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The Glass Roses

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Dan Kelly

on 4 May 2015

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Transcript of The Glass Roses

The Glass Roses

Alden Nowlan was born in Stanley, Nova Scotia on January 25, 1933. At the time, Alden's mother was just 15 years old. She left the family soon after Alden was born, leaving him in the care of his father, living in what can only be described as rural poverty in a secluded area of Nova Scotia.
Working much of his life as a manual laborer, Alden's father placed little value on education, and Alden left school after the fourth grade. Around the age of 15, Alden discovered the public library, and began to educate himself in secret, until at 19 he was offered a position as a writer at the Observer, a newspaper in New Brunswick. Alden was diagnosed with throat cancer at the age of 33, and was unable to continue working for the Observer. However, Alden was offered a position as Writer-in-Residence at the University of New Brunswick, which he maintained until he passed away at the age of 50.
Strategically located in the middle of a dense forest, in the middle of a tough Canadian winter, the setting really contributes to the harsh, cold mood that we see in the play. We are consistently reminded of what a tough existence Stephen has as a maturing young man in the unforgiving wilderness.
The bitter cold and the challenges of living in the woods also show us how inexperienced and childish Stephen may still be, as he struggles to assert himself in a group of men who have very clear ideas of what it means to be a man, very few of which ideas fit Stephen.
The setting is also post World War II, which means that most of the men (Stephen's father included) would have lived through and possibly fought in the Second World War. Living through such a violent and tragic event almost certainly impacted each of the men, and would have contributed to their biased opinions about what it means to be a man. There would likely be resentment towards their European counterparts, which could explain the animosity between the Canadian lumberjacks and the "Polack".

Two conflicts clearly shown in the Glass Roses:

: Stephen vs. himself. This conflict is Stephen's own struggle with seeing himself as a man. Throughout the short story it is shown that Stephen struggles with trying to become a man, according to his father's expectations.
: Stephen vs. his dad. This conflict is mainly caused by the fact that Stephen's father has instilled in his son an idea of what it means to be a man, and Stephen does not fit these ideals at all, and it creates tension between them. Stephen isn’t much of a lumberjack but his father is the leader of the pulp cutting crew. We also discover that Stephen's father dislikes the Polack, however Stephen is somewhat fond of him. This also creates tension between the pair, as Stephen doesn't want his father to know about his "childish friendship and fascination with the Polack".

Point of view
Coming from a first person point of view allows us to see into the mind of Stephen, as he struggles to establish himself, and as he struggles to become a man. Stephen is only 15, and not nearly as strong as his father and the other lumberjacks. Stephen has a hard time feeling as if he belongs with the group. This point of view from Stephens perspective is perfect, as it allows us to see his insecurities about himself, and the group around him. A perspective from one of the older men would not be as efficient, as they would have a much different perspective of what it means to be a man, and it would likely be very similar to any of the older men, and not nearly as naive as
Stephen's perspective.
Some of the symbols that we noticed in the story were very obvious, while others were more subtle. We believe that the glass roses represent ideals, and how easily they can be shattered or destroyed in someones life. One single event can permanently alter a persons ideals.

We also saw that the cutting down of trees was kind of a representation of old ideals being replaced by new ones. In order for new growth to take place, there needs to be room to grow and develop, which ironically enough, Stephen doesn't seem to have! He is smothered by the old trees (his father).

We also thought that the bombs symbolized something more than just what they were said to be. We think that the bombs represent a life changing event, or something that represents a major shift in opinion.

We also felt that the Polack represented Stephen in the future. He is a different man, with a totally different idea of what it means to be a man compared to other men his age. We also compared how the Polack was thrown into a violent war, and how Stephen was thrown into the life of a lumberjack. We believe that this accurately symbolizes Stephen, as he doesn't fit his own father's idea of what it means to be a man, even though he is trying very hard to follow in his father's footsteps.
Why we used this background
We feel that this background beautifully represents the setting of the story. It looks like a winding trail through the woods, which represent both the trees that Stephen cut down every day, but also the path that he had to clear in order to find his own definition of what it means to be a man. It wasn't an easy task, by any means, but once he has done it, Stephen will have a clear path to his own ideals, and ultimately manhood.
Daniel Kelly, Bryan Lee,
Ian Chege, Cleo Wayway

