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The Cure For Death By Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

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Brookelnn Cooper

on 26 May 2011

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Transcript of The Cure For Death By Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Plot Summary: Takes place in British Columbia during the Second World War.
The town that the novel takes place in is Turtle Valley, where there are strange occurrences happening.
In the beginning of the novel, we learn that the Weeks have been attacked by a bear while moving the sheep.
They were able to scare the bear off, however, when John went into the bush to make sure the bear did not come back, he was attacked by something and has not been the same since. John is now over controlling and he abuses Beth and the animals on their farm. John had a compete change in personality, which Bertha believes is from the spirit Coyote. At the beginning of the novel, there was a young girl killed out in the bush. The people of Turtle Valley thought it was a bear but the people on the Indian reserve believe that it was the spirit Coyote possessing a man, like Coyote Jack. Also, some nights John and Dan go and try to break the Swede’s fence down, in order to get the property they believe is right. About half-way through the novel, there is a shift in Beth. Beth was hit by lightning and now her arm can act on its own or go limp. The arm sometimes fights back when John is abusing Beth, and this is a source of self-confidence for Beth and she learns to stand up for herself.

Beth is more confident with her ‘lightning arm,’ however, she is still afraid because she constantly sees Coyote Jack sneaking through the bush, and following her. The conflict between John and the Swede continues throughout the entire book, and progresses so far, that the Swede set fire to the Week’s flax field. John was so mad that he went to the Swede’s and set fire to his barn and house. The authorities caught John before he destroyed the Swede’s entire house and took John to an asylum. This was not a shock to all the towns’ people or Beth, and Beth’s mother did not tell Beth much of what happened. One day when Beth was in the bush, Coyote Jack found her and then turned into a real Coyote right in front of Beth, which frightened her. Beth was so angry that she went all the way up to Coyote Jack’s cabin and told him to stay away from her. Coyote Jack told her that he tries not follow her to which makes Beth believe that the spirit Coyote possesses him and other people in Turtle Valley.

Later on, the Swede checks up on Coyote Jack only to find him dead; he hung himself.

Beth and Billy feel that the spirit Coyote was scared of being hunted by Beth because he is used to doing the hunting, and not being the one hunted.

Beth found the confidence to scare Coyote away which made Billy appear normal and John not abusive. After Coyote travelled back to the spirit world, Nora decides to leave town and go and find a job in Vancouver.

The novel ends with Beth’s life returning to normal, with no influence of supernatural creatures. Beth is free to walk around the bush without the fear of Coyote, and she is no longer abused by her father. As Beth states at the beginning of the novel, this is “the year that the world fell apart and began to come together again” (2). And so it did. When Beth meets Nora, a girl from the Indian reserve, they become friends. Throughout the times Nora spends with Beth, we see that Nora is in love with Beth, but Beth seems to be interested in Dennis or Billy. Characters;
Beth Weeks – main character, 15 year old girl

Maud Weeks – Beth’s mother

Dan Weeks – Beth’s brother

John Weeks – Beth’s father

Coyote Jack – man that lives in the woods

Bertha – Indian Elder who lives on the Indian reserve, referred to as Granny in the quote (Nora, Billy, and Dennis’s grandmother)

