The usage of the Cherokee syllabary throughout Diane Glancy’s novel Pushing the Bear is significant because it expresses the importance of maintaining Cherokee cultural ideals as protest towards the United States government. The nine-hundred mile, four month journey that the Southeastern Cherokee tribes were forced to make in the winter of 1838 threatened to wipe out an entire culture. On the journey, approximately four thousand people lost their lives. As this harrowing story is portrayed in the novel, the importance of the language and maintaining the culture of the Cherokee people is the one of the few rays of hope in the harsh winter that gave courage to allow the Cherokees to keep going.
The novel is written in medias res. The plot picks up right at the removal of Maritole from her home. The novel continues on in a unique style, written in many points of view as opposed to from the vantage point of one character. The use of the syllabary without a translation helps support this style of writing. The authenticity of using the symbols of the language puts the reader of Pushing the Bear right into the story and gives the impression that the story is unfolding right in front of them.
The use of the syllabary in the novel is similar to the use of the their own language that the Cherokees used on the trail. The reader’s confusion at the unfamiliar language is comparable to the soldiers’ experience on the trail at the Cherokee language that they did not understand. “They don’t want us to be able to talk. They know our language gives us power.” (137) The novel itself is like the strength of the Cherokee people and their refusal to submit their culture to the United States government.
The Cherokee syllabary in the novel is also used to show the importance that language holds to the Cherokee people. The syllabary was completed by Sequoyah in 1821. The written Cherokee language helped the United States government recognize the tribes as ‘civilized tribes.’...
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