Explain how this statement from "What I Learned from Caesar" is true for the father: "But the pastures we flee, no matter howbrown and blighted—these travel with us. They can’t be escaped."

Guy Vanderhaeghe's short story "What I Learned from Caesar" begins with this passage. This statement is true for the narrator's father, who came to Canada from Belgium, but carried with him his sense of mediocrity and failure.

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"What I Learned from Caesar," the fourth story in Guy Vanderhaeghe's Man Descending, begins with the words:

The oldest story is the story of flight, the search for greener pastures. But the pastures we flee, no matter how brown and blighted—these travel with us; they can’t be escaped.

The narrator's father was an immigrant, which, as he himself points out, should not have been a problem in Canada, "a nation of immigrants." However, his father's loneliness and alienation may have been exacerbated by his immigrant status, but came from something much deeper inside him which prevented him from assimilating, despite his best efforts.

Indeed, the efforts that he made seemed only to drive him away from his adopted country and the people in it, including his wife, a woman from a British background, whose motives in marrying him he suspected. He also spoke English with a level of care and attention that marked him out as a non-native speaker.

His insecurity comes to a head when he is fired from his job as a traveling salesman by a manager who calls him "Dutchie" (though he is, in fact, of Belgian origin). He feels that he has been exposed as a foreigner and marked out for poor treatment. Although he came to Canada seeking a better life, he cannot escape the failure and mediocrity which travel with him like a curse wherever he goes.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 23, 2021
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