Ravensong discussion 2011

In today’s class, you split into groups to discuss major themes from the novel.  For your blog posting on Ravensong, tell us about one of the themes your group found to be important to Lee Maracle’s novel.  Why is this theme crucial to the novel?  What two scenes do you think are especially illustrative of this theme? Why are these particular scenes so significant?

Your response to this blog prompt is due no later than Wednesday, February 23.

 

Some further information on Lee Maracle:

Of Métis and Salish descent, Lee Maracle is a member of the Stó:lō Nation.

Here are a couple of interesting links to some further information about Lee Maracle:

Profile of Lee Maracle (University of Windsor, 2007)

Storyteller Lives Between Fiction and Myth (University of Guelph news, 1/17/2007)

 

Lee Maracle (NativeWiki)

 

Lee Maracle profile (BC Bookworld)

This entry was posted in discussions, news. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Ravensong discussion 2011

  1. Anne H. says:

    One of the themes we discussed in my group was the importance and significance of gender roles. Stacey has her own views of the kind of roles men and women play in Indian Town as well as in White Town. These assumptions, she discovers, are wrong and she is mistaken and has misjudged these foreign people in their liberties and ideas of equality. Stacey also discovers and questions the in and outs of power–what gives someone power and how easily she can strip someone of their power. In Indian town men and women are informally married–no piece of paper binds a couple together. In White Town when a couple weds they are legally bound by the government and ending such a serious relationship takes time, money, consent, etc. In Stacey’s home village a woman is free to kick her husband out of the house if she’s had enough of them or are being mistreated. Women hold equal and in specific circumstances more power than men in the Native Village. In white town women are inferior sub species, controlled by the laws and rules of the men in their community.

    When an Indian woman marries a white man and after two children leaves her, she is powerless. The relationship failed because of the culture gap and racism that exists between the two and this woman is now ruined goods. She cannot be accepted into either her native or white society. Stacey refuses a relationship with a white boy. This is not because of him, but because of her. He can never be fully Indian and can therefore never truly understand or be a part of her heart and soul. The idea of him not knowing her language is another hole in this potential relationship.

    Stacey is struck by the idea of gender and power when she encounters her principal.
    After being sent to the principal and being awarded detention Stacey refuses to go. She learns that the punishment for not going would be another detention, and then another and another. She decides she will not go and therefore strips the principal of his power. She should not have to go to detention and she won’t. There’s nothing he can do about it and when she stands up to him the principal is at a loss. Stacey is a student and a woman so in his mind, vastly inferior to his station. When she fights his word the principal is taken aback, probably never having dealt with such a situation. Stacey learns that power isn’t what she had always thought and taking it from someone is easy, if you know what you are doing.

  2. cwcollie says:

    A theme that is evident throughout the entire story is loss in terms of human death in both cultures (White town and at the reservation) and how different people deal with this loss. Maracle spends a lot of time in the book detailing how the two cultures perceive loss and I think the significance in this is that these differences cause a misunderstanding between the two cultures. It is observed that death is felt much heavier emotionally with the natives, due to the fact that there is a very small number on the reservation and each individual plays an equally important role. It feels that there is very little difference between immediate family and the rest of the community on the reservation. There is simply not that “closeness” in the white community, and although grieving does take place, it is not to the same extent. The natives do not understand this, as everyone is so close and so crucial in the functionality of the reserve. Although this is not the sole reason for the white community and the reserve being so distant, it is a very clear example of the barriers being made due to misunderstanding.
    It is clear that loss and death are huge parts of the story, as Stacy’s story begins with the funeral of Old Nora and ends with the funeral of Little Jimmy. The difference in these two funerals provides the reader with a pretty clear image on how the reserve community has diminished. Not one person from the community was missing from Nora’s ceremony, as she was a respected elder with great wisdom. Also, the community was still completely intact and strong at this time. At little Jimmy’s funeral it is noted that only four people are present – Stacy, Rena, Ceilia and her mother. This symbolizes essentially the end of the community, as the reserve culture has gone out into the white culture and assimilated. Stacy’s aspirations of bringing the village life to the white community are officially put to rest here.