Nora – Beth’s friend and Bertha’s granddaughter

Billy – Week’s hired hand, Coyote’s home

Dennis – Weeks’ hired hand

Coyote – "The Bad Guy" Author;
Halfway through Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s debut novel, The Cure for Death by Lightning, I flipped to the publication data expecting to confirm my suspicions that the author was born sometime around the Great Depression. She wasn’t. Entering the world in 1963, Anderson-Dargatz is a contemporary of Douglas Coupland and the Gen-X set. Such is her power in evoking time and place. The Title;
The title Green Grass, Running Water refers to a promise made by Andrew Jackson to the Choctaw and Cherokee people that the lands offered to them west of the Mississippi would remain in their possession “as long as Grass grows or Water runs.” Sifton is trying to build a dam on Reserve land, therby stopping the water from flowing. Plot Summary: Dog asks why there is water everywhere, surrounding the unknown narrator, Coyote, and him. At this, the unknown narrator begins to explain the escape of four Native American elders from a mental institution who are named Lone Ranger, Ishmael, Robinson Crusoe, and Hawkeye. The elders are each connected with a female character from native tradition: First Woman and the Lone Ranger, Changing Woman and Ishmael, Thought Woman and Robinson Crusoe, and Old Woman and Hawkeye. In addition to these four explaining the "ordinary" events, they also tell a creation story that accounts for why there is so much water; in each creation story, the four encounter a figure from the Bible, as well as the western literary figure from that they each get his name. There are four major plot lines in the book. One of these follows the escape and travels of the elders and coyote who are out to fix the world.

Dr Joseph Hovaugh and Babo, his assistant, try to track down the elders. Dr. Hovaugh keeps track of every time the elders have gone missing and he attributes major events like the eruption of Mount St Helens to their disappearances.

The second plot line follows Lionel Red Dog, Charlie Looking Bear and Alberta.

The third plot line follows Eli Stands Alone, Lionel's uncle, who lives in his mother's house in the spillway of the Balene Dam.

The fourth plot line involves characters from Christian and Native American creation myths and traditions as well as literary and historical figures including Ahdamn, First Woman, the Young Man Who Walks on Water, Robinson Crusoe, Nasty Bumpo and so on. The traditional Blackfoot ceremony of the Sun Dance. The Dam breaks due to an earthquake caused by Coyote's singing and dancing, killing Eli, but also returning the waterway to its traditional course. The novel concludes much as it began. The trickster-god Coyote and the unknown narrator are in an argument about what existed in the beginning. Coyote says nothing, but the unknown narrator says that there was water. Once again Coyote asks why there is water everywhere, and the unknown narrator says he will explain how it happened. Characters;
Lionel An uninspired, ill-motivated electronics salesman; Lionel rivals Charlie for Alberta's affection. Lionel's parents and sister Latisha attempt to counsel him through his various troubles.

Charlie Looking Bear - A lover of the character Alberta Frank, he is Lionel's cousin and a slick lawyer who represents the company that is building the dam that Eli opposes. Charlie was hired because the company thought an Aboriginal lawyer might ease resentment from the populace. He used to have the same job as Lionel, a TV salesman, and in many ways represents what Lionel could become.

Alberta Frank - A professor and the lover of both Lionel and Charlie. She wants to have a child, but does not want a husband or marriage.

Eli Stands Alone - Lionel's uncle. A former professor, who opposes the building of a dam that upsets the natural course of a waterway. This natural course is important to Blackfoot tradition. Eli lives in a cabin near the dam, which would be ruined (and his life threatened) if the dam were to continue to be expanded and form a lake. Eli has filed lawsuits, and the company that Charlie represents has been stymied for 10 years.

Latisha - Lionel's sister. She is the owner of the Dead Dog Café which pretends to sell dog meat, because tourists incorrectly believe dog meat is the authentic ethnic food of the Blackfoot Native Americans. In the novel, she acts mainly as someone who offers good counsel to Lionel.

Dog, aka GOD - While Coyote was sleeping at the beginning of his novel, one of his dreams takes form and runs amok, waking Coyote up. The dream thinks it is very smart, and calls itself GOD. Coyote agrees that his dream is smart, but that it is only a facsimile of Coyote and that this dream has everything backwards; thereby he names it Dog.

Coyote – Coyote is a spirit that is used in Indian literature and mythology. Coyote, in some tribes, is said to be the trickster god in Indian cultures and religions, and is the maker of people and supplier of food. There are many legends about Coyote, some look at Coyote as a protector or source of fear. Coyote, in the present time of the book, lives in the spirit world, and can be born into the people’s world.

