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A Complicated Kindness

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Alicia Yoshino

on 11 June 2014

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Transcript of A Complicated Kindness

The setting plays a major part in the novel A Complicated Kindness. The story would not have the same effect if it had taken place anywhere else. The story is set in the rocky countryside of Manitoba, in an unbearable Mennonite village where you must do, say, and act as you’re told, or be excommunicated (no matter what age).
Overall, the plot works (has unity), but a lot of the episodes and memories that Nomi shares have nothing to do with the plot at all. The unrelated episodes still do affect the meaning of the story even though they have no significance; but they show growth of a character very subtly, and/or be a part in how Nomi acts later on in the story.
Naomi Nickel (Nomi, the one telling the story), Lydia Voth (Nomi's best friend), Raymond Nickel (Ray, Nomi's father), Travis (Nomi's boyfriend), Hans Rosenfeldt (Nomi's uncle, also referred to as 'The Mouth of Darkness' and/or 'The Mouth'), Gertrude Dora Nickel (Trudie, Nomi's mother), Natasha Dawn Nickel (Tash, Nomi's sister)

In the book, there is conflict in the Mennonite Community. It is person vs beliefs, meaning that there is conflict against what they believe and their personal emotions. So, when sympathy is shown to people who are in association with members that are shunned or excommunicated in East Village, it gives this controversial conflict of religious beliefs.
A Complicated Kindness
Written by:Miriam Toews
Mennonite: A member of an Anabaptist church characterized by nonviolence, refusal to swear oaths, and often simplicity of life.
An example of this would be “there is kindness here,” Nomi assures us, “a complicated kindness. You see it sometimes in the eyes of the people when they look at you and don’t know what to say. When they ask me how my dad is, for instance, and mean how am I managing without my mother.” (p.46) Nomi’s mom is non-existent in East Village, because she is one of the few that is excommunicated but people still express their concern towards Nomi and her dad.
For example: “When I got to my driveway my neighbour came out all pissed off with her screaming son on her hip. There were bubbles coming out of the kid’s mouth and my neighbour said he’d just eaten two of her bath beads that she’d been saving for her anniversary night. That’s too bad, I said. My neighbour told me to just wait until I had kids. And then what? I asked. Well, then you’ll know true misery, she said. Oh then?” (p 242)
Presentation by: Alicia Yoshino
In my opinion, the slaughterhouse is a symbol of chains to Nomi future. Its like a religion; no one wants to follow it, but for life they feel like they have to. They obey all of religious rules to protect themselves, if not, they will be punished. Nomi works in a slaughterhouse, it seems like she lives in such a town. She is just like the chicken and cows which will be killed. Helpless, powerless, and hopeless. She lives in a traditional town that if you break the common religious rules, you will be punished as well. It shows us the main reason why Nomi’s mother and sister left.
Creative task:
d. Quotation Analysis Presentation

Happy Family Farms: Happy Family Farms is the chicken-slaughterhouse in Nomi's town. This is where Nomi believes she will work when she graduates high school. It relates to the theme because she sees no hope in her future. "I'm sixteen now, young to be on the verge of graduating from high school, and only months away from taking my place on the assembly line of death." (page 2)

East Village: The East Village in Canada is the place where Nomi and her family lived. The town was created when Mennonites fled persecution in Russia and hoped to create their own paradise. This place gives off a sense of hopelessness thereby relating to the theme.

Kliewer's Machine Shop: It is on the roof of this machine shop that Trudie sits to see the Queen's visit to East Village.

Suicide Hill: Suicide Hill is the place where Nomi meets Travis and the two begin dating. This is the beginning of healing Nomi's hopelessness, in which relates to the theme.
The settings are:
Throughout the entire novel I found there to be a sense of hope and that that feeling would often come from Nomi. She even mentions her hopefulness at some points, since the book is written as her conscious thoughts, it’s quite visible when she has hope or a lack of it. The first time I noticed hope as a theme in the novel was when Nomi mentioned that her mother looked “obscenely, heartbreakingly hopeful” (page 21) in her passport picture.
Therefore, my thesis is that the theme carried out through the whole story is that there is a lack of hope that has not completely disappeared.
All of the members of Nomi’s family are developing characters in the story A Complicated Kindness. The main characters in the novel are Nomi, her father Ray, her boyfriend Travis and maybe her mother Trudie. It would be untrue to say that all of the main characters are developing characters because Travis does not develop, but he takes a pretty big role in the book and Tash, Nomi’s sister, is not a main character because she isn't significant enough. They all contribute to theme because they all feel a sense of hopelessness.
This book, tells the sad story of a teenage girl whose family as well as her own life has been torn apart by an overly controlling religion. Nomi struggles through her own crisis of faith and hope as she tries to deal with the disappearance of both her mother and older sister. Eventually Nomi's rebellious behavior causes her to be excommunicated from her church. It is Nomi's father who loves her enough to give her the freedom she needs to leave the town and the religion that she finds so suffocating.
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