The Indian, the Other in the Canadian quest for identity
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The 'Indian,' the 'Other' in the Canadian Quest for Identity focuses on four prairie novels of the 1970's to examine the relation of literature to a nation's identity. By looking at the way the authors use Indian characters and the myths of the place to connect with the "Wholly Other," the thesis suggests that some modern novelists see the necessity of learning from Indian characters both the shamanic metaphor -- that man must learn to divine the mysteries of life and death -- and the Metis metaphor -- that we must learn to mix the ancestral presences we bring with us with those we find in the place -- in order to re-establish contact with the spirit of the place, the collective unconscious, the sacred "Wholly Other" within and without. In Gone Indian Robert Kroetsch sets up a dialectic in which the young quester disproves his advisor's inexorably tragic world view by following guides across the frontier of consciousness to overcome his fear of life and death. W. O. Michell has his protagonist in The Vanishing Point learn from the reserve, the Indians, and the trickster characters to reject his civilized rational death-in-life and to participate once again in the dance of the living whole. In The Temptations of Big Bear Rudy Wiebe's attempt to "let the land speak" through an imaginative re-creation of the spirit of Big Bear is qualified by the author's allusive method which subsumes the spirit of Great Parent of Bear to the Christian "Wholly Other." Finally, in The Diviners, Margaret Laurence's heroine overcomes her modern anxiety about life and death by cognizing and recognizing her connections to the on-going cosmic process.