- A trickster god who falls asleep and gives form to his dream, "Dog." He is on speaking terms with the four escaped American Indians, as well as the unknown narrator of the novel. He does not directly speak to the "ordinary" denizens of Blossom, although he does appear as an odd-looking dog which Lionel sees dancing.

The Old Indians - These four escaped Aboriginal men break out from a mental institution in Florida and make their way to Blossom. Each is responsible for telling a segment of the novel to the unknown narrator of the novel. They each tell a creation story as well, in which they are originally identified as First Woman, Changing Woman, Thought Woman, and Old Woman.[1] They encounter both a Biblical character as well as a western literary figure, and they change their names to these literary figures: First Woman to Lone Ranger, Changing Woman toIshmael, Thought Woman to Robinson Crusoe, and Old Woman to Hawkeye.[1]

Dr. Joe Hovaugh - the doctor in charge of the mental hospital from which the four Aboriginal men escape. King portrays him as a confused, harmless, uninterested old man who is concerned mostly with his dying garden. When pronounced phonetically, his name sounds similar to "Jehovah." Green Grass, Running Water & The Cure For Death By Lightning Both Books are placed in Alberta or the west coast of Canada.
Both Books talk about Native-American Herritage.
Both Books have controlling characters.
Each Book is really unique in some way.
Each Book deals with the evil Coyote or spirit.
Each Book ends with a happy ending, the characters grow from their experiences and though things are not the same, they still learn a lot from their mistakes and start a new beginning.

Comparing Both Authors;
Both Gail Anderson-Dargatz and Thomas King are tremendous writers, once you read their books you can tell they are well experienced and very creative on their writing styles. In Both books the main characters have role models: Green Grass, Running Water:
"By the time Lionel was six, he knew what he wanted to be.
John Wayne.
Not the actor, but the character. Not the man, but the hero. The John Wayne who cleaned up cattle towns and made them safe for decent folk. The John Wayne who shot guns out of the hands of outlaws. The John Wayne who saved stagecoaches and wagon trains from Indian attacks.
When Lionel told his father he wanted to be John Wayne, his father said it might be a good idea, but that he should keep his options open" (124).

To Lionel, John Wayne was his greatest Idol, If Lionel could be like John Wayne he wouldn't be looked at as such a failure with what he had done in life. Lionel wanted to be a Hero, wanted to be known for doing something. The Cure For Death By Lightning:
"I touched the fuzzy photograph of Ginger Rogers, but lightly, so I wouldn't smudge the newsprint. All that glamour so close to home. I hadn't seen Ginger Rogers, of course. We hadn't gone to town that day, but I wished with all my heart we had. She was so beautiful, so foreign to anything I knew in the valley" (66).

To Beth, Ginger Rodgers represented something unique and glamourous. Beth had always wanted to be glamourous, she hid perfume, red velvet and lipstick under a tree trunk. She had always wanted nylons and a city boys hand to hold. She wished she was beautiful and just like Ginger Rogers. Resources:

Dargatz, Gail. The cure for death by lightning: a novel. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 1997-1996. Print.

King, Thomas. Green grass, running water . Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993. Print. The Cure For Death By Lightning:
the author’s use of imagery, which was breath-taking and beautiful. The imagery made the reader feel as though they were standing right in the middle of what was being described. I had many favourite parts of imagery. First there was the description of the white crow that Beth saw when she was in town. This imagery shows that not everything is dull and plain in Turtle Valley which has been overcome with death. Beth manages to find little things that are beautiful; she just has to stop and admire them, like the white crow. Crows usually symbolize death or something negative, but because this crow is mostly white, it could symbolize peace, purity, innocence, and life. This could relate to the fact that Beth is like this crow; she is innocent and peaceful, but also that she does not fit in with everyone in Turtle Valley because she is different.
“The crow was mostly white with black streaks running through its feathers… I picked up a feather the white crow had lost in the tussle; it was a beautiful thing, white streaks and specks of blue-black” (50).

Another piece of imagery was the fence between the Swede’s property and the Week’s property. This is also another part where Beth found beauty in something that was not peaceful, like the war between the Swede and John.

