I Heard the Owl Call My Name

by Margaret Craven

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Keetah presents one of the greatest challenges to Mark's Christian values. What does Keetah do that challenges these values, and why?

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Keetah chooses to become pregnant with Gordon's child after she realizes that she can only truly be at home back in her village and with her people, and that Gordon does not hold the same feelings. Gordon is interested in living amongst the white world that Keetah knows she does not wish to be apart of. As such, she chooses to become pregnant and have her and Gordon's child back at home in their village in order to keep a part of his spirit at home in the village, and to allow Gordon to follow his dreams. Because Keetah and Gordon are not married, Mark's Christian views come into conflict with Keetah's decision to have a baby without first becoming married to Gordon. For more fundamentalist Christians, having a child out of wedlock is a serious sin that often results in the person who has the child being ostracized or heavily shamed. Keetah fears that Mark's reaction will prove to follow this common fundamentalist response. However, Mark chooses to empathize with Keetah's situation and perspective.

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Keetah goes with her beloved, Gordon, to the city to see if she can get used to living in white society. They plan to be married, but have not done so yet. Gordon is completely taken with the world of the white man, but Keetah cannot adjust. Knowing that Gordon will not return to their tribal home, Keetah gets pregnant by him "to keep a part of him...in his village with his own people," and comes back alone to Kingcome.

The people in Keetah's village understand her leaving, as well as her return, carrying Gordon's child. They accept her back wholeheartedly as she had known they would, but she is not sure what Mark's reaction will be. Sexual relations out of wedlock are condemned in the Christian faith, and although Mark does not describe his own feelings of conflict concerning this matter, they undoubtedly exist. When Keetah avoids him when she first returns, Mark is aware that, although the villagers take her back "as if she had not been away," they wonder if the young priest will do the same. With their acute perceptivity, Mark realizes that "they (know) him better than he (does) himself."

Keetah eventually comes to Mark, and tells him what she has done. At first, Mark believes that she had made sure she was carrying Gordon's baby "to hold him...to make him marry (her)," but Keetah's intentions in doing what she did were not about that at all. Keetah explains that Gordon should never know that his child lives on in the village. She got pregnant by him "not to hold him...(but) to let him go...to keep a part of him...in his village with his own people so they can last, (and) so (she) too, can live." Mark realizes that "what she had done was logical to her, and if he told her it was wrong, he would destroy her." Choosing mercy over rigid adherence to the law, he tells her gently that what she has done is "strange" to him, but that he thinks he understands (Chapter 19).

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