Industrial Capitalism in Each Man’s Son by Hugh McLennan

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Each Man’s Son, by Hugh MacLennan, is set in Cape Breton where the mining industry acts as the focal point in the lives of most characters. Mining brings “great wealth and prosperity, as well as great misery and environmental destruction” (Armstrong et al. vii). Industrial capitalism, in Each Man’s Son, is a toxic force that aids in presenting the negative social and physical effects on the community of Broughton through the changes in environment, the physical and emotional repercussions of the colliery being bombarded onto men, and the emotional effects the colliery has on women.
To begin with, the physical effects of the coal mine are explicitly comprehended by the macroscopic change in animals and bodies of water. “From the opening paragraph may be distilled the essence of the basic opposition of forces in the novel: natural and unnatural; light and darkness; the heights and the depths; harmony and imbalance” (Gilley 59). This sort of opposition further makes it clear how industrial capitalism is casting a shadow-like entity on the pastoral land of Cape Breton. MacLennan uses symbolism of organisms in the novel to establish concrete evidence for the environmental issues the coal mines have generated. For example, “the train look[s] like a column of black ants that had crawled up the stalk of a gigantic plant and died there” (MacLennan 9). This indicates the reality of the negative effect the mining industry has on Broughton. The pastoral scene that Mollie MacNeil and Alan MacNeil are watching is shattered by the colliery. Another comparison that MacLennan makes is of the tentacles of the octopus representing the galleries where the men work. These comparisons of the black ants and tentacles represent a dark outlook which is a...

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...nging environment, issues faced by men, and the primitive sadness that women are exposed to by the monstrous result of the coal mines.

Works Cited
Armstrong, Rita. et al. “Mining and Communities: Understanding the Context of Engineering
Practice” Morgan & Claypool (2014). Web. 2 April 2014.
Gilley, Robert. Myth and Meaning in the Three Novels of Hugh MacLennan. University of
British Columbia, 1967. Web. 2 April 2014.

MacLennan, Hugh. Each Man's Son. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2003. Print.

Vasil, Christina. Ann-Marie MacDonald in the Context of Hugh MacLennan and Alistair
Macleod: Gender Formation in Three Cape Breton Writers. Boston University, 1998.
Web. 2 April 2014.
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