aged well. His hair was silver and he’d gained a bit of weight. “Look who’s here”, he said. He held the door open and I walked in.” In the quote is says that the Kelly’s were happy to see him and they opened their doors happily welcoming him into their home, this shows that the relationships he made through hockey were ones that would stick with him for life. Even though Saul left them and went on his own to get away from all the hurt he had inside him, throughout this whole time the Kelly’s welcomed him with open arms and showed him where he belonged and where his family was. Hockey the only thing that Saul could rely on but also the relationships which he made through hockey were ones that were the most valuable to him and knew he could always count on. Saul had a hard childhood growing up; having his parents leave him, his grandmother died, and being raised in hell like environment of residential schools he was very unfortunate boy, through hockey Saul found an escape from all of the pain, sadness, abuse that he had been growing up with all these years. Hockey was his safe haven and the only thing that shaped Saul’s whole life. Saul said “when I hit the ice I left all of that behind me. I stepped onto the ice and Saul Indian Horse, the abandoned Ojibway kid”. When he said this it made it clear to the readers that Saul had found his safe haven, a place that would make him forget about his worries and pain and just enjoy the moment. This part of Saul life had a great impact on him because he didn’t have to suffer as much he had found something that would benefit him now and in the future, this is relevant because hockey created a whole future for him and gave him a better life, a life with its own imperfections but fresh start away from all the pain just like father leboutilier said “but the game offers him a better chance at a better life. He has an amazing natural talent. It could take him far,” (Wagamese, 96). This connection is very important top see because it was a point in the book that would change Saul’s life completely.

Majority of the events in the story which had a major impacts in Saul’s life had to do with the White community. Richard W. presented them throughout the whole book as racist, discriminative, and hateful of First Nations. The author wanted to show that the behaviours of the white community shown toward Saul and the Frist nations had a big effect on their life. In the book it was told many times that “St Jerome’s was hell on earth.” (Wagamese, 78) it also gave us many examples of the type of environment that was created in the residential schools like when Saul said “We lived under constant threat. If it wasn’t the direct physical threat of beatings, the iron sister or vanishing, it was the dire threat of purgatory, hell”…. “Those of us who remembered the stories told around our peoples trembled in fear at the images of hell, damnation, fire and brimstone” (Wagamese, 80). The type of environment that all of the aboriginal children were living in was very conflicted, like the quote said they were living under constant threat. That type of environment would have left a physical or mental scar on anybody that lived that way. This part of Saul’s life really shaped his whole life because he was taken from his family and culture and the white society completely stripped him from that, being in this situation completely shaped his whole life forever.

Throughout the whole book Saul had to live with all of the abuse, damage, and scars that were created by the behaviour shown by the white community. The actions taken toward Saul had affected his character as he grew older. All the pain that he had and the scar had changed him and the way he acted. When Saul had left the Kelly’s and started living a life of his own, working, he said “I did not offer to be a buddy to my fellow workers. I did not become chatty, I did no move beyond the safety of the wordless barrier I erected between myself and other people. The rage was still there. I sat square in my chest whenever I heard “chief,” “tonto,” “dumb injun” or the hundred other labels men applied to me. But I never reacted. I wouldn’t risk the explosion I knew would follow. ” The hurt he that the white community caused him years ago was still there, he never forgot about it, he kept it for so long that it started affecting his character and personality. Even if he moved left residential school quit hockey because of the harassment, all the racism and discrimination would still follow him everywhere he went. As much as he wanted to leave that in the past it still hurt him and he turned to things like alcohol, and at a point he ended up homeless, hungry and alone.

Society can be very complicated and finding it has become something that people grow from or that tears them down. Richard Wagamese chose to talk about certain group of society the way he did because it was what made up the story line and what affected the characters. What the author chose to show us through his representation of society had affected the story very much.


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