Describe the effectiveness of Birney's metaphorical use of "deadset in adolescence" in "Canada:  Case History"?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Birney's depiction of Canada as an adolescent struggling to find an identity is a compelling one.  The metaphorical employment of "deadset in adolescence" is effective because it depicts where Canada is in relation to the other nations in the world. Its struggle exists here.  Operating for much of his professional life as a voice that understood both America and Canada, Birney employs the metaphor to depict how Canada is seen and, quite possibly, how Canada sees itself.  For Birney, the realm of high school is where Canada exists.  Like the high school student, Canada seeks to assert its own voice both for itself and in light of the others around it.  The metaphor of being "deadset in adolescence" helps to construct this condition where Canada seeks to define itself while being trapped in the gaze of "the other."

The metaphor of "deadset in adolescence" extends throughout the poem.  Birney shows Canada as a nation that wishes to take the reigns of leadership, but is besieged around it.  Canada's "Uncle" is the United States, a nation that Birney sees as benevolent with the "candy" it gives to "spoil" the youth, but also "shouts him down when he talks at table."  Canada's parents, Britain and France, are "unmarried, living abroad," helping to enhance the idea that Canada is "deadset in adolescence."  For Birney, the ability for Canadian voice to be heard is dependent on how it will navigate the challenges that exist in front of it.  These challenges are far from easy, contributing to the youth's nature of "schizophrenia."  The ending question helps to reaffirm the nature of adolescence:  "will he learn to grow up before it's too late?"  Birney's metaphor of Canada as the adolescent is effective in seeking to articulate the condition amongst the world nations that defines Canada.  Like adolescence, it exists on its own merits, but also is victim to the gaze of others.  As with adolescence, it struggles to assert its voice and is immersed in a condition where one openly questions if such voice will be heard, at all.  Little is clear amongst Canada's role with the rest of the world nations.  Such a condition is where Birney effectively employs the metaphor of Canada being "deadset in adolescence."