  3. C.J. Frisina says:

    One theme that my group discussed regarded the difference in family dynamics between the white and red towns. This is a theme that is constantly in play throughout the book and is highlighted in such scenes as when Stacey eats dinner with the Snowdens. She simply can’t grasp the concept of certain social norms that strictly guide the family such having to ask to get up from the dinner table. Her culture is one in which the entire community is embraced as a family with an emphasis on equality and mutual respect. The children are not ‘guests’ in their parents house as they are in white town; expected to be thrust from the home and into the world once they have grown to fend for themselves. Mr Snowden’s treatment of his wife is consistent with the treatment of the children, being spoken down to authoritatively within the household hierarchy over which the men reign supreme. Stacey is so conflicted that she can’t even bring herself to remain at the dinner table and instead grapples with confusion in the bathroom, emphasizing the true misunderstanding of how all family cannot be equal, like one organic unit.
    Stacey also takes note of ‘the Snake’ and how his values and integrity had been broken down by his experience working with the white men on the railroad, being replaced by the oppressive inhumane values of the white men. He takes to beating his wife and behaving as though he is one of them This gives the reader a sense of how white culture viciously infiltrates into the red society, breaking down their traditional values with the strict social norms of the whites. This sense of authority over women and constant struggle to conform has been the fate of many people Stacey knew well such as her cousin, who had been divorced and abandoned to poverty by a white man. It is a foreign concept to Stacey to be conforming to such social norms around a culture of deception into making others believe they follow unwritten rules. People like Polly, who have broken rules end up ostracized and written off by society with no reason to go on living. That sort of abandonment and lack of societal integrity frightens Stacey because the Indian community considers everyone to be their brother and cares for them in spite of their follies.

  4. Jeff S says:

    One theme my group found to be an important component of Ravensong was the power of stories to shape our views of the world and ourselves, to foster both resentment (from a difference in stories) and understanding (from understanding someone else’s story). In fact, one of the main causes of crisis between the First Nations and European cultures is a fundamental difference in stories. For example, Stacey responds to a story behind a picture on page 61, “This picture rooted Stacey to a sense of duty she could not explain, but she suspected that white folks lacked this sensibility.” This simple sentence shows how one story can affect a whole host of actions and emotions that the white folks, who don’t have the story, do not experience. Stacey’s response is a response to story, and thus to culture. At the bottom of page 66, Stacey grapples with a difference in stories while talking to her principal, “‘It revived in me a crazy kind of way to think that these little fishes your people claim cannot think could be so passionate about life that they would risk death to procreate…” The fundamental difference in stories creates a great rift, but ultimately allows Stacey to develop her own identity and thus assert herself against unjust authority.

  5. steven h says:

    One theme that my group cam up with involved change and the connection to white town. Specifically, I believe Stacey represents change in the community. Stacey is the first person from the village to go to school in white town, have white friends (Carol and Steve), and to go to the University (UBC). These things give her a connection to white town that noone else in the village can understand.
    One scene that really expresses this connection occurs when Raven and Cedar are talking about Stacey. Raven flat out explains that he believes Stacey is the one who will integrate the two towns. He says “Stacey alone moved about in the others’ world” (44). He then goes on to have an argument with cedar, insisting that Stacey will be the one to change white town. Talking about it, Raven says “She [Stacey] seemed unable to get under it to expose it enough to find the key to its transformation” (44). Throughout the novel Raven is convinced Stacey will make a change. This makes the epilogue extremely unexpected because in the end Stacey cant start her school or make a difference in the village.
    Another scene that exposes this connection occurs during Stacey’s last encounter with Steve. Steve, who is fond of Stacey, asks her “is it because I’m white?” (185). Stacey answers “no, its because you aren’t Indian” (185). I found this scene very interesting because there are so many different ways Stacey could have answered him. By saying “its because you aren’t Indian” Stacey reinforces the idea that the two villages don’t understand each other. The people in white town are basically ignorant to the difficulties that the village has to deal with. Meanwhile, the people in the village don’t really understand the ways of white town. Stacey seems to be the only one who can at least try to comprehend the differences between the two and I think this scene helps show that.

  6. Elizabeth C says:

    One of the most beautiful aspects of the book Ravensong is the presence of laughter – especially among the women. I think that somewhere Lee Maracle may have wrote that white town loves their dichotomies. Well, we do. Perhaps for white town, dichotomies are our way of understanding the world… we seek them out in order to try and understand how they can exist together. And despite the fact that integration and continuity intertwine all aspects of village life, the prevalence of laughter in this book seems to be a contradiction; for the community lived through a time of horror. At the end of the book, Stacey captures this horror in a statement in which she imagines all that the village had lost at this point in its history.

    She imagined the faces of the babies these children might have had…. The numbers grew staggering. The great-great-grandchildren the village should have, the great-grandchildren, their grandchildren, their children. Whole lineages wiped out…. The loss filled the sound of grief. (p. 198)

    This is their experience – a terrible sense of overwhelming loss, a grief which is present at every moment, which cannot go away. Yet the pages are filled with the sound of laughter; five sentences down from the passage above, the author writes, “Relieved of their grief, the women laughed.”