“Wild rose crawled up and blossomed pink and fragrant all over the crooked and reaching trees that made up the fence. Honey-suckle and morning glory wound around everything, and the low morning sun shining through it cast a shadow of lace all over the pasture grass” (129). Green Grass, Running water:
In this book there is a lot of Imagry identifying the cars towards the end of the novel as "a Nissan, a Pinto, and a Karmann-Ghia" (402).
There is a lot of imagry used in describing where the water came from and the water in general.
"Changing Woman falls out of the sky. She starts way up high, so she can see all around the water. And what she sees in all that water, and what she sees is a canoe. Hello, she says, I can see a canoe. And she could. A big canoe. A big white canoe with lots of animals in it." (144). Idols: Imagery: Coyote: The Cure For Death By Lightning:
Coyote is a spirit that is used in Indian literature and mythology. Coyote, in some tribes, is said to be the trickster god in Indian cultures and religions, and is the maker of people and supplier of food. There are many legends about Coyote, some look at Coyote as a protector or source of fear. Coyote, in the present time of the book, lives in the spirit world, and can be born into the people’s world.
Coyote has been living in Turtle Valley for some time and has been influencing the main events in the book. but the people are not aware of his influence. Coyote has been haunting the bush and killing children from the town and the reserve. In order for Coyote to kill children or a person, he needs to take-over a man or animal because he is a spirit. "Coyote takes over men that are weak in the head, like someone with a head injury, somebody drunk, or somebody who has spent a lot of time in the bush" (). Bertha, an Indian elder, believes that Coyote has been influencing people in Turtle Valley, like Coyote Jack and John Weeks. Coyote was able to possess Coyote Jack because Coyote Jack had spent a lot of time in the bush, which “‘makes you change shape, takes away your man-body, make you into an animal’” (132). Coyote was able to possess John Weeks, because John’s head was injured while he was fighting in World War One.
Coyote used to live in Billy's father, he used to be Coyote's home until he committed suicide to bring peace to Turtle Valley, this made the Coyote return to the spirit world. He then moved into Billy's body and created his home there. Billy had to try and keep track of where Coyote was and try to stop him from killing or disturbing the people of Turtle Valley. Another person who seems to be influenced by Coyote is Nora, Bertha`s granddaughter. Bertha claims that all her children are Coyote`s children because her first husband was a white man, whose ancestor was Coyote. Nora seems to have the same abilities as Coyote Jack; she can walk unheard and disappear quickly, which connects her to Coyote. In addition, Nora is very disturbed and cuts herself, which is her repeating her injuries, which is a sign that Coyote has an influence on her.
At the end of the novel, Coyote`s influence leaves Turtle Valley and goes back to the spirit world where he belongs. Beth in the end scared Coyote back to the spirit world, and he will probably not come back for a while because he is scared of not being the hunter, but being the one who is being hunted. Green Grass, Running Water:
Dog, aka GOD - While Coyote was sleeping at the beginning of his novel, one of his dreams takes form and runs amok, waking Coyote up. The dream thinks it is very smart, and calls itself GOD. Coyote agrees that his dream is smart, but that it is only a facsimile of Coyote and that this dream has everything backwards; thereby he names it Dog.

Coyote – Coyote is a spirit that is used in Indian literature and mythology. Coyote, in some tribes, is said to be the trickster god in Indian cultures and religions, and is the maker of people and supplier of food. There are many legends about Coyote, some look at Coyote as a protector or source of fear. Coyote, in the present time of the book, lives in the spirit world, and can be born into the people’s world.

- A trickster god who falls asleep and gives form to his dream, "Dog." He is on speaking terms with the four escaped American Indians, as well as the unknown narrator of the novel. He does not directly speak to the "ordinary" denizens of Blossom, although he does appear as an odd-looking dog which Lionel sees dancing.

"'It wasn't my fault, It wasn't my fault.' says Coyote. 'Oh, boy, It looks like we got to do this all over again'" (429).
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