Characters and Character development
Example of this?
In the movie Mulan, captain Li Shang, is someone who could be described as "The Perfect Man" could be seen as Stephens dad. Mulan (who is actually a girl!) could be seen as Stephen, who is trying to become like Shang, and Shang is trying to make a man out of Mulan (Stephen) Pretty ironic singing "I'll make a man out of you" to a girl!
Stephen's father
If we were to talk to Stephen's father, we could imagine that he would say more than a few of these things. Just watch the first 25 seconds or so! All of the stereotypes associated with "Being a Man" can be applied to Stephen and his father. Stephen's father has taught him that in order to be a man, you need to look, act, and talk a certain way, which is something that Stephen has a very hard time with!
Initial Incident

The initial incident occurs when we first read that the Polack is having a nightmare in the bunk that he and Stephen share. We understand that the Polack is shaking and moaning, and then Stephen reaches over and wakes him up, as a friend would do. Once awake, the Polack and Stephen have a nice conversation about far off places, and we can see that they are good friends.
Rising Action
The rising action, although not obvious at the time, occurs when we see Stephen and the Polack getting chummy while chopping down the tree. We see that their relationship is more like a father-son relationship, with the Polack always poking and prodding the scrawny 15 year old Stephen. The Polack acts like the father that perhaps Steven would prefer.
The climax occurs when Stephen's father confronts him about his friendship with the Polack, and he tells Stephen that he can beat up the Polack if he is bothering Stephen. He also makes sure to point out that "they aren't our people", making it obvious that he does not approve of the Polack himself, or the idea of European people in general.
The resolution, if it can be called that, seems to be when we see Stephen trying to distance himself from the Polack. We see this when Stephen hesitates to awaken the Polack when he is having another one of his nightmares. It becomes clear that Stephen is just trying to live up to his father's expectations.
Points for discussion
The Polack (Leka)
Stephen can be seen at the protagonist of the story, and he is bothered by the question of what it means to be a real man. In the beginning of the story the reader notices that he and his friend the Polack are somewhat secluded from the rest of the crew because they are seen as the weakest of the pulp workers. Over the duration of the story we see Stephen trying to become a man in the eyes of his father.
Although he was fascinated by the stories of the far off places that the Polack had lived, he thought that this fascination made him look childish. This is the main internal conflict Stephen has within himself. He also has a conflict with the Polack. Stephen thinks that he talks too much, and he has other small faults, but if it weren't for Stephen's father, it seems that Stephen would not have an issue with these things. Stephen's main conflict is with his father. He thinks that his father is ashamed of him. He also does not want Stephen to get comfortable with the Polack because the Polack was so different. This conflict arises from the fact that Stephen's father has very rigid ideas of what it means to be a man.
Leka can be seen as a dynamic character. He keeps his distance from the members of the crew, except for Stephen. Leka often has terrible nightmares, probably because he lived through a war. Unlike Stephen, Leka does not care much of what people think of him. This is clearly demonstrated when he and Stephen are cutting a tree and he says that the world would not come to an end if it took them the whole day to cut one tree down. He also pays no mind to the other crew members when they talk about him. Leka is a person who has been many places and has many stories about the things he has witnessed. He talks about the glass roses that his mother owned and that were destroyed when bombs fell close to their home and made them fall off the mantle and shatter.

Stephen's father
Stephen's father is most certainly the antagonist of the story. The few moments we see this character we get a sense of who he is. He is a parent who believes that men should act a certain way and that they should do a certain type of job. He wants to ruin Stephen and Lekas friendship and make Stephen a hard (or real) man. He has a very rigid and tough idea about what a man should be like, and unfortunately, his own son does not meet these ideals, causing a great deal of friction between the two.

Other Members of the Crew

The other members of the crew are a straightforward group of people and can be seen as the stereotypical "flat" characters. They are simple lumberjacks who work on a schedule, make fun of the weaker, or different members of the crew, and who play cards and gamble into the early hours of the morning.

Nowlan creates a consistent tone right from the beginning of the story. From the first few lines, readers get a feeling of frustration and almost pity for Stephen as he struggles through the elements, in his attempt to become a man, like his father wants.
This is developed through the cold and limiting weather, along with the constant judgement of his father, and his own beliefs that he wasn't living up to the ideals that his father had established around being a man.
What does a bomb represent in your life?

Do you think that Stephen will find his own definition of what it means to be a man, or will he conform to his father's ideals?

Do you feel that the glass roses represent human ideals, or something else?

Do you thing Nowlan was writing about his own personal experiences in life, and how he struggled to find his own way to manhood? Nowlan said his father would rather see him in lipstick and make-up than getting educated (education was something that Nowlan secretly loved)
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