    Laughter appears in unlikely places – in a home of sickness, after moments of realization, at times of fixing relationships. Almost always it is an indication that some difficult moment in life has been turned into a joke, from Stacey’s tantrum of frustration as a child to her acknowledgement of having crossed a moral line in walking alone with the women couple, Rena and German Judy. Difficult moments are overcome through laughter. Lee Maracle writes how in the presence of Grampa Thomas, “conversation [takes] the direction of a struggle for understanding” (p. 97). She also writes of the transformative qualities of certain aspects of life, “death is transformative” (p. 85). Her book is one of transformation through a struggle to understand. Women in her world grapple with realization and transformation through laughter; it enables them to experience change without succumbing to a sense of destruction of defeat.

  7. Chelsea G. says:

    One theme in Ravensong that struck me was the relationship between humans and nature. The way characters interact with nature is an integral aspect of their personality and mirrors the way they fit into society. This is especially important in the characters of Celia and Stacy. Celia’s relationship with nature is very spiritual, this can be seen in the way Celia is introduced in the novel. “Below cedar a small girl sat. She watched for some time the wind playing with cloud. Above, she felt the presence of song in the movement of cedar’s branches (9). Nature and Celia’s relationship to nature are central. Lee Maracle does not even name Celia in this first introduction. Instead, Celia’s character is wrapped up in her relationship to cedar. This mirrors Celia’s relationship to the village. She is firmly rooted to the village and stands by as a quite observer, just like cedar. This serves as a contrasting point to Stacey, who wanders back and forth between the village and white town. “The rain continued for another two weeks with out let-up. It annoyed Stacey no end. Her arrival at school was always more embarrassing on rainy days. Walking the half-mile from the village to white town in the rain soaked her clothes. Her hair lost whatever body she had been able to give it. Her ponytail became a single black streak down her back, her skirt stuck immodestly to her skin, exposing short not quite lean legs. It wasn’t cold but it made her wish for a Burberry, a pair of boots and an umbrella. The worst part was the squishy sound her canvas runners made as she walked along the long silent hallways between classes” (24). This is not the intimate connection to nature that Celia feels. Instead, Stacey’s relationship to the rain reveals how she has been effected by white town. White town’s feelings of sexual shame can be seen in Stacey’s belief that her wet skirt is immodest. You can also see white town’s materialism in Stacy’s desire for a Burberry. This brand identification is not something seen in the village. Interestingly, the rain also reveals Stacey’s Indian identity that she is trying to hide. It reverts her hair to its natural state. Stacey’s annoyance at this mirrors her conflicted relationship with her village and her identity. She tries to change herself, make herself more like the white people, but the rain brings her back. Even though she is annoyed by the rain, there is still a deep connection between the rain and her identity. Just as Stacey is often annoyed by the village, yet is deeply connected to it.

  8. Katie C. says:

    A prominent theme throughout Lee Maracle’s Ravensong are the roles of different genders, and their relationships with each other. Men and women play very different roles in the different societies. In The Village, woman are a crucial role in the communities health, taking care of all the sick throughout the town during the epidemic. They are responsible for the gathering of roots and berries, making jams and taking care of their husbands. Women are not looked down upon but rather prized and cherished in Stacey’s world. For some time Stacey believed that men and women played similar roles in White Town, not thinking that women may be treated poorly. She finds out from German Judy that in White Town, women could not divorce even for being abused and, “until now Stacey had bagged white men and women in the same sack. White women started to look different. Stacey felt a little uneasy about this” (81). The idea that Stacey might be able to relate to white women a little more than she ever thought is a scary idea. Because of how different she looked at White Town, the thought there she might be superior to them in some way was astounding to her.

    One thing that always confused Stacey was the source of men’s power over women. She gets a first hand experience of this power when she is confronted by Mr. Johnson but stands up to him, “Stacey had just relieved Mr. Johnson of his authority over her . . . The stripping of Mr. Johnson’s authority made Stacey his equal; the possibility of oneness with him opened up old fears” (67-68). This authority that white men have over women is very present throughout the novel and Stacey’s relationships, including with Steve and the Snowdens. Stacey has the ability to release these males (Mr. Johnson and Steve) of any sort of power they might have over her, making her a symbol for change within the communities. She is able to bridge that gap between men and women and make men her equal, and hopefully one day bringing the two worlds together.

