In Chapter 1 of Medicine River Rose takes the boys from Calgary to Medicine River. Why can they not live on the reservation and why is that especially unfair to Rose as a woman? Who or what may...

  1. In Chapter 1 of Medicine River Rose takes the boys from Calgary to Medicine River. Why can they not live on the reservation and why is that especially unfair to Rose as a woman?
  2. Who or what may be a symbol? Explain what the thing or person is a symbol?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Chapter one is told through the narrative of the letters.  Will is seeking to make sense of his father, and in a sense, his own life.  The letters reveal what Will's father communicated to his mother.  These letters are the only means by which Will can piece together the figments and fragments that is his father and the relationship he had towards his mother. It becomes clear that the letters that begin with "Dear Rose" reflect much in way of why Rose's life turned out the way it did.  Rose must move from the reservation because Will's father was an outsider.  The consequence of Rose breaking the norms of reservation life was to be shunned from it.  In addition to this, Rose has to shoulder the burden of dealing with a husband who has abandoned her and her children. It becomes unfair that Rose has to deal with the consequences of another's actions.  In this light, one sees how there is a bitter and sad edge to Rose, something that precludes her from completely healing her son's wounds.

In terms of symbols from the first chapter, paper can be a symbol.  It is paper that enables Will to envision his past.  Paper is what allows him to gain a glimpse into the emotional world of his father.  Paper is what enables this reconnection to happen because of the letters.  Paper is also the symbol that Will uses to generate his photographs, a representation of his present and his future.  Paper is what allows Will to gain a glimpse into his past, while paper is what provides the basis for his condition of being in the world.  This is why paper can be seen as an effective symbol in the exposition of the novel.

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