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No Great Mischief
Transcript of No Great Mischief
Alistair Macleod uses animal imagery and symbolism to highlight important aspects of Calum MacDonald throughout his journey from adolescence to adulthood.
Calum's unquestionable loyalty to his family, natural leadership and lose of a sense of home are all represented by an animal in No Great Mischief. Animal Imagery and Symbolism Definition: Animals within a story that are present in order to to provoke mental images or ideas surrounding the likenesses between the behavior or life of that animal and the behavior or life of a character also within the story. Clan Calum Ruadh Dogs Both Calum and the dogs are unwaveringly loyal to their family. “As they waited on the shore, the dog who had worked with them for years and had been left to the care of the neighbours ran about in a frenzy, sensing that something was wrong, and rolling in the sand and whining in her agitation. And when they began to wade out the smaller boat which would take them to the waiting ship, she swam after them, her head cutting a v through the water and her anxious eyes upon the departing family she considered as her own. And as they were rowed towards the anchored ship, she continued to swim, in spite of shouted Gaelic threats and exhortations telling her to go back; swimming farther and farther from the land, until Calum Ruadh, unable to stand it any longer, changed his shouts from threats to calls of encouragement and, reaching over the side, lifted her soaked and chilled and trembling body into the boat. As she wriggled wetly against his chest and licked his face excitedly, he said to her in Gaelic, ‘Little dog, you have been with us all of these years and we will not forsake you now. You will come with us.’ ‘That always got to me, somehow,’ I remember my grandfather saying ‘that part about the dog.’” (Macleod, 22-23) , “Do you remember,’ she asked, ‘when Grandpa would drink his whisky and how he would start to cry when he told the story about the dogs going back across the ice to the island? Of how he let her go because she broke his heart. And of how she was shot by the man who didn’t know.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘shot by the man who grabbed her by the hind legs and threw her into the sea.’ ‘Oh, I think of that so many, many times. It was as if she had what the churches call a ‘strong faith,’ you know. That she waited and waited for them, thinking that they would come back, long after everyone else had given up hope. Thinking that they would come back and she would be there waiting for them.’” (Macleod, 95) Quotation no.2 Quote no. 1 Christy the Mare After the death of his parents Calum becomes very emotionally reserved but he cares deeply for Christy and seeks her company as he would a friend. “Eventually they built themselves a primitive skid way of creosoted timber, which they coated with grease and which made both the launching and the landing considerably easier. On the shore, beside the skid way, they kept a horse collar and a set of harnesses and a whipple tree and chain. And each morning, when they set out, they took with them a can of oats with a tightly secured lid, which they placed within the bow of the boat. When their day on the water was done and as they approached the shore, my oldest brother, Calum, would stand forward in the bow and, placing the fingers of his right hand within his mouth, emits two piercing whistles. And the mare, Christy, although often grazing a mile away with the other horses, would raise her head and toss her mane and come galloping down towards the shore, sending the small rocks and flecks of turf flying before her eager hooves” (Macleod 76-77) Quotation no.1 Quotation no.2 .“As the boat approached the shore, the engine which had been so troublesome all day was shut off and Calum went to prow and uttered two shrill whistles. We could not see any horses, but they assumed they were standing in the trees as they sometimes did to take shelter from the rain. He whistled again and the she appeared, silhouetted in the rain high above the Calum Ruadh’s Point. And then she came galloping down to meet us. Once, her hind legs slipped sideways on the rain-drenched footing, leaving a brown skid mark on the wet greenness of the grass, but she recovered quickly and came hurling headlong down towards us. “Where’s the goddamn oats?” He said as he prepared to go over the side to meet her. My omission was suddenly noticeable to all. “Jesus Christ,” he said. “As if there hasn’t been enough wrong with this goddamn day, now this.”(78-79) The V of Geese .“ That afternoon [Calum] took three loaves of bread and two boxes of sugar cubes and went down to the land beneath the Calum Ruadh’s Point…It was a hot afternoon and only the forms of the horses could be seen standing in the trees to take shelter from the flies. But when he placed his fingers within his mouth and emitted the two sharp whistles, the response was immediate. There was a motion among the trees and the horses, and she came galloping down towards the shore… “Ah Christy” he said, “m’eudail bheag,” as she thrust her head into his chest. She had grown grey about the eyes, and muzzle, and a slight film, was beginning to appear in her left eye. All afternoon he lay on the warm grass offering her the bread and sugar cubes while she nuzzled his face and his twisted neck, placing her great hooves carefully about the outline of his body” (131) Quote no. 3 “When the Canada geese fly north in spring, there is a leader who points the way, a leader at the apex of the V as the formation moves across the land. Those who follow must believe that the leader is doing the best he can, but there is no guarantee that all journeys will end in salvation for everyone involved”. (260) The Whale Representation of Calum's final downfall.
Both the whale and Calum were out of their element but by the time they realized it was too late. “Out of the water, he was no longer black and glistening but dull and brown in the beginning of death.I went home and told my brothers, and later they came down and we all looked upon him. We decided that he had not realized that the tide was falling and that in the afternoon’s high spirits he had come too close to the shore and in one of his undulating dives he had found not the expected depth of the water but instead the submerged and jagged reef which had slashed his soft underbelly and left him disemboweled and unable to rise again. We thought of ourselves as deceptive male sirens who had lured him to his death, although we did not phrase our thoughts in such language at the time.” (100-101 Quotation no.1 Quotation no.2 “Hundreds of yards inland, we later found the body itself, disguised beneath a small mountain of brown and tangled seaweed adorned with scattered stones and sticks of broken driftwood. The sea had taken the body in instead of out, and it stayed there for more than a year until only it’s bones were visible to the eye.” The Vision of Alistair Macleod Jane Urquhart Are there any other examples of animal symbolism in NGM for any other characters? Question: Question: Are there other types of imagery used besides animal imagery to represent important aspects of the novel? "All of the stories have been "tuned to perfection" both technically and emotionally and with such care that they burst into sensual life as we read. We see and feel the cold, wet nose of the beloved dog, the delicate form of an embryo calf exposed within the slaughtered body of it's mother, captured lobsters moving awkwardly on the floor of a fishing boat. But, most important, we are witness to a deepness of caring that binds man to woman, father to son, man to animal, and humanity to kin and landscape." (pg 40) "Someone, a grandfather I beleive, says, "it was in those dogs to care too much, try too hard," meaning that this exaggerated trying and caring was bred into such dogs in Scotland over 150 years ago. Sitting in the audience, I was suddenly convinced that Macleod was describing not only a certain breed of dog but all his characters, animal and human, and the writer himself, engaged in his craft." (pg42) Macleod's work is thematically consistent with his use of animals to add depth to characters.
Urquhart talks about Macleod's use of imagery to link his characters to other physical aspects of his novels and short stories.
Intensification of emotion through the use of the natural world. The End Are there any questions?