Tracing the Development of Theme in the Way the Crow Flies

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Tracing the Development of Theme
in The Way the Crow Flies

In Isaiah Berlin’s Agnelli Prize winning essay, “The Pursuit of the Ideal,” the British philosopher claims that, “we are doomed to choose, and every choice may entail an irreparable loss.” Berlin’s statement is proven true in The Way the Crow Flies by award winning author Ann-Marie MacDonald. Set in a post-war era, The Way the Crow Flies tells a captivating story of a wing commander, named Jack McCarthy, and his family after they move to a close-knit community called Centralia. Jack’s choices in Centralia eventually place him in a compromising position. His daughter, Madeleine, falls victim to her fourth grade teacher’s horrible abuse after school. These two main plots are then intertwined with the death of a little girl, and an innocent boy named Ricky Froelich is placed on trial for her murder. Now, both Madeleine and her father Jack find themselves doomed to choose secrecy or exposure and find that every choice they make has great consequences. Over the course of The Way the Crow Flies, the theme of choice and its consequences is developed by Cold War chicanery, sexual abuse, and confrontation.

The Cold War was a power struggle between the United States and Russia. In The Way the Crow Flies, both governments make choices during the Cold War that eventually set off a chain of events leading up to the sentence of Ricky Froelich. During World War II, Jewish slaves built rockets in an underground facility called Dora under the supervision of Nazi scientists. When World War II ended, many of the scientists fled Germany to avoid prosecution from the American government. In The Way The Crow Flies, the U.S. government secretly recruits Nazi scientists to benefit the American space program. The CIA’s decision to help a Nazi scientist in order to benefit its government is a choice that eventually infects the small community of Centralia. When Jack McCarthy, a well-respected Wing Commander in the Air...
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