Hardships of Life Portrayed in Medicine River by Thomas King Essay

Hardships of Life Portrayed in Medicine River by Thomas King Essay

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During the course of life, shadows and dark times will come. It’s a fact of life. However, seeing the good, or light in those situations, is sometimes hard for us to do when the darkness is upon us. In “Medicine River” by Thomas King shows us that sometimes we need to take a retrospective look at past difficulties to fully grasp the positive aspects of them. One of the advantages of the dual-narrative style that Will writes in is that it allows the reader to draw parallels between the stories he tells in each chapter. In three of the chapters in this novel, Will describes past shadows in his life that correlate with more current ones he’s dealing with.

One of the stories Will tells about his past is of his mother’s death. This event was obviously very traumatic for Will and one of the largest shadows he’s ever endured. The fact that Will was away in Toronto when his mother passed away has left him with a lingering regret, even though it wasn’t possible for him to have known that she was sick. Will’s brother James, recounting to Will some of what their mother talked about on her deathbed, mentions a vacation that the three of them took to Lake Pokagon. In this story, Will remembers that his mother chose to rent a row-boat instead of a canoe because “a row-boat was safer” (233). The irony strikes the reader when their row-boat collides with a rock and springs a leak, causing the children to fear for their lives. In the more current contrasted story, Harlen and Luise convince Will to purchase a canoe so that they can all go boating together. In the inaugural trip, though, the canoe began to take on water. After Harlen urges him to start bailing water, Will realizes that “[they] didn’t have anything to bail with” (235), and soon, t...


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...s subjected to the elements of nature and was torn and destroyed, “some of the ink bled through, and for a long time after, you could see a faint outline of the eagle in the brick” (23). Just like ink bleeding through paper to leave a lasting outline when it’s gone, Harlen’s words bled into the minds of his basketball team, staying with them even when Harlen wasn’t.

Several chapters in Thomas King’s “Medicine River” deal with times in people’s lives when they were in a shadow, or a dark time. In each of these stories, Will uses a similar story from his past to elaborate more on the root concept of the hardship, and draw references to how they were handled in the past. In this way, the reader is given a unique view into Will’s personal memories and is therefore able to better understand his thoughts and actions on these occasions based on the experiences he’s had.

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