The short story “The Moose and the Sparrow” was written by the Canadian author Hugh Garner. The setting of the story is in a logging camp in Canada. The action often takes place in the bunkers where the men live during the summer holidays. The setting gives an advantage to the antagonist of the story because this is his life.
Mr. Anderson, a character in the story, is the first person narrator. The tone indicates a bitter and sarcastic view of a bully with a just a touch of humor.
The story’s protagonist is a young man named Cecil, whose parents divorced when he was very young and who grew up in several foster homes. Cecil has been to college for a year. Now, he needs money for tuition; consequently, he starts working in the logging camp. The story’s antagonist is Maddon Moose, who is determined to make Cecil break down at least once during his stay at the camp. Cecil faces a conflict that involves the entire action of the story: man versus man.
The story centers on the differences in personalities and approaches to life. Cecil is young and smart. He has set his mind on studying art; he makes beautiful things out of plain wire. Cecil provokes Moose’s anger because of the younger man’s smaller appearance and lack of aggression. As the new guy, Cecil finally was accepted by the other men, and eventually, they end up liking him more than they liked Moose.
On the other hand, we have Maddon Moose. Moose’s jealousy and brutish personality makes him an ideal bully. He appears to be slightly older than Cecil. Maddon probably dropped out of school; therefore, he seems to have a need to pick on those who happen to be smarter than he is. Maddon, a saw boss, has a physicality that makes him tower over Cecil, thus Cecil becomes his victim. As an unsympathetic character, Maddon picks on others beside Cecil, so nobody likes him.
The author uses dialogue to provide information about the characters. Rather than describing anyone, he has the characters discuss situations or other characters. For example, when Moose goes too far, the event is told through the characters interactions:
‘What happened?’ I asked one of Madden’s men.
‘Moose burned the kid’s hand,’ he told me. ‘He heated the end of a saw in the tea fire and then called the kid to take it to be sharpened. He handed the hot end to Cecil, and it burned his hand pretty bad.’
The theme of the story comes from the bullying of Cecil. Moose Maddon is the typical bully, beginning with his name. Maddon was one huge “moose of a man.” An unhappy man, Moose found pleasure in making other people feel as bad as he did. As with most bullies, his victims are smaller and weaker. Time passes, and Moose’s once practical jokes turn more violent and even dangerous toward Cecil. On more than one occasion, Moose had to be held back, or he would have really hurt Cecil. Bullies hurt others to solve a need within themselves for acceptance, love, and jealousy.
Sometimes, the victim fights back but in a more subtle way. In the end of the story, Moose is killed in an unusual way. Even though Moose had been drunk, Mr. Anderson investigates the place of his death. He discovers that there had been wire placed across the hole tied from one tree to the other. It had to be Cecil. However, no one cared that Moose was gone. As they took out his body, Cecil showed no emotion. In the end, the victim became the victor. It is a sin to kill, but sometimes there is no other way.