The Loons by Margaret Laurence

The Loons by Margaret Laurence

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"The Loons" by Margaret Laurence


In the short story "The Loons", Margaret Laurence writes the story of Piquette Tonnerre. A half-Indian girl who grows up under harsh circumstances in a society that suppresses half-breeds. The story is told through another girl, Vanessa, who comes in contact with Piquette through her father. As the title suggests the story also includes a special type of birds, the loons, and we can see an obvious comparison between the loons and Piquette. The loons are very special creatures; they are man-shy and can only be heard at night when they start their cry-like calling. It is said that one that has heard the loons cry, will not ever forget it.

            One of the main parts, or maybe the main part of the story, takes place by a lake that is the habitat of a group of these birds, and one could say that the whole story evolves around these beings. The human destroying of the loons' natural habitat symbolizes the invasion the white people made on the Indians territory. This is Piquette's background, and as the birds she suffers from this. The loons show no interest in humans and Piquette also as it seems has stopped caring about other people. She acts indifferently to her surroundings, and nowhere in the story can we see her showing any heartfelt feelings. As the birds become familiar to a new environment near their invaders, and have the chance to adapt to this "nearer to civilian life", Piquette marries a white man and has the chance to make a new life. Both the birds' chance and Piquette's attempt fail. Now they are forced to find another way of living. Their old way has been destroyed by the newcomers, and they have not succeeded in adapting to the white people's unyielding life style.

"Perhaps they had gone away to some far place of belonging. Perhaps they had been unable to find such a place, and had simply died out, having ceased to care any longer whether they lived or not."


This is a strange way to describe a group of birds, and in this case I think the meaning is directed towards Piquette entirely. The far place of belonging being the old way of the Indian's, which she has been "unable to find" because of the European invaders.

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In the end she ceases to care if she lives or not, we understand this trough her heavy drinking and her indifference to her own wellbeing, and at last she "dies out" because of this.

            The only one who heard the crying of the loons, according to the last line of the story, was Piquette. After all, even if she never had heard their actual mournful singing, she herself had experienced the very same as the birds. The loons also have a symbolic value in Vanessa's own life. She connects the crying of the loons with idyllic memories from her childhood. Along with all the other changes that have been made around her old summer-paradise, the disappearance of the loons ascertains that her childhood is long gone.


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