As Long as the Rivers Flow: Novel Analysis

Topics: First Nations, Aboriginal peoples in Canada, Canadian Indian residential school system Pages: 3 (1011 words) Published: March 15, 2013
“Aggressive assimilation” of First Nations people was a policy developed by the Canadian government in the 19th century (Davidson, 2012). This policy was taught in the residential schools of Canada and has had a strong negative impact on the Canadian community. As Long as the Rivers Flow is a novel written by the former Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, James Bartleman. It examines the sexual, physical and psychological abuse committed on Canada’s First Nations children. Bartleman’s style of writing effectively informs the reader of the First Nation people’s experiences in Canada through fiction. Word choice, structure and point of view are all methods used by Bartleman to develop an informative and fictionalized account following the life of a residential school survivor, Martha Whiteduck.

Bartleman brings to life a variety of different characters while following Martha’s experiences. As Long as the Rivers Flow is written in the third person omniscient, allowing the reader to witness more than one character’s story and perspective. For instance, the commonly disconnected relationship between mother and daughter, both victim to the effects of the residential schools, is seen from many perspectives. Martha expresses to her daughter, Raven, that if she does not “straighten out, [she’d] end up on the streets just like [her] father” (Bartleman, p200). Martha’s negative and physical interactions with her daughter cause Raven to become “defiant and rebellious” (p201). This is revealed to the reader through the secret actions of Raven. She and her friends “gather at night” to express their “disgust at life and revolt against their parents by smoking and drinking” (p202). Witnessing both characters’ experiences through their emotions and actions allows the reader to develop a greater understanding of the impact of residential school’s on families. Thus, one is able to form an opinion on the matter with a greater perspective.

Not only does Bartleman’s style reveal...
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