  9. Ashley S. says:

    I missed class the day we did the group talks unfortunately, but one of the prominent themes to me was searching for one’s identity, or as Xinh Xinh said curiosity. There are a lot of times throughout the book where Stacey doesn’t really feel like she fits in in either place since she is a mix of both cultures, and she isn’t quite sure some of the time whether she thinks one culture or the other is better. For instance, Stacey thinks that her native town has a much better sense of community and she likes that families are close and have good relationships with one another, whereas in white town people seem distant and not nearly as familial. Stacey is frightened and disturbed by the way Carol’s mother treats Carol, and the way her father treats her mother, and she is appalled by how uncaring people seem at Old Nora’s funeral, however she still defends whites to her own mother. “She tried to tell her how different white people were inside themselves. The littlest things were governed by the most complex rules and regulations. . . . She could tell that Momma didn’t really believe her.”(p.151). She isn’t fully sure which side she supports, she’s looking for herself, and curious which is right. Other times she sides with her native town. When Steve asks Stacey why she doesn’t want to be with him, and if it’s because he’s white she says “No, It’s because you aren’t Indian.” (p.185). It’s not that Stacey doesn’t like Steve, or that he’s white, she has nothing against the fact that he’s white, yet she says it just isn’t good enough because he isn’t Indian. She knows that other women in her tribe or family have lost a lot due to marrying non-Indians, and she just can’t risk that as part of her Indian culture. Stacey and a lot of the other characters are all searching for an identity when outsiders are trying to force one on them.

  10. Andrew C. says:

    I was unable to attend class for the group discussion but I had been thinking about what I would have potentially said as well as contributed to group discussion. I think one of the most prevalent themes in Lee Maracle’s novel Ravensong is death as well as the loss of someone or something. I use the term death to cover many spectrums of the word itself. When I use the term death, I’m not only referring to living organisms being killed, but thought processes, stereotypes, and even cultures. Not only was a physical sense death present in the novel, but in using the word loss, an ‘emotional death’ was present, too. To stretch the word death even further, death or loss is also seen in the cultural innocence of Stacey’s ‘friend’ Steve. Lee Maracle was capable of giving death a new definition for me. Death is defined as life’s ending. Lee Maracle was able to broaden the word ‘death’, and change it from being defined as the ending of life, to the ending of anything that felt close. Anything that felt real. Loss was death.
    Take for example Stacey’s ‘friend’ Steve. (I am not sure if scare quotes are quite necessary. Their friendship was odd to say the least.) Steve had an attraction towards Stacey and thought that learning about her culture would somehow get her to be attracted to him. This is what I am talking about, Lee Maracle’s newfound definition of death. Steve did not suffer a physical death but he did experience death, or loss, nonetheless. Steve experienced a death of innocence. He finally shed his predominant white town traits and characteristics and tried to learn more about Stacey and her community’s culture. Steve was unable to get anywhere with Stacey; he still learned about her community though. He lost his cultural innocence. Death and loss go hand-in-hand in Ravensong. This loss seemed like one of the most important but there were many others. Steve was the initial flame that lost his innocence to Stacey and her community’s culture. Hopefully this flame would spread across the river to white town and there could be a death to all of the stereotypes. If only it were that easy.
    Death, in a physical form, was also present and played a huge role in shaping the novel. Polly’s suicide opened new doors to the community. They had never heard of suicide and couldn’t grasp the concept of someone taking their own life. But it was there, just as real as the ‘flu that plagued their community. The community’s deaths due to the ‘flu epidemic opened the eyes of Steve, better late than never. Death surrounded Stacey’s community and allowed to novel to further create a picture. Lee Maracle used the theme of death and loss to allow the reader to understand the severity that such things have on a culture such as Stacey’s. However, Maracle was also able to show the reader the bright-side to death and loss. What a troubling statement. It is tough to think about good coming from death and loss. Maracle shows the reader that it is possible. Despite the deaths due to the ‘flu, the community came together as one. Steve’s loss opened his eyes to the community and will hopefully change the outcome of the next epidemic.
    Despite the severity of a theme such as death Lee Maracle was capable of representing both sides in her story. Death is not something we welcome with open arms yet the outcome can be greater than the loss. Maracle made the reader think about both sides of the story making the theme matter even more. Death and loss made the story real, and without them we would still be in Stacey’s classroom. Polly’s suicide started a chain of event. Death created Maracle’s story as well as Stacey’.

  11. Susan T. says:

    I think that a major theme in Ravensong is the concept of loss and how individuals deal with their loss. Stacey experiences different types of loss.

    In the beginning she experiences the loss of a community member, Old Nora. Although Stacey never really knew Nora that well, she still had to experience the loss that it was to her community. “Stacey remembered being at other funerals – funerals full of passionate grief. Funerals of beloved old ones in which the grandchildren let go deep wailing sounds which seemed to come from the centre of the earth itself. Today there was only the feeling of relief and resignation.” (p. 11) It seems as if although Stacey didn’t really want to be there, she still witnessed the loss that others experienced.

