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Lecture 3

ENG252Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Canadian Identity, The Sequence, Noble Savage


Department
English
Course Code
ENG252Y1
Professor
Robert Mc Gill
Lecture
3

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ENG 252 Lecture Canadian Literature
10/03/2017
Student: N.W. Recorder: N.A.
- 1 -
Wacousta; Or, the Prophecy
It is very important that you complete the novel for the next tutorial.
This is a gothic novel whose narrative structure hinges on a careful doling out of
the details. The sequence of events is very important.
The final chapters of the novel focus on Fredrich’s struggle to make his way after
escaping from Wacousta. He warns of the impending attack. Once he has warned
them, he sets out to warn the Fort Michilimackinac. This is very important
because he has family living there
A Nation Defined; Proto-Canadian Identity
We see an early articulation of a Canadian identity that is distinct from Britain
and from the colonies in the United States
The portrayal of indigenous peoples is very important in this novel. There are
two contrasting characterizations at work in the novel.
We will discuss Wacousta as a gothic portrayal of the colonial fear of “going
native.”
Last time, we left off with two key flaws in the British colonial order in Canada.
The first of these flaws was the rigid adherence to strict social hierarchies. The
novel initially points to the problem in the early passage in which the officers
are discussing the trials and tribulations of being a solider
One remarks on the insatiable desire for personal advancement over the
mangled bodies of friends and acquaintances. This indicates and society so
stratified that advancement requires such sacrifice
We see a more serious passage when the officers lament the death of Murphy
(killed by Wacousta) and the disappearance of a captain. Here, the novel is
inviting us to be critical of a British military order that only breeds unhealthy
competition among socials. The novel suggests, with the execution, that this
needs to be relaxed in the New World.
We talked about the fact that Halloway was an aristocrat forced to enter the
army because he was disinherited for marrying beneath his station. There is an
unwillingness to promote an exemplary solider, which emphasizes the
unwavering military despotism of the Colonel
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ENG 252 Lecture Canadian Literature
10/03/2017
Student: N.W. Recorder: N.A.
- 2 -
The Colonel’s despotism and rigidity are best exemplified by his response to
testimony in the court martial. Everyone is convinced that he deserves mercy,
although they find him guilty, yet the Colonel cannot get past the fact that a
standing order was violated.
The novel defers the explanation of his internal motivations until the last
chapters, and we are left to speculate that other motives are at play. This
suspicion, however, is dispelled in the first paragraph on page 443. Here, he is
described as a man of strict adherence to honor, but severe and haughty.
Ultimately, this unbending adherence to military norms and hierarchies has
severe consequences for Halloway, but also for the Colonel. The curse
attaches the curve to his rigidity wards against it, especially when the
circumstances of the New World demands flexibility (and perhaps kindness).
Another aspect Wacousta sets out to reform is the inability to make adequate
peace with the Pontiac.
He refers to acts of kindness and confidence to prevent attacks by the First
Nations people.
The novel opens with a clear, if tacit, acknowledgement that the British have
not been living up to their agreements with native leaders.
On page 209-10, there is a parley in Fort Detroit in which the Colonel accuses
Pontiac of being untrue to the British. He is complaining about the influence
of the French on the Saginaw.
Pontiac accuses the British of treating the natives as friends only when they
need their help. Once they felt secure, they laughed at Pontiac and his people
for letting them into his company. This is insulting, but also a disavowel of the
sovereignty of the native peoples.
Pontiac’s demands reflect that indigenous peoples regarded nationhood as
enacted in honorable negotiations. This is the epistemology of nationhood in
his
The Colonel spies on the Council of Chiefs, and Pontiac emphasizes (on p.
265) on the beneficial results of the reduction of the fortresses because they
would be able to make better terms with the British. Instead of being treated
with contempt, they would be treated with dignity. This makes it clear that his
goal is to have the British treat his people as friends, equals, and trading
partners.
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ENG 252 Lecture Canadian Literature
10/03/2017
Student: N.W. Recorder: N.A.
- 3 -
Through this tacit acknowledgement of the legitimacy of Pontiac’s claims
punctures the settler’s claims. This is an implicit assertion that Canada was
founded on illegitimate relationships with natives.
The novel, however, works to re-contain its own criticism by placing it in the
context of a revenge plot.
This is a feature of the Gothic; they unsettle boundaries and put forth
criticisms, but they re-contain them. For instance, in traditional slasher films
only virgins survive to reinstate boundaries.
Wacousta’s re-containment of British colonialism is achieved with the Gothic
traditions. The sieges of the forts are switched to a gothic product; Wacousta’s
irrational thirst for revenge. This displacement is sealed in the passage
describing the failed attack on Fort Detroit.
They attempt to attack the fort, but the soldiers have been warned by Fredrich.
Pontiac express concerns that the British will retaliate, but the Colonel assures
him that peace will be pursued.
On page 246, Pontiac declares his fealty to Wacousta, but ultimately defers to
the Colonel. This gives a string sense that the only factor thwarting peaceful
relations is the negative influence Wacousta seems to have over Pontiac. This
is reinforced at the end of the novel when Pontiac makes peace.
With Wacousta out of the way, the colonists are able to establish a new order
based on the conciliation between the British, the Canadiens, and the natives
by devoting themselves to the service of the British.
For Richardson, the willingness to treat natives with dignity is what set the
colony apart from its parent, and from the treatment of natives in the US (with
references to a war of extermination against them.
This novel was a kind of answer to The Last of the Mohicans. This invokes an
impending disappearance of native peoples, and the novel was criticized as
presenting this as a lamentable, but inevitable, outcome
Richardson differentiates Canada from the US by its ability to have a more
peaceful and ethical relationship with native peoples
The identity of the settler is almost always constructed in opposition to the
natives.
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