Overview of Alistar Macleod's No Great Mischief

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Alistar Macleod’s “No Great Mischief” is a novel full of constant recollections of the Clann Calum Ruadh’s past and genealogy and relating it to the history of Canada; everything that happened in the family’s past effected the life they live currently. This is evident in the characters Alexander McDonald, his brother Calum, the different groups of people and all the connections they have with their family’s past and connections they have with the Clann Calum Ruadh. Alexander is the main character and is the one explaining the story of the past in a very short time period in the present and he connects the family lines throughout history. Calum, the older brother, was left to take care of himself and his siblings at a young age, which results in his drunkenness at the present. Included in the story, at many different time periods, are various groups of people, such as the French Canadians, the English, and the Migrant workers who make an impact on the characters of the story. The reoccurring phrase “Always look after your own blood” (14) was passed down the family line and is questioned and demonstrated by the characters.

Alexander MacDonald, the narrator of the story, was the youngest with his twin sister, Catherine, and grew up on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. He was also known as the “gille beag Ruadh” meaning “the little red-haired boy”(18), a nickname given to him as a young boy. When he was three, the tragic happening of the death of his parents occurred, which changed the course of his life. That was the day where the visit to his grandparents’ house ended up being a permanent visitation of his youth. As young Alexander grew up, his grandparents would always be telling his family stories of their clan’s past and how they cam...

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...raising them. One example of how she displayed this was when she wrote
“Indeed, as the novel traces the progeny of the originary Calum Ruadh over subsequent generation, the clan are made emblematic founders of Canadian settlement. ‘I think of them as winning Canada for us’ retorts Grandpa to the other grandfather’s skeptical account of General Wolfe’s abuse of the Scottish Highlanders in Quebec (108)”. (134)
Overall, I agree with the arguments she presents in her article and find some of them correspond very well with the conclusion I had written about.

Works Cited

Sugars, Cynthia. "Repetition with a Difference: The Paradox of Origins in Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief.” Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne [Online], (2008), Web. 20 Nov. 2013

MacLeod, Alistair. No Great Mischief. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1999.

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