The Loons

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Journal of the Short Story in English
48  (Spring 2007) Varia
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Jennifer Murray

Negotiating Loss and Otherness in Margaret Laurence’s “The Loons” ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

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Electronic reference Jennifer Murray, « Negotiating Loss and Otherness in Margaret Laurence’s “The Loons” », Journal of the Short Story in English [Online], 48 | Spring 2007, Online since 01 juin 2009, Connection on 01 avril 2013. URL : http:// jsse.revues.org/index858.html Publisher: Presses universitaires d'Angers http://jsse.revues.org http://www.revues.org Document available online on: http://jsse.revues.org/index858.html Document automatically generated on 01 avril 2013. The page numbering does not match that of the print edition. © All rights reserved

Negotiating Loss and Otherness in Margaret Laurence’s “The Loons”

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Jennifer Murray

Negotiating Loss and Otherness in Margaret Laurence’s “The Loons” : p. 71-80
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“The Loons” belongs to Margaret Laurence’s story-sequence A Bird in the House which is built around the character Vanessa MacLeod and her growing-up years in the fictional town of Manawaka, Manitoba.1 Following on from the collection’s title story which has the death of Vanessa’s father as its central event, “The Loons” is set in a time prior to the father’s death and is the first of three stories which deal with Vanessa’s progressive opening up to the world around her and her increasing awareness of the suffering, poverty and forms of oppression outside of her family circle (Stovel 92). More specifically, “The Loons” gives us Vanessa’s perception of a young girl called Piquette Tonnerre who is of Métis descent and who accumulates the social disadvantages of poverty, illness, ethnic discrimination and being female. The story has been taken to task for the questionable values attached to its use of Piquette as the stereotype of the doomed minority figure, most notably by Tracy Ware who asks: “To what extent [does this short story] confirm a debased master narrative that regards Natives as victims of a triumphant white civilization?” (71). At the same time, Ware recognizes the “enduring sense of [the] aesthetic merit” (71) of this story which so clearly has its place within the canon of Canadian literature. Evaluating the text against its depiction of the Métis can only lead to the negative conclusions that Ware arrives at, namely, that Laurence’s “The Loons” falls ideologically short of the expectations of today’s politically-conscious reader. What this reading of “The Loons” does not take into account is that the “aesthetic merit” of the story is situated elsewhere—not in the portrait or role of Piquette as such, but in the story’s treatment of loss and in the central role of the father in the symbolics of this particular knot of meaning. In the context of the full story-sequence, loss and the father would seem more naturally associated in “A Bird in the House,” where the death of the father is the central event. In “The Loons,” the death of the father is recalled and reactivated as an informing event related to other moments in Vanessa’s life and to her relationship...
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