Theme Of Social Isolation In Through Black Spruce

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Through Black Spruce illustrates how the social isolation of an individual can lead to that individual’s identity dramatically shifting. Social isolation refers to the state of lacking a solid community. Social isolation does not have to refer to physical detachment from society. A person can even feel isolated and lonely among a crowd if he feels as though he does not fit in with the people within that crowd. In Through Black Spruce, the character of Will illustrates the identity changes that come from such social isolation. In the novel, Will’s boring, drunken lifestyle is turned upside down when he starts being unfairly targeted by violent drug dealers, led by a man named Marius. So, he begins fearing life. He spends his days holed up in …show more content…
From Will’s cigarette, “[s]moke [rises] up...and [Will] follow[s] its trail” (168). Will’s frustration with his ostracized social status leads to him honoring the bear with a Cree ritual and plotting to kill Marius rather than remaining quiet and letting Marius continue his tyranny. Although Will does not appear to take part in his culture’s customs in his everyday lifestyle, he still finds comfort in the idea of honoring the bear that he has a parental attachment to, as implied by the bear’s comparison to “a baby in a cradleboard”. That weak, old bear represents what Will’s identity once was: soft, frail, and submissive. Like the bear, Will let the few other people in his community solve his problems for him while he remained isolated. Marius killing the bear symbolizes Will shredding his submissive, “Canadian” identity and replacing it with an aggressive, “aboriginal” identity. Through his ostracized social status, Will loses a major part of his community, which leads to Will becoming violent and offensive. He decides to sacrifice the rest of his community to shoot …show more content…
However, they leave, further causing Will to miss his own family. A polar bear wrecks his camp on the island, pushing him to travel to an abandoned native village. Winter threatens his chance of survival, and Will begins to feel guilty for killing nature just to survive a pointless existence. So, Will “sprink[les] tabacco...[which is] all [he is] left with” (323) and apologizes for relying so heavily on the land and running away from his problems. . The wind just grows worse, “cracking [his shelter’s] frame” (324) and causing him to only be left with his plane. The weather alludes to Will’s isolation while the destruction of the shelter symbolizes Will’s crumbling identity. The word “cracking” connotes that the storm did not cause a complete break. A crack can be fixed, since the word “crack” is typically used to describe small breaks rather than a structure being completely demolished. Will’s identity is “cracked”, but not dead. In the wild, he has reconnected with his aboriginal culture, so in a way, his identity has been rejuvenated through his isolation. The storm, representing Will’s deep longing for a community, destroys everything except his plane to draw him back to his community so that he can heal his “cracks”. After all, Will once had a home, but he needlessly fled from his problems rather than facing them head on. So, consumed by his guilt

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