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”A Clash of Cultures and the Hope of Rebirth” by Thomson Highway Essay Sample

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”A Clash of Cultures and the Hope of Rebirth” by Thomson Highway Essay Sample

In the playwrite Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, Thomson Highway focuses on the life style of seven native men in the Wasachigan Hill Indian Reserve in Ontario. In this play, there are six important male characters. Characters such as Big Joey, Spooky Lacroix Creature Nataways and Pierre St. Pierre adopt Christianity and the English language. While the characters Simon Starblanket, Zachary Jeremiah Keechigeesik try to revive the native culture, language and medicine. As the play begins Thomson Highway introduces the reader to this native community (that seems to be tight knit group of people, perhaps for all the wrong reasons). As the play progresses we realize that the Native figure of the Trickster is a predominantly female character named Nanabush. She is hard at work as she slips in and out of the realm of reality as the male characters begin to expose the complicated and dysfunctional relationships that are at the core of this Native community. Because the females are absent throughout the play, Nanabush always reappears as various female figures, helping to develop different situations as they arise and give a voice to the females in the play.

While reading the playwrite we see many conflicts arise throughout, these conflicts can be described as poison within the community. We see examples of the poison through the inequality between genders in the play, alcohol abuse as a release and the importance of status within the community. However, Highway also gives examples of new beginnings and the opinions of some of the other natives within the native society that has hope for change.“Before the healing can take place, the poison must first be exposed” is an epigraph that Thomson highway included at the beginning of Dry Lips. The quote is based on traditional understanding that rashes caused by plants such as poison ivy cannot be treated without removing the oil causing the irritation. Although the understanding of the quote is true, Highway used the quote as a way to warn the reader or theatre audiences that Dry Lips contains dark material that can be disturbing and gruesome, but once exposed leaves hope for the future.

Thomson Highway is exposing the poison by portraying the Native’s pain in order to promote change. The oppression of women can also be seen through the voice or even physical presence of a character. Since, as Highway states, the language of Cree does not differentiate between male or female, the character of Nanabush doesn’t have to be exclusively male or female, but embodies a woman who is the representations of a male fantasy. She is representing various women in the play to bring back the voiceless females in the community. In the end we see Nanabush represented as Pasty Pegahmagahbow while Dickie Bird the victim of alcoholism, brutally rapes her with a crufix. Thus representing how Christianity raped the native culture. Gender oppression can also be seen through the ‘voice’ of other characters of the play such as Big Joey, who watches the rape of Patsy, but does not stop it. When asked why he does this, he replies, “Because I hate them … I hate them fuckin’ bitches. Because they — our own women — took the fuckin’ power away from us faster than the FBI ever did” (Highway 119-120).

Thomson Highway portrays a very clear-cut message that there is extensive problem with gender equality in this native community and although the way he exposes the subject matter is difficult for some to watch or read, it is definitely unnoticeable. In addition, in Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing he also shows the conflicts that underlie the stereotypes associated with Aboriginal communities, by exploring the issue of alcoholism through the flashbacks of the birth of Dickie Bird. Thomson Highway succeeds in exposing the issue of alcoholism in the community as we see representation through Dickie Bird who is a very confused and disturbed teenage boy due to fetal alcohol syndrome he is part of or causes many of the conflicts in Dry Lips. Lastly, The Aboriginal characters in the play lose their sense of spirituality (in some cases to Christianity) and the hockey game symbolizes this conflict of spirituality versus Christianity or native versus nonnative. Thomson Highway is using the puck, to represents a religious symbol, and Nanabush symbolically sheds light on spirituality opposed to Christianity and ends the hockey game and the conflict, that is associated with it.

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