A Whale for the Killing presents a time when Mowat was forced to stand up to the people among whom he had chosen to live, people whom he had admired for their rugged individualism, their tenacity in the face of nature’s harshness, and their refusal to give in to adversity. In his attempts to force the townspeople of Burgeo, Newfoundland, to rescue a stranded eighty-ton fin whale, he learns that not everyone has the same reverence for nature as he and his wife and that the Canadian government is less concerned about protecting its natural heritage than it is about public relations.
This autobiographical narrative goes beyond recounting the erosion of the friendships that Mowat and his wife had established over many years in Burgeo; it also becomes a means by which Mowat can offer insight into the destruction brought about over time by the whaling industry. Interwoven in his account of the whale’s inhumane treatment and slow death are sections that explore the decimation of the North American North Atlantic fishing grounds and that give vivid accounts of the slaughter of whales, animals that in earlier times ranged the ocean in vast pods. The behavior of the people of Burgeo—tormenting the whale with speedboats and shooting endless rounds of ammunition into its body, inflicting wounds that would eventually make it prey to infection and great suffering—parallels the rapacious nature of the whaling industry. Mowat’s book thus works on two...
(The entire section is 475 words.)