    Another loss that Stacey experienced is the loss of her classmate Polly. To me it seems as if she experience Polly’s loss more than she experienced the loss of Old Nora. I think she experienced Polly’s loss more because she knew Polly better, and she had a closer connection to Polly even though Old Nora was a part of her community.

    There are so many ways one can experience loss. Another example of loss that I saw within the novel was the loss of cultural whether it was forced or not. The Residential Schools are a perfect example of a forced loss of cultural. They forced children to change the way they look, the way they talk, and to adapt the ways of the white people. If they didn’t do as they were told they were punished until they started to change.

    This theme of loss changes everyones life in one way or another, and is very prominent in Ravensong.

  12. Rachael says:

    I am drawn to the unavoidable, blaringly obvious themes of racism and marginalization in Ravensong, which ultimately encompasses and influences most, if not all contents of this novel. Through Maracle’s clever and subtle demise of Celia’s visions throughout the book, readers are reminded that the once very important relationship between humans and spirituality, their connection to their history and culture, is fading through marginalization with the constant threat of assimilation. Stacey is the youth and representation of a possible bridge between the gap that separates “white” and “non-white” relations in her communities (Stacey spends much of the novel literally standing on this bridge). She has been navigating her way through two different worlds for quite some time when we are introduced to her character. Every action she takes stems from living in a world of “double-consciousness”. That is, W.E.B. Du Bois’ concept of looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, judging yourself as human and the marginalized group you belong to. In Stacey’s case, every action she takes is influenced by her awareness of the color of her skin, not to mention her gender. This can be both daunting and a constant struggle, but can also aid in giving her a perception that characters we meet in white town are not privileged to. So often we see “white” as a “non-race”. It is the race that is almost unmentionable, almost a default, a large, looming, expansive state that can blind and consume other more “defined” groups. One of the lessons that Maracle seems to attempt to impart upon her readers, through the motivations of Raven, is that the silence surrounding “whiteness” should be broken, and that “white” (“white-town”) is also a racial construction that is actually completely entangled and reliant upon its marginalized “others” in order to sustain itself. My point is that dominant groups need the other in order to remain dominant. Stacey uses this awareness to cultivate her own sense of power throughout the novel and ultimately transform what begins as a fear of being an outsider into a much greater sense of maturation and strong character loyal to her personal history. I cringed when Stacey allows Carol to simply laugh off her comment that her family actually uses the food that folks in white town throw away. “We eat what them women are tossing” she says (p.32) and then recoils because of shame. Only months later, after being faced with a very real sense of loss and her transformative journey is well under way that she ends up laughing at Carol for getting so upset over something as simple as a parental divorce. It is important, and almost goes without saying, that marginalization is also highly prevalent within racial groups. For instance- when it comes time to choose another Speaker for their community, the decision comes down to Nora and Dominic. “They had argued that Nora was the better speaker of the two but they had never before chosen a woman as Speaker.” (p. 99) and ultimately Nora is not chosen for this very reason. Although this book has not been my favorite read for a variety of reasons, it remains true to the evolution of finding oneself and realizing ones power despite living with overwhelming obstacles such as racism, bigotry, and loss of cultural identity.

  13. Shelley says:

    One of the themes our group talked about was loss, not only personal loss but community loss. Stacy’s story starts and ends with a funeral. In the beginning of the book she is attending Old Nora’s funeral. This is a great loss to the because Old Nora is one of the elders of the community. Old Nora’s death leaves a hole in the community because Nora’s knowledge and wisdom is now lost to the younger people of the village. In the end, Stacy, Celia, her mother and Rena are at the funeral of Celia’s son, Little Jimmy. This is 25 years after the death of Nora but this time it is different. Unlike Nora’s funeral, only the four women are present, where as at Old Nora’s the entire community was there. Why? The way of life that Stacy and her siblings grew up in is gone, the clan base has disappeared. The women have all left to marry and not return and so the matriarchal society that held the community together is no more.

  14. Peter C says:

    One of the themes our group discussed in class was the hypocrisy of the white town, which can also be tied in with their ignorance toward the Indian life. Polly’s suicide does not seem to escape Stacey’s deep thoughts and seems to decipher the different ways of life between the river. Stacey cannot believe the way in which other white students look down on Polly for her lustful experience. She knows, just like every other student that Polly was the one to get caught; that is all. She knew many of the students were experiencing sexual actions as well. For the whites to make fun of and look down on Polly was not fair and extremely hypocritical. This is a significant theme throughout the novel because it explains the ignorance of the white town. They do not have to deal with the everyday struggles of the Indian life. The level of importance of lust means nothing to Stacey as compared to the flu epidemic her town is dealing with. Suicide is not understood where Stacey is from because there is not enough time to think about such self-conflicting acts. Dominic ponders this as well when he thinks, “Aren’t things like the flu supposed to kill people?”. Hypocrisy and ignorance go hand-in-hand; while the white town is busy judging others, they do not take into account the more important things in life such as life and death.

