Indian Horse Richard Wagamese Essay

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 45-page guide for “Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 56 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Tension Between Old and Modern Ways and Communication Versus Silence.

Plot Summary

Saul Indian Horse, ex-hockey star, reluctantly entered treatment for alcoholism, after a binge that nearly killed him. In Indian Horse, a novel by Richard Wagamese, Saul tells the story of his life while hoping to heal and reclaim it. The story is told in first person through Saul’s eyes, and through his vision, the reader confronts the racism and abuse that follow Saul once he is forcibly removed from his family. As a member of a First Nation, Saul experiences first-hand the shame of the Indian residential schools, which took native children away from their families and culture to live in isolated boarding schools far from home. Cut off from their families, language, and culture, Saul and the other children endure terrible pain and suffering, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, near starvation, and daily insults to their culture and heritage, along with forced English language lessons.

Saul’s only escape from the abuse of St. Jerome’s Indian Residential School is hockey. Father Laboutilier puts together a boys’ team at the school and quickly recognizes Saul’s special, God-given talent. Only out on the ice can Saul remember who he is. He thinks of his great-grandfather’s teachings—having inherited his mystical gifts of vision—and works hard at training his body through his escape, hockey.

Soon, Saul’s talent is recognized by a local coach, and Saul escapes the school. He trains and plays for the Moose—a local First Nations team. At first, Saul believes he has escaped discrimination and abuse for his native heritage, but the other white teams hurl invective at the members of the Moose, and what was once his escape becomes tainted with guilt and torment. Throughout the story, Saul copes with abuse by escaping into hockey and allowing himself to dissociate and repress his feelings of anger at his mistreatment. He becomes numb to his life off the ice and begins to drink to cope with his repressed emotions.

However, Saul’s talent is immense, and he is recruited by the Leaf’s feeder team. Rising through the ranks, he wants to prove himself to the whites and uphold the honor of the Objibway through his hockey success. Saul invests hockey with all that is left of his hope, humanity, and dignity. However, even hockey fails to save Saul from his internal demons, and the whole world goes dark for him, landing him in alcohol treatment. As Saul reveals what has been stolen from him, he hopes to regain his humanity.

Like Saul, Richard Wagamese was born an Objibway in northern Ontario. Wagamese’s themes of reconciliation and the healing of intergenerational grief for a culture and way of life deliberately targeted and destroyed, give the novel a rich dimension far beyond the story of one man’s struggle for survival. It resonates as the story of the survival of a culture, through depicting the spirit-destroying discrimination of 1960s Canada, and the reclaiming of culture through the symbolic story of Saul Indian Horse. For example, Wagamese deliberately uses Objibway and native words throughout the novel to name places and people, reclaiming territory and identity through the unity of native language.

Families play a large role in the lives of every person to ever live. If one is born without a family, their lives will be much different than one who is born with a family, whether that family has a positive influence on said person or not. Every member of a family shapes a person’s identity, especially when they are growing up. If a child grows up with irresponsible parents that do not care for their child or adhere to their needs, the child will most likely grow up to become a person of a similar fashion with similar characteristics as their parents because that is all they have experienced and that is the only way that they know how to live. Some may argue that the most influential people in a family are a child’s parents and grandparents. Grandparents play a key role in teaching a child about the history of the family and its culture. In Richard Wagamese’s novel Indian Horse, the importance of family is shown through Saul’s grandmother Naomi and the impact that she has on Saul’s life in terms of his acceptance of Native spirituality, and survival throughout the novel.

In the beginning of the novel, the narrator explains his current life in nature as one of fear and hardship. Saul Indian Horse and his family are constantly on the run from the Europeans in an attempt to avoid being taken to residential schools. Saul’s brother and sister have already been taken and all that is left of his family is is parents and his grandmother. The Europeans are constantly chasing Saul and his family and since Saul’s mother and father were first generation students at a residential school, Catholicism and assimilation are also challenging the traditional aboriginal lifestyle.

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