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Three Day Road-Niska’s Stories

By pcolquhoun Apr 29, 2012 1390 Words
While Niska tells Xavier her stories throughout Three Day Road, it helps the two quickly change as characters right before our eyes. While she tells these stories to an unconscious, traumatized Xavier, she grows, and becomes more comfortable with him, and more comfortable sharing the stories. They also they seep into Xavier’s subconscious while he is drifting and help guide him through the hardships he has faced and the ones he is about to go through. When Niska tells Xavier the tails of her life, and Xavier’s upbringing, it brings back old memories of when he and Elijah were young. These memories help pull Xavier through his injury, addiction, and memories he just cannot forget. Niska ultimately gains confidence in telling her nephew these things. She learns not to be self conscious, and that these stories may prove necessary to Xavier’s survival. If Niska had not helped her nephew through his toughest times, I know he wouldn’t have survived. Niska deserves the credit for her nephew, Xavier’s survival. Throughout the spiritual journey Elijah and Niska are on, Niska truly finds herself and begins to understand her life in the series of flashbacks she descriptively explains to Xavier. While Niska explains these stories to her nephew, the reader understands that she is a rather lonesome person, and she had never really shared her tales with anyone, “A sense of peace came over me as I prepared for another winter alone in the bush.” (176) Immediately you realize just how hard it is for her to do this, and how much she has held back her whole life. Xavier, who is often unconscious, asleep, or on morphine, is the last relative she has and she is desperately trying to help him survive. Her telling these stories to Xavier is many things, but mostly, a way to vent, and let somebody know all the hardships she has faced through her life. Another reason Niska may tell Xavier her life story is that nobody wants their life to be forgotten, so by telling her last living relative all this is a way for him to remember her, and her life, as the last of the real bush natives. “I am glad you are here with me.” (378) As she describes certain scenes, she finds herself getting somewhat emotional. This can only be expected when a person is reflecting on his or her life for the first time. She begins to understand all the mistakes she has made, and what she regrets about her choices. With Xavier being injured, this is the perfect time for Niska to tell her nephew, Xavier, how much he means to her in a series of stories based on both of their lives. “Something far worse is consuming Xavier from the inside. It’s this that I must figure out how to remove.” (34) Niska is the first, but not the only character healed by these powerful stories. Although Niska is changed through these stories, she is not affected nearly as much as Xavier is. While Niska tells him about the windigo, the bush native life, and her love stories, it gives him something to live for. Both nephew and Aunt are windigo killers but they did it in much different context. Xavier kills Elijah on the battlefield, far away, with a long struggle, where as Niska had the man under control and pinned down much closer to home. Even though there is a huge difference between the two situations, it brings them both together, as something that they both share and have experienced. Niska describes to Xavier his upbringing in a residential school, and then his life with Niska as a bush native. While Xavier listens closely to these stories, it brings back repressed memories of the terrible residential school, and his life before he joined the war. Throughout the whole battle, all he could think about was home, and now that he is home, he can barely believe it. It’s like he has rediscovered himself and soon he will find he is back into his old ways, even though he must deal with injuries, physically, mentally and spiritually. He loves Niska too much to die in her arms. Because of his mentally strong aunt, Xavier’s life is spared even though he will never be the same person. The war has changed him; he has killed, and seen his best friends be killed, but far worse, he has killed his best friend, something I’m sure he didn’t have in mind when he joined up with Elijah. Niska also describes to him her love story with the Frenchman which strongly relates to Xavier. A person who you thought you were in love with, that turned out to be false and fake. . “I paid a lot of money for her time with you. If I knew you were going to fall in love like a fool, I wouldn’t have done it.” (257) This once again helps heal Xavier, because it makes him realize, he is not the only one who has dreamed about a lover, when they didn’t think or feel the slightest amount of love back. The story of the Frenchman killing himself may in some weird way give Xavier some satisfaction, knowing that back in France, if the woman is still alive, she may be upset with herself for the way she treated Xavier. In these three main ways, Niska’s stories help lead Xavier through the troubles, and help him emerge on the other side, a stronger person than ever.

The final main use that these stories entail is the remembrance of a good friend, Elijah Whiskeyjack. Although by the end of the story Elijah was a war hungry beast, the stories help him be remembered for the good he did, rather than the evil. Niska tells tails of the time when both Xavier and Elijah were young, when the pair were closest. Elijah was X’s only friend and helped him not go insane with boredom by himself. Xavier and Niska helped teach the adopted Elijah about the woods, and about the real bush native way of life. “We are great hunters and best friends, yes?” “Yes.” (2) They taught him to hunt animals, how to be silent while hunting, how to track his prey, and how to kill. All these skills became apparent when he started fighting, but Niska’s stories did not remind Xavier of the war. She reminded Xavier that rather than hating Elijah for what he had done, he should love him and remember him for the real friend he was. “Xavier and Elijah turn and smile at me as they paddle away.” (379) Because all and all, he was a friend; someone Xavier could share his ideas, thoughts and views with, and somebody to help him with his poor English and bad social behavior. Although Elijah could never totally change Xavier, he helped him quite a bit up on many aspects of normal life. Niska telling and reminding Xavier of all of the good memories with Elijah helps take some of the guilt off of Xavier’s back. Elijah would be proud of the amazing leaps Xavier has taken since the pair last spoke. He has grown more in the few months than I think he ever has before. He has learned, and has talked to Elijah through his visions. “But I cannot forgive everything you did there; it is not my place to do so.” (380) The pair is once more at peace, and friends, like they were always meant to be. “Despite what I’ve done here, what you’ve done here, we can still go home together like we always planned.” (343) The strong, powerful, and real stories Niska tells Xavier changes both characters for the good. The way Niska explains her life, pulls Xavier through his illness, injuries, and addiction helping him emerge on the good side of life as a strong man who has fought a battle with himself and won. Niska without realizing it helps herself by getting her life story out there, and finally telling someone about all the troubles she has had in her years. The fact these stories helps both characters give them both a sense of security with the other person. This is what they both needed to overcome all challenges life has and will throw at them.

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