    Mr. Johnson cannot believe the way Stacey states her case for not attending detention but part of me believes he cannot see an Indian girl doing such a thing. Although he agrees with Stacey, he challenges her authority as he makes her out to be inferior to any white person. It’s as if he asks the question, “How can you be so confident for someone of your stature in society?”; it is hypocritical and ignorant of him to judge her on the fact that she is Indian and female while in reality she is human and should have the same rights as any other student. Ignorance is present throughout this scene as Mr. Johnson does not seem to care much about her tough life at home. Ignorance drives hypocrisy in the white town because even if they were not committing the same act, they would be if they had any idea what the Indians were dealing with. The white town does not understand the confusion of suicide because they take things for granted and think for themselves.

  15. Joe A. says:

    I think that the relationship between men and woman is an important theme in Ravensong. Through Stacy we learn about the different dynamics between genders in the Indian and white communities. She sees a clear contrast between the two groups’ gender roles, but also finds common ground, reasons to feel empathy for white woman and men.

    I think that Maracle, as a member of the Stolo tribe and as a woman, is interested in both Native and Women’s struggles. She seems to be writing from both a Postcolonial and Feminist perspective, and I think the two struggles are probably very closely linked for her. The struggle of first nations peoples under a patriarchal domination (Europe’s hierarchical, male-dominated power structure against the mother earth worshipping first nations cultures) is the struggle of the woman under the patriarchy.

    Stacy gives her account of a trip to her friend Carol’s house, which reveals a very a different family structure from the one found in her village. It is clear to Stacy that Carol’s father is the head of the household. The mother and children are subjected to his rule, as opposed to the Indian community where men and woman seem on equal footing in the household and children are given the same respect as adults. There is no hierarchy like in Carol’s house. Stacy also senses a strong tension between Carol’s parents, as if they are at war, though everyone remains to sterile and polite on the outside. All of these power dynamics make Stacy uncomfortable and she can’t quite grasp why this world is so different from hers.

    Stacy encounters patriarchal power first hand when she has a dispute with the principle. She feels like he has an unwritten power over her, not only as a principle, but as a white man. She challenges this power by refusing to serve detention. She feels like when she stands up for herself, she changes the power dynamics at work. People at school begin to see her in a different light as she begins to challenge the principle and the teachers.

    Another person who challenges Stacy’s understanding of gender relationships is Steve. He is a boy in her class who befriends her after she starts standing up to the principle. She is very untrusting of him at first, and she does not want to be tied to him. She recalls her cousin who married a white man (which means you lose Indian status), only to have him abandon her and her children. Stacy does not want to sacrifice her Indian-ness for a boy.

    The scenes with the principle, Steve, and Carol’s family show Stacy’s awareness of the differences between patriarchy (white town) and matriarchy (the village). Stacy feels threatened by white males, but learns how to stand up for herself, which I think is very important in the novel. She also learns to sympathize with the whites, because she recognizes their pain. This is evident in her eventually equal relationship with Steve (though she insists they cant be together) and in her discussions about white woman subjectivity (she feels sorry that white woman cannot just kick their men out). The gender theme reappears throughout the novel, like in the case of Stacy’s mother and Ned, Old Snake and his wife, and Polly and the boys in the class and the teacher. For Stacy, the struggle of being Indian and being a woman is one in the same.

