Literary review - the loons

By Roy Woods,2014-02-05 18:33
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Literary review - the loons

    Every life needs respect, every soul worth salvation

    The Loons is generally perceived as an article to reflect the discrimination and rebellion of the half-breed living in Canada. Margaret Laurence, the writer, compared the loons with the family of Tonnerres in the background of the post-Riel rebellion era. Meditating more seriously

    of the miserable life Piquette lived in, I find the meanings hidden behind this character more and more abundant. I would like to analyze this character with the universal value so as to present what is the pursuance of human kind, no matter for that age, or at our time.

Biography of the Author:

    Margaret Laurence's life began on July 18, 1926 in the prairie town of Neepawa, Manitoba. Born Jean Margaret Wemyss, Laurence suffered the loss of her parents at a very young age. Her mother, Verna Simpson Wemyss, died in 1930 when Margaret was only four years old; her father Robert Wemyss, who later married Verna's sister, passed away only five years after the death of his first wife.

    Having begun to write in the second grade, Laurence decided early in life to become a writer. She began writing professionally in 1943 when she got a summer job as a reporter for the town newspaper and in 1944 she enrolled in the Honours English program at Winnipeg's United College. In 1947, after graduating with her BA from United College, Laurence went on to become a reporter for the Winnipeg Citizen. Later that same year, she married Jack Laurence, a civil engineer.

    They lived in Africa until 1957, spending the last five years of their stay in the Gold Coast (known today as Ghana). This time away from Canada marked a tremendously important period in Margaret Laurence's life. Not only were her two children born during this time, but it was also in Africa that Laurence began to work seriously on writing fiction.

    During the last decade of her life, Margaret Laurence was actively involved in speaking and writing about issues that concerned her such as nuclear disarmament, the environment, literacy, and other social issues.


    What is universal value?

    Something is of universal value if it has the same value or worth for all, or almost all, people.

    S. H. Schwartz, along with a number of psychology colleagues, provided ten types of universal value are: power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformity, and security.

    These values are regarded as the pursuance of all human kind.

    However, there two major dispute along with its classification. First, some philosopher divided universal values into two ideas: Moral Universalism and Moral relativism.

    Moral universalism (also called moral objectivism or universal morality) is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals", regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexuality, or any other distinguishing feature. Moral universalism is opposed to moral nihilism and moral relativism.

    Moral relativism may be any of several descriptive, meta-ethical, or normative positions.

    Each of them is concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures.

    Second, around what are the complete contents of universal value, philosophers, politicians, educators, and theologians have aroused great disputes and discrepancies. In different political systems, different age, and different political pursuance, universal value can be defined to be different concepts. That is why China and the USA always quarrel each other on human rights.

    All in all, though controversy and limitation exist, universal value is generally perceived as the pursuance of the collection of human beings.

Analysis of Piquette:

    Ordinary and humble as Piquette, smells like a wild flower, never seize the attention of people and never escape the destiny of being slandered. Though fictitious, the story of Piquette and her family can be regarded as the lament and struggle of the half-breeds in around 1844 (or even earlier) to 1885 (may even much later) in which they stood up to rebel the government but finally enter their long silence. And in this story, we can infer their poor life by their shabby cabin

    built on dirty environment full of lean-tos, wooden packing cases, warped lumber, discarded car tyres, ramshackle chicken coops, tangled strands of barbed wire and rusty tin cans. Whats more,

    they are low-educated in that they spoke a patois that was neither Cree nor French and their

    English was broken and full of obscenities”. Besides, Piquettes father and brother, and later as we

    know, Piquette joined them, often drunk and being sent to the prison. These are the background descriptions of the living conditions of the half-breeds. Lastly, they are half-breeds so that they lack the recognition of their identity.

    As a result, they cannot join in the white society nor go back to their origin tribes. It was for the reason that they were the rebels in the eye of the white, and they were too dirty and too caddish to approach. In addition, their mouths were full of obscenities or even spitted a language which couldnt understand. On the other hand, their original living conditions were invaded and destroyed by the white as well as their blood indicated that they had no idea of where they should go.

    But they still live in their ways.

    Piquette could be a good example to illustrate. Her life could be divided into two parts according to the story: her first acquaintance with Vanessa and her second acquaintance with her. In the first stage, Vanessa seldom talked to others and went to school. It seemed that she segregate herself with others intentionally. But in the second stage, she changed. She talked to Vanessa initiatively which presented an active image to readers.

    In my opinion, this distinguished and somewhat abnormal alternative could be analyzed in such a way. Every human pursue universal value, so did Piquette. In the first stage, she presented an uncooperative attitude towards the society in the illusion of being free and secure. She refused to go to school or talk to anybody else or interact with others. How innocent she was! There is no assignable to deny that human beings chase for warmness and happiness thorough their life. However, nobody can live away from the main stream in the modern days, neither did her. As a result, in the second stage, she initiatively approached to the white society even though she was unwilling to do so. She wanted to join in the main stream so that she could dig out her own identity and hence received universal rights. But unfortunately, she failed. Born as a half-breed, her life was almost destined to be miserable. No warmness, no recognition, no social

    status, no freedom, no opportunities for happiness, no security and even no basic rights of a mankind. These tragedies were all bred from the discrimination, fear and hostility of the whites against other racial in that society.

    Universal value exists throughout human history. Dated back to the primeval age, we started to unite as group or, later, a tribe or a country to protect our fortune and security. We knitted clothes to keep away from cold; we built houses to keep away beasts; we burnt fire to keep away from dark; we shaped weapons to keep away from hungry and enemies; we wrote books to keep away from foolish; we contemplate to keep away from stupidity We bound together to fight for

    our freedom, our living, our equality, but we only protect our rights.

    That is because we are born to have rights, but rights are never true of our enemies. Poor as Piquette, or her half-breed brothers and sisters or the Blacks or the Asian immigrants living in western country, they were perceived as enemies to contend resources with the white. So they were being exploited; they were being banished; they were being slaved. For the same group of people, they thought it nature. But for the aimed people, they were threw disasters. Marx once said that the history of human can be viewed as a history of exploitation and rebellion.

    Fortunately, with the development of our society, with the alternative of our ideas, we began to meditate. Finally, the sound, of the writers who oppose against discrimination, of the thinkers who stimulate human rights movement and of the anthropologists who rethink the meaning of struggle and killing rocks the world over.

    The purpose of this article is not only to indicate this phenomenon but also to require human to self-question what the future of human kind is. The final end of the article is to dig out the sound in our heart which whispered continuously that every life needs respect, every soul worth salvation.


    1. shabby cabin built on dirty environment full of lean-tos, wooden packing cases, warped

    lumber, discarded car tyres, ramshackle chicken coops, tangled strands of barbed wire and

    rusty tin cans(Zhang Hanxi. Advanced English. Peking: Foreign Language Teaching and

    Research Press)

    2. they spoke a patois that was neither Cree nor French and their English was broken and full

    of obscenities(Zhang Hanxi. Advanced English. Peking: Foreign Language Teaching and

    Research Press)

    3. universal value from

    4. universal value from

    5. the introduction of the author from and

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