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Characters of this story by Thomas King include the strong-willed mother who feels as if she declares herself a “Canadian” she is denouncing her native roots. She sees the Blackfoot as a whole and refuses to acknowledge the “border” around it. She is loyal and stands her ground as a member of the Blackfoot tribe. Her son who is also the Narrator is about 13 years old and also the brother of Laetitia. He mostly observes the conflict although he is a part of it. He tried to relieve some of the tension between his mother and the guards by telling them their national identity, but the guards did not acknowledge him due to him being a minor. Laetitia is the daughter of the Mother and sister of the narrator. She left the Blackfoot reserve where her mother and brother lived at the age of 17 so she can find a better life, for herself and no one else’s. She is the one that the mother and Narrator are trying to cross the American Border to see.

Another character in the story is Mel, he is the manager of the duty-free shop by the border. The mother and Narrator meet him when their car was parked in the parking lot and he asked them if their car was broken. He recognizes the mother’s strength of character and their determination to seek justice. He is very impressed with the mother’s strength. He supports them because he sees justice as a difficult thing to come by. The guards of the border: They are doing their job and asking the mother what nationality she is and cannot let her through with her response of just “Blackfoot.”

The Story takes place at the US/Canadian border where most of the tension takes place. The Duty-Free shop where the mother and the Narrator meet Mel (the man who notices their determination for justice. Their car where they slept, ate, and drove from the American border back to the Canadian border, refusing to give up. Salt Lake City where they were trying to go to meet Laetitia.

This story is told by a young boy around 12-13 years old who is observing his mothers’ interaction with the Guards and his sister. He tells the story in a calm, relaxing, and even humorous tone. Because the story is being told through the eyes of a boy and not an adult, we see from his point of view, parts of the story that is filled with tension, humorously. He also narrates the story in a sort of naïve way. He is young and doesn’t comprehend that this situation is a very historic and proud moment for his mother. We see this in him when his mother is telling him traditional stories and all he can think about is if Mel would bring them hamburgers.

There is a lot of tension in the story, every time the mother goes to the border and declares herself “Blackfoot” she is lying about her citizenship and could very well get into a lot of trouble with the federal government of Canada. We see here that to her “Border” is not only an imaginary line dividing two countries but a line between natives and the rest of society.

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There is tension when she interacts with the guards, the narrator (the boy) even at young age notices the gun on the guard’s hips. This hints to the reader that they (the guards) would detain or even hurt the mother as she continues to waste federal government time. The gun is a symbol of power and control. The guards have the control to let the mother and son through the border.

There is also some tension between the mother and Laetitia, who wants to “find a better life” in Salt Lake City. Laetitia wants to go to Salt Lake City for reasons that are solely hers. And this is not something that the people in their community do; Laetitia makes her mother so proud of her when she sends them postcards of how well she is doing, that the mother swallows her pride and decides to cross the border and visit Salt Lake City.

You cannot understand the “mother” unless you understand the Native community and the native community and the pain and suffering they went through when their lives were changed by the Europeans. She is a proud woman and loyal to her tribe. She does not acknowledge the “borders” that separate her land and her people.

The mother is the focalized person in the story. The narrator is observing and narrating his mothers’ actions and what is happening at the border. His focalization shifts from the present to the past, where his focalization was his sister and her decision to leave the Blackfoot tribe to “find a better life” In Salt Lake City. Whenever his thoughts shift to the past it is when he is thinking about his sister Laetitia.

The story “border” is a native fiction story. Filled with metaphors about the struggles the native communities had to face during colonization. The story relates to the native fiction genre in how they were humiliated, degraded, and stolen from. This story relates to the native genre in many ways. They show the hardship the natives have to overcome. They show the native’s point of view. Natives never did anything wrong but were portrayed that way by the early Canadian confederation. They were oppressed and taken into slavery and residential schools or reformed into the “proper Canadian.”

The binary oppositions are the Guard, borders who are part of the federal government who control Canada and oppressed the Natives in the early days (presence). The mother is part of the Blackfoot tribe and a native whose ancestors were oppressed by the government of Canada (absence). The Mother, the native woman, did not acknowledge the border or her Canadian citizenship. She only recognized herself as a member of the Blackfoot tribe. She does not want to acknowledge to the government that her land was taken and broken into two pieces which were now part “American” and part “Canadian.

Reference:

  1. “Short Fiction Notes and Supplements”. Borders, 2010, https://pennersf.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/borders.pdf. Accessed February 17th, 2019.

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