No Great Mischief

Topics: Family, Grandparent, Clan Donald Pages: 5 (1820 words) Published: October 30, 2003
In No Great Mischief, Alistair MacLeod proves to the reader that it is impossible to talk about the Scottish-Canadian heritage without mentioning tradition, family and loyalty. MacLeod wrote this book about loyalty to family tradition. It is common to talk about these three things when one describes his family or his past in general, but in this book, MacLeod has included every single intricate detail about each one of the three aspects.

Family plays the biggest role in this novel. Anything that the characters say or do usually has to do with family. The first time Alexander MacDonald, the narrator of the story, mentions family it is not his own. It is one of the immigrant families picking berries along the road that he is driving on (MacLeod 1). This point takes him directly into a slight mention of his own family: the grandmother (3). Since there is no main character in the book, it is thought to be the narrator. However, I wish to disagree with this fact and say that the real main character in this book is Alexander's brother, Calum, who lives in Toronto. The first time Calum is introduced, one of the first things to come out of his mouth is of family: "I have been thinking the last few days of Calum Ruadh," (11). We find out that Alexander has a close relationship with his brother and he drives to Toronto to visit him every weekend. This has become almost a tradition because he does not visit him to actually have a constructive conversation or to resolve a problem, although Calum has many of them, the most serious of which is drinking, but instead he visits him only for the sake of visiting him. It is also a tradition in that they do the same thing every time: they drink, not so much Alexander as Calum. We later find out that Alexander has a similar tradition set up with other family members. The most distinct of which is his relationship with his grandmother: Grandma. When he visits Grandma, it is always the same routine: they sing long Gaelic songs, like the ones that their ancestors would. Alexander, for most of the first half of the book, does not talk about his present day family as much as his ancestors. He provides the reader with the information about how he wound up in Canada and what his ancestors had to go through to get here. Throughout this part of the book, Alexander makes it seem as if his family is more of an organization then a nuclear family of today, partly because of the things they do, partly because their relationships with each other, and partly because of their ultimate goal: survival. MacLeod gives us a blatant example of MacDonald's family having this quality when he describes them walking across the ice (48-50). MacLeod shows us that they are a model with everyone perfectly aware of their roles: the elder siblings looking after their younger ones, with the parents as the chief supervisors of the whole operation. It seems that the goal of the ancestors is constantly there with the family. It is obvious that this goal is not fully brought to modern times but there are still traits of it in Alexander's current lifestyle. However, we see that the roles have been reversed with time. Now, the youngsters, Alexander and Catherine are at the head of the family. They are the more successful ones and in the brothers' case, it is obviously Alexander taking care of Calum, not vice versa as before. They are more successful in that they were able to break away from the mining trade that their family has adopted in the past. They did this partly because of the fact that they simply did not want to work in the mines but also because they were the only family members to realize that it is not 1497 anymore and that it is time to move forward. However, the other four brothers are quite happy with what they have and do not mind the excessive physical labour that they undergo. They even seem to be happy to stay true to their roots. I think that Alexander has realized that in order to stay true to your origins you...
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