Describe anger as a deadly sin in Tomson Highway's The Rez Sisters.

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Spirituality is present in most cultures in one form or another and the similarities become evident in Tomson Highway's Rez Sisters. Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins (or vices) in Christianity and children are warned about them whilst they are still small.  Some of these sins have the potential to ruin lives and cause tragedy and they are the root of many other sins. They are traditionally pride, greed, lust, wrath or anger, sloth or laziness, gluttony and envy. Teachings also point out that it is man's own free will which determines whether or not he will succumb to them. It is important to note that there are also seven virtues basically counteracting these sins.

In terms of deadly sins, especially anger, in Rez Sisters, Highway explores the link between Native American culture, spirituality and the circle of life. Nanabush, who cannot be defined as he would be in Christian culture, is central to the play and his origins as a teacher but something of a trickster and a charlatan who has angered many over centuries, contribute to the conflict the seven women feel but fail to recognize and the unresolved issues at the end of the play. There is nothing unusual or unique about the so-called "sisters'" desires to be wealthy and prosperous except that it is a western perception of wealth and it is this which creates a sense of unresolved anger although there is no malice in them as far as committing deadly sins is concerned. All that Pelajia really wants is a paved road, otherwise, "I'm packing my bags and moving to Toronto."

However, these sisters from the Reservation are clearly exposed to western culture when they attend "the biggest bingo in the world" and the clash between their material desires, their sins or vices, and their roots, spiritually-speaking, results in their inability to recognize Nanabush in his guises, causing unresolved anger to manifest itself. They arrive in Toronto with big expectations and are thus disappointed when Philomena wins only $600. This brings out the worst in them. The seven women, in the seventh generation, surrounded by the concept of the seven deadly sins with their lucky number B14 (a multiple of 7) (and other references to seven or its multiples) seem destined to allow their desires to stifle their true natures causing them to destroy the bingo machine. Anger thus becomes central to the plot in defining what happens. Anger is within each of the sisters but instead of managing and overcoming its negative impact, it becomes the driving force.  Only Marie-Adele, closer to death than the sisters realize and unable to compete with Nanabush, and Zhaboonigan, who is mentally-disturbed, have any real connection to their spirituality. The fact that Marie-Adele's life is the price the sisters pay for their anger is significant but, as with life in general, failing to recognize their own contribution to her death, and to many other events in their lives,  they therefore cannot necessarily learn from their mistakes. 

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The Rez Sisters

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