  16. Kaleigh M says:

    One theme that seems to continuously surround Stacey in the novel Ravensong, by Lee Maracle, is that of differences in relationship dynamics and sex. We see many different couples interacting around Stacey, both from the white community and her own native community, shaping and altering her perception of what is right and wrong, acceptable and shunned.
    The first relationship that shapes Stacey’s perception of male/female interaction is that of her parents’. Her mother is the leader of the household, as she exists within a matriarchal society. Everything within the house was deemed ‘hers’ by Stacey’s father: “He had referred to everything as ‘Your mother’s’…’your mother’s home,’ ‘your mother’s meat,’ ‘your mother’s children,’ but his presence owned every nook and cranny” (Page 84). This partnership helped to maintain a balanced, happy household despite the changes in the family’s money situation or health issues. There are also various notes within the novel that show us the casual and expected role that sex plays within the native community. Sex is necessary; men and women did not have to hide that they were sexually active, it was obvious.
    In opposition, Stacey’s classmate Polly commits suicide after a rumor circulates around the school that she had had sex with a boy in her class. The ridicule that she endured from her peers was unbearable. Stacey is confused by this, as sex is not something to be ashamed of within her community. “Killed herself because they knew she had enjoyed her body’s passion. It all seemed too absurd to be true. Stacey felt she must be missing some significant piece of information with which to solve the mad riddle running around in her mind” (Page 40). Stacey interprets Polly’s death as a result of not adequately hiding her human actions from the rest of the white community. Stacey knew that many other girls in her class must have been having sex, but because Polly’s truth was public, she could not bear to live.
    Another example of the native community’s approach to sex is after the death of Stacey’s father, when his twin brother Ned arrives to the household. Stacey soon after finds out that her mother had long ago had an affair with Ned because of Jim’s inability to give Stacey’s mother children. The community does not know of this, but in the spring after Jim’s death, Stacey’s mother marries Ned. The marriage is completely accepted by the community, as it is now Ned’s responsibility to take care of his late brother’s wife. Some of the villagers joke with Stacey about her mother’s happiness to marry her long-lost lover Ned. “’Oh, I bet Momma can hardly wait for spring,’ and they all laughed” (Page104). Sexual desire is not oppressed, but spoken about out in the open amongst women and young ladies.
    Clearly, the differences between the relationships and sexualities in the white community and the native community are very different. The white community keeps all sexual details of relationships behind a curtain of ‘discretion’. A breach in the secrecy of white nakedness results in disaster; in this instance, Polly’s death. Polly was ridiculed because of the knowledge of her satisfying her seeking of pleasure. In the native village, sex is a natural means of keeping a family line going, as well as keeping a human being happy and balanced.

  17. Xinh Xinh N. says:

    Of all the themes we discussed, one of the theme caught my attention was curiosity. As the story went on, this theme was seen throughout the novel. For example, Stacy was always curious about everything in the white community. She always questioned why the white people behaved so differently and she did not understand their motives. For example, in the early chapter during the funeral scene, it was described how “each car was filled with car-less relation, and every car carries the family who own it” (16-17), Stacy could not understand why the white are so distant from each other. Each person behaves as an individual as opposed to the whole community. Stacy’s curiosities went on when she heard news about Polly’s death and she could not understand why Polly killed herself.
    Stacy was confused about the family structure of the white people because within her family, people communicated with each other, and the relationship between parents and children were closed. However, when Stacy was at Carol’s house, she could not understand why Carol’s mother was so happy to see Stacy, but she seemed distant to her own daughter. For Stacy, the family structure of the white people was complicated because there seemed to be something hiding. Carol’s father did not want to have conservation with her mother because he did not want his children to listen and he seemed to be the one who had power in the family. Stacy wondered why the children had to ask when they had to do something.
    Not only Stacy, other people in the village were curious at how thing worked in the white people’s world. For example, when Stacy taught her mother how to read, her mother had to read aloud in order to understand the stories. When Stacy told her mother that she did not have to read the words aloud, just silently read imagine the story in her mind. Her mother did not understand how Stacy could read the story in her mind.
    At the end of the novel, after Stacy had retold the stories to Jacob, and he asked why his people paid attention to the white, of all the people, and Stacy simply answered because there were not enough ravens, I think it was important because Stacy had tried to make a difference in her village by going to the university. However, at the end, her hard word was rejected. She did not get hired and the relationship between the white and her people did not seem to change. Stacy did not accomplish her mission on educating the white people. So when this question was asked, it seemed like Stacy wanted Jacob to know that one person could not make a difference, but if there were more people involve, it would be different. If there were more people helping Stacy on educating the white, the mission would be successful
    Throughout the novel, “what, when, where, why and how” were constantly asked. The Natives were curious about everything about the white world. They wanted to know the answers. However, when one question is answered, another question is arisen. The white had come and disturbed their life, and when they left, they left the Natives questions to figure out by their own. I think that Stacy had tried to answer her own and her people’s questions, but when she finally found the answers, she was disappointed because the mysteries about the white people were not as mystery after all. They were just like her and her people, except they were indifferent, emotionless and they had big goals on them. They did nothing to her people besides trying to take away what did not belong to them.
    I think this is a great story because the readers can see how Stacy’s character had developed throughout the novel. She was caught between two cultures, but she overcomes what was confusing her, and at the end, she found who she was and who she wanted to be.

