“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn so that we see ourselves as we really are”(Arthur Golden Memoirs of a Geisha). Adversity implies difficulties, trouble and misfortune as it tests the potential of a person and strengthens their spirit and self-confidence. In the novel Indian Horse written by Richard Wagamese, there are many circumstances where the main character, Saul Indian Horse, is forced to overcome the adversity that once shattered his spirit and made him feel worthless. This paper will discuss three such circumstances: the racism that Saul faced while playing hockey, the horrors of that residential schools, and the loss of family during the duration of the book. While also talking about how Saul overcomes the adversity in the book.One of the main themes in the novel Indian Horse is the many different forms and degrees of racial prejudice that the main character Saul faces through his life. First, there’s the implicit racism: the unshakable horror of his kidnapping and being sent to St. Jerome’s, and being forbidden from speaking his own native tongue. Underpinning this set of events was the suggestion that his entire culture was inferior to white Canadian society. Then, there was the condescending racism of sports journalists who call him a “Rampaging Redskin,” and other belittling terms like “Chief Chicken,” or “Thirteen is good for an Indian”, even when they’re praising his hockey prowess (165, 141, 88). Saul experiences a huge amount of direct, verbal racism from his white peers and hockey opponents, who never missed an opportunity to call him names. And finally, he experienced his share of direct violence from racist whites in and outside the game, who try to beat him into submission. All these injustices stemmed from the fact that Saul was an Indigenous Canadian living in a country run by white people, many of whom believed that Saul was inherently inferior because of his race.Saul first tired to deal with the racism by running away and ignoring it.The cumulative effect of years of racism and prejudice on Saul became almost incalculable. For a time, Saul is able to ignore the racism of his teachers and hockey opponents. But eventually, their cruelty proved too overwhelming for him, and he gives in to the temptation to fight back. This leads Saul into a lot of fight and getting him into penalties during his games.This leads Saul to grow into an aggregate and evenomen to the point he gives up and leave the junior league hockey in spite of his enormous talent. But it becomes clear that racism got to the point where is future and personality got so destroyed leaving him a hollow shell. One of the main theme and conflict of the book is that racism. Saul promising career in hockey turned into years of drinking, fighting, and soul-searching.The second major form of adversity that Saul faced was centred on the horrors of the residential schools. Saul was brought to St. Jerome’s when he was found in a train cart with his dead grandmother. He was around seven years old. While at St. Jerome’s he realized that he was not there to learn but to be stripped of his native culture and thrown into a white-faced world. For example, at one point the nuns decided to change the name of a student. “But we’re going to have to do something about Lonnie Rabbit. I think Aaron is more suitable. From now on you are Aaron Rabbit. Do you understand?” (45). In this quote, Lonnie was being forced to abandon his old name for Aaron, because his name was too first nations. Aaron was much more white (and biblically correct). “There was no tolerance for Indian talk. On the second day he was there, a boy named Curtis White Fox had his mouth washed out with lye soap for speaking Ojibway. He choked and died right there in the classroom. He was ten.” (48). Instances like this were common at St. Jerome’s, which scarred hundreds of young Native children. In the novel, the loss came in many forms, and Saul saw them all. One the major losses that Saul had to endure is the loss of his family and tradition. Family and tradition played an important role in Saul’s coming of age. They gave him a sense of higher purpose and reminded him that he wasn’t alone in the world. The sense of family and tradition can help Saul when was in the resendational school because it would give him hope and support. On the contrary, he was connected to his family members, both living and dead. During the long middle section of the book, when Saul felt depressed and lonely, ” I was sore inside. The tearing away of the bush and my people were like ripped flesh in my belly” (48). He seems to lose touch with his family and traditions.Saul spent a couple of years driving around the country, going on drinking binges and eventually trying to quit drinking altogether. However, he begins having seizures as a symptom of withdrawal and ends up in the hospital. After this, he checks into a rehabilitation facility called the New Dawn Center, where he works with a counsellor named Moses to recover from his alcoholism. Moses urges Saul to write down his experiences, which Saul does, in the form of this book as part of his therapy treatment. Saul leaves the New Dawn Center and drives out to St. Jerome’s, which is now in ruins. There, he has vivid flashbacks to his time as a student and realizes the truth: that Father Leboutilier had raped and abused him as a child. For years, Saul has repressed his memories of the abuse. Saul had used his love for hockey to help cope and suppress the memories of the rape. Furious and confused, Saul journeys out to Gods Lake. There, he has a vision of his great-grandfather who tells Saul that he must learn how to carry Gods Lake within himself. As he explains in the first chapter, he loses the ability to have mystical visions, which causes him great sadness. But, Saul seems to regain his confidence and sense of purpose following a vision he has near the end of the book. During this vision, his great-grandfather, tells him to keep Gods Lake, which is a place where, according to tradition, only Saul’s family may live, within himself. As Wagamese sees it, Saul attains enlightenment when he accepts that he is a member of the Indian Horse Tribe. At the same time, Wagamese makes it clear that Saul is not just the bearer of the traditions of the past. As a young man growing up in a tumultuous time, Saul discovers new customs and cultures and incorporates them into his identity. He plays hockey, speaks and reads English, and embraces many other aspects of white Canadian culture, balancing the Indian Horse tradition with the culture of a changing world. Saul gained resilience and sense of community, which is what he needs to live a happy life.
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