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Three Day Road

A novel study of Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
by

Brianna Penner

on 17 January 2013

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Transcript of Three Day Road

Three Day Road Theme Three Day Road, a novel written by Joseph Boyden, is a story featuring the events of The Great War and the struggles of two main characters through this horrific ordeal. It is an adventure about friendship gained, innocence lost, and hardships overcome. The story's main theme revolves around the idea that the decisions we make are important, and that we may have to forgive ourselves after we discover what the outcome of our decision is. Both Elijah and Xavier make important choices that shape their lives. Based on their decisions, they create their own mini-themes. by Joseph Boyden "A tale that's pure magic ... Boyden's braided stories twine together to a surprisingly gentle ending. There is death-many deaths-but there is also rebirth and beauty in this author's passionate storytelling in the world he describes."
- Straight.com Xavier's mini-theme is that if we stay true to ourselves, we become the best that we can be, and are ultimately victorious. Niska watches as the world around her evolves, leaving her, her wisdom, and her culture in the dust. Elijah's story shows that when we do lose track of who we are, it can have dramatic and even life changing consequences. Character Development Xavier Xavier is Niska's nephew through her sister, Rabbit. He is an Ojibwe native that was abandoned by his mother and forced into a residential school, where Christian nuns attempted to assimilate him into the white society. Xavier is a dynamic, strong character. He learns quickly from his Aunt, and is confident, like her. When he goes to war with his childhood friend Elijah, they are sent together to a sanction to fight, and Xavier quickly becomes solitary and reserved. This is partially because he can't speak English fluently, as he left the residential school when his Aunt Niska offers to take him from there and teach him his people's way. Xavier is disheartened by the events of the war, and falls into a fast depression, but he always stays true to his customs. This is seen through him murdering Elijah, confirming that he is a windigo killer, like his Aunt before him, and her father before her. However, it is too much for him, and he looses himself to morphine. Elijah Elijah is a boy Xavier met at school. In his young years he is curious, but contains a hidden rebellious streak. He relies on Xavier much throughout his childhood, and learns lessons through Xavier's actions and words. During The Great War, Elijah becomes akin to a war hero and grows independent from Xavier. He often goes through dangerous paths to find heroic ends, and boasts about his great achievements. He, through the actions and encouragement of Grey Eyes, slowly succumbs to the desire of morphine, and a madness slowly seeps into his being. He becomes a windigo, a cannibal, and skins the scalps off his victims and claims them as proof for his defeat over them, and as his trophies. His madness consumes til his death, where Xavier suffocates him with his rifle. Niska Niska is the daughter of a windigo killer, and it is customary that this honourary title passes down to her upon her father's death. She is a wild-child, and for the first decades of her life, strays from her destiny. Niska diverts from her spiritual path, indulging herself in men and freedom from her tribe's ways. After being betrayed by the man she loves, Niska learns the hard lesson that she is viewed as a second class citizen, and will be treated as one by the white civilization. She grows wise over her many years in the bush, becoming a successful medicine woman. She accepts the gifts she has been given, and helps neighbouring tribes in their times of need. She later finds and takes care of her nephew, Xavier. Motif A clear motif in Three Day Road is rain. It makes a return multiple times in the story, and makes for good comparison. Rain can pound like the sound of gunfire, and "sadness can collect [there] as quickly as rain", which is a quote on page 146. It is used by Xavier to describe his battles. The rain is harsh, much like how his life is in the trenches. It could have been used as a property of cleansing, but instead he claims that "it begins to shower down like a burning rain onto [his] face". For this novel, rain is a negative motif. Symbolism Morphine Morphine is usually described as a medicine or strong pain-killer, a drug that is used to take off the knife's cutting edge. In Three Day Road, it is introduced to Elijah and Xavier by Grey Eyes, a minor character who is obsessed with morphine and the effects it has on his mind and body. Before it is used by Xavier, Elijah gradually becomes dependent on it. He relishes in the lift morphine gives him, but then begins to use it constantly, using the excuses of pain, however minor, and even goes as far as charming the medics into giving the morphine to him. Morphine is also presented in Xavier's struggle to drown his memories and pain from his injuries after coming home to Moose Factory. He can't bear the memories of the war, and drowns himself and his conscious in the numbing morphine. Weapons The weapons represent the gradual progression of the anger and frustration that Xavier feels and the insanity that Elijah is swallowed by. The more intense their emotions and mental states become, the more dangerous the weapons and situations they encounter become. Literary Devices Foreshadowing Foreshadowing is used multiple times throughout the novel. Boyden skillfully weaves hints throughout his book. He first introduces windigos on page 49, where "windigos spring from the earth." Elijah's madness is brought up when he and Xavier are traveling in a train, where a man talks about "whiskeyjacks pecking at something dead". This relates to Elijah later on when he skins the scalps off his victims. Xavier's squad calls him Whiskeyjack because it sounds close to his actual last name. Elijah's lust for victory over the dead is shown through him admitting that he feels full and content and no longer hungry when he closely observes the corpses of his kills. Flashbacks The way Boyden has written the story is through a series of flash backs. This helps to progress with the characters and experience things as they do, and this also give us foreknowledge and an inkling as to what has happened, which creates a desire to finish the book to see what actually happens to Elijah, Xavier, and Niska. His descriptive language also better helps us to see what the characters are seeing, from the burnt forest with smoke so thick and heavy, to the men with no faces laying dead on No Man's Land, to the painful episodes Niska has when she sees possible events in the future. Aphelion The song that we think is relatable to this story is "Aphelion", by Jesper Kyd. Aphelion by definition means "the point in the orbit of the planet in which it is furthest from the sun". This can relate to morphine, where Xavier's and Elijah's minds leave their body and travel across the fields of the world, away from their bodies. It can also be tied into Niska and Xavier being closely related to the land, and how Niska can call upon the spirits. Also, because the sun is seen as warm, Aphelion may also be used as a contrast to the fact that when Xavier and Elijah are in this war, fighting, it is everything but warm. It is cold, it is harsh, and it is unforgiving. By Teah Torchia and Brianna Penner
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