  18. Lauren K. says:

    I think the theme that has stuck out with me most in the book is loss and how individuals deal with loss. This for me is something I noticed right away. The whole book is focused around loss. Stacey deals with loss in the white world as well as in her community. People perceive loss in many different ways. For Stacey, loss is not something to be dealt with lightly. Everyone has a purpose in life and everyone’s life important. I think this theme is particularly important to the novel because loss seems to shape Stacey’s perceptions about her own community and the white world. Loss is something so hurtful to Stacey and her community that she doesn’t understand why it isn’t so crucial in the white world.
    I think one scene in particular that sticks out is the scene where Stacey is at Carol’s house and her parents are talking about the epidemic. Carol’s father does not seem too concerned if some of the workers will die from the epidemic because they can just be replaced. Stacey doesn’t understand how someone can just be replaced. She doesn’t understand how Carol’s dad can have no sympathy for the workers that might lose their lives. He is just concerned about the production and replacing the workers after they die. Things in Stacey’s community are so different. When someone dies in is such a big deal because everyone plays in important role in the community and they can’t be replaced. People show such great emotions at these funerals. Funerals in the white world do not seem to hold as much emotion. This scene stands out because of the strong cultural differences between the white world and Stacey’s community. The feelings involving loss are so significantly different between the two.
    Another scene that stands out for the theme of loss is the scene where Stacey is on the bridge after she finds out that Polly killed herself. Stacey is stuck with emotion. She doesn’t understand how someone can come to kill themselves especially over something like having sex. I think Stacey in a way is also grieving for the loss of part of herself. In her community everyone’s nature is to help out everyone else around them especially if they are struggling. Stacey overhead something in the bathroom, but decided that it was none of her business. She wasn’t going to bother with it because she felt it had nothing to do with her. I think Stacey feels bad about this because she could have helped Polly. She shouldn’t though because she had no idea what was going to happen. Polly’s loss is something that really sticks with Stacey. I can relate to how this type of loss would stick with someone. I too have known someone close who has committed suicide. This type of loss is difficult to process because it was something that could have been prevented. This wasn’t an accident or illness. This was planned. I think that is another reason it sticks so sharply in Stacey’s mind. She doesn’t understand why someone would chose their own death. This scene is particularly griping because Stacey is thinking about Polly’s death so intently on the bridge. The bridge is a good image for this scene because it shows the struggle Stacey is feeling. The bridge is the divide between understanding and not.

  19. Ali V. says:

    In today’s class, my group discussed a number of different themes that are present throughout Ravensong, but I found one to be particularly intriguing. Out of the themes we talked about, I was most interested in the theme involving how different individuals and communities described in the book perceive and deal with loss. This was a major theme throughout Ravensong in that Maracle spent a great amount of time detailing how the different characters were dealing with the loss of people in their community. One of the main points we brought up in class was the methods by which the different characters were dealing with these losses and how this can create a barrier between the white community and the Native villagers. Maracle describes Stacey’s village as being a close and connected community and everyone in the village had a place in the overall circle of relations. Meanwhile, in the white community, people did not think of the members of their community in the same way. When a member of the white community died, the community did not grieve as heavily as the villagers did when one of their community members died. In the village, because everyone had a particular job and place in the community, the impact of their death was much more heavily felt. Extreme grief was evident in Stacey’s village when somebody died because they were thought of as being irreplaceable. This is a crucial theme to the novel as a whole because it emphasizes the barrier that the white town and the village have between them. Because they grieve the loss of community members in such different ways, it becomes harder for the two communities to relate to each other.
    One scene that really illustrates this theme is when Polly commits suicide. It is at this point that Stacey realizes how different her view of death differs from that of Carol, Steve, and all of the other students at her white school. When Stacey learns that Polly commits suicide, she is consumed with grief and she cannot understand how somebody could take his or her own life. Even though Steve, Carol, and the other students are upset by the death of Polly, they are not as personally affected by this tragedy as Stacey is. This scene is really significant because it makes Stacey start to question her idealization of the white community, which she has tried so hard to become part of. Stacey cannot understand why the white community is not more upset and grievous about the loss of Polly.
    Another scene that brings this theme to life is also when Stacey is eating dinner at Carol’s house and they are discussing the possible deaths in the white community that may occur as a result of the coming flu epidemic. Carol’s father relates that he is not nervous about the possible deaths because they have plenty of people who can replace his coworkers if they die. Meanwhile, everyone in Stacey’s community is extremely distraught over the mere thought of an epidemic sweeping through their community. This further emphasizes the idea that the white community does not value every individual member of their town as being an essential or vital or unique contributor to the way their town functions. When the villagers learn about the epidemic, they fear that it will take the lives of their crucial community members. It was interesting to see how differently the two communities viewed the loss of community members and how this variation further pushed the white town and the Native village away from each other.

Comments are closed.