In Traplines by Eden Robinson, why do the Smythes offer their home to Will, and why does he refuse it? 

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Despite the abusive situation that Will must tolerate within his home, he is in many ways reluctant to leave his family. He enjoys learning life skills, such as trapping, from his father. Both the activity itself and the money it generates interest the boy. Other skills, however, Will initially found...

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Despite the abusive situation that Will must tolerate within his home, he is in many ways reluctant to leave his family. He enjoys learning life skills, such as trapping, from his father. Both the activity itself and the money it generates interest the boy. Other skills, however, Will initially found distasteful, such as skinning the dead animals. His father mocked him as a “sissy” for his reluctance to handle the corpses. Will has learned that the loving relationship between his parents is always offset by their verbal and physical conflicts. In the winter, he looks forward to Christmas, eating turkey, and getting presents. He shares a room with Eric, his older brother, whom he envies as much as he fears.

At the home of Mrs. Smythe, his teacher, Will has opportunities to socialize not only with Tony and Craig, his friends from the village, but with town kids who are also his classmates. He enjoys chatting with Mr. Smythe about fishing, a subject he had written about in an English paper. He appreciates their kindness and all their material possessions. Will understands that if he lived with them, he would be, as Mr. Smythe puts it, “safe,” and would have his own room right away. But he is also embarrassed to be the subject of their pity. Will reasons that he can put up with Eric for a little bit longer, then his brother will move out and then he will get his own room.

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In 2013, Emily Jones wrote for a conference in Canadian studies and examined the stories of Eden Robinson. In this paper, Jones asserts that there is a mixing of Gothic subversion, masculinity, and violence that complicates the situations of abuser and abused. In the first story of Robinson's book, "Traplines," there is a complicated interrelationship among the masculine members of the family: the father, Eric, and Will. First, the father physically abuses Eric, who in turn abuses his younger brother Will. Then, Robinson inserts the Gothic element of the manifestation of spirits who haunt the characters with the violence from the past. Thus, a cycle of trauma occurs with the blurring of boundaries between victim and victimizer and a strange relationships with them begins, as well. Characters such as Will are passive victims, but they are also males with an eagerness to continue the violent habits of the family. For instance, he wonders where Eric has been hit by the father, imagining that he was hit on the head or chest, and he thinks eagerly of the day when "Eric will get his" and he is old and big enough to inflict pain onto Eric himself.

All of these factors, then, are inside Will. So, despite his not feeling threatened at the Symthes' home, Will does not accept their offer to live with them because he remains trapped in an abusive situation in his mind. That is, he really wants to remain in the family so that he can one day get his revenge upon Eric by inflicting violence upon his brother himself. Also, the setting of Mr. Symthe's to come live in his house creates a psychological threat to Will. For, they have finished playing a game of pool and Will associates the pool table with his abusive brother as he remembers a time he tried to run for the door and Eric blocked it, just as the pool table seems to. Will thinks to himself, " If I wanted to get out of the room, there is only one door and Mr. Symthe is blocking it."

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