“The Loons”: Social Racism Kills a Metis Girl
Margaret Laurence’s short story “The Loons” from A Bird in the House has proven highly controversial as an example of racist literature. The Loons, is a representation of racial separation in mid-western Canada in the early 1900's. Here, Margaret Laurence uses setting and characterization to show how severe the prejudice of white people can be towards half breeds, after the period of new colonization. Piquette Tonnere, protagonist, who intends to fight those prejudices eventually, dies, leaving readers surprised to observe the cruelty of the society.
The tale “The Loons” illustrates how racism exists in the guise of good intentions, intolerance and stereotyping. When Vanessa's good-hearted father Ewen decides to invite Picquette to stay at the family cottage, it is the narrator's mother, who first puts up resistance. Vanessa's mother Beth is intimidated at the possibility of hosting Picquette and shows how intolerant she is. "Oh Dear, "my mother said in distress, "I'll bet anything she has nits in her hair." (Laurence 418). Vanessa’s mother Beth is also found to describe the event of Piquette’s death in sadist way: “She was up in court a couple of times—drunk and disorderly, of course” (Laurence 423). By adding “of course” at the end, the readers know that it’s not an honest mistake that Vanessa’s mother mentioned all of those sordid details, and it also confirms her attitude toward Piquette.Vanessa’s grandmother MacLeod is one step ahead displaying unconscious, blind racism and a lack of tolerance for Piquette. Grandmother decides not to go to the cottage if Picquette is invited and displays her intolerance. "Ewen, if that half-breed youngster comes along to Diamond Lake, I'm not going," she announced. "I'll go to Morag's for the summer." (Laurence 418). Even the narrator, Vanessa, is far from perfect in her attitude towards Picquette. Vanessa tends to develop a relationship with Piquette at the cottage, not...
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