What are the themes in these Canadian short stories? "Do Seek Their Meat from God" by Charles G. D. Roberts "The Desjardins" by Duncan Campbell Scott "From Flores" by Ethel Wilson "Last Spring They...

What are the themes in these Canadian short stories?

"Do Seek Their Meat from God" by Charles G. D. Roberts

"The Desjardins" by Duncan Campbell Scott

"From Flores" by Ethel Wilson

"Last Spring They Came Over" by Morley Callaghan

"One-Two-Three Little Indians" by Hugh Garner


Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Do Seek Their Meat from God" is a story in the movement of Realism (about 1860 to 1917), which was, on one hand, a reaction against Romanticism and, on the other hand, a reflection the new scientific revolutions of Darwinism, geology, psychology and other sciences. Realism sought to represent the natural world--of nature and of humankind's relationships--as true to life. Of course, some authors carried over tinges of Romanticist influence since no movement ever starts without interacting influences from what went before, as T. S. Eliot once pointed out.

The theme in "Do Seek Their Meat" (1896) is dual as the focalization is on the panthers, then the humans, then on the interaction of the panthers and humans. The theme for the panthers is that survival in wild nature is without malice; survival is a matter of finding the meat provided by the god of nature with which to break a fast. The theme for the humans is that while nature has no intentional malice, it is nonetheless a dangerous and threatening place of potential fatality. The shared theme is that the survival of humans means the inevitable destruction nature, regardless of nature's innocent condition.

The theme in "The Desjardins" (1896) explores the Darwinian concept of the survival of the fittest and its effect on relationships within the family. There are mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths of two of the families more immediate patriarchs and, when Charles declares he is Napoleon, Adèle sobs that "It has come!" Nature's undiscriminating power has asserted itself, and Philippe decides that the only possible way to proceed is to cut the family off: when opposing powerful nature, only the fittest must or may survive.

"We must cut ourselves off; we must be the last of our race," [said Philippe].

The theme of "From Flores," published after 1930, is the power of beautiful and majestic nature and its effect on human lives. As the result of accidental, though fateful and inadequate decision making, the fishing ship the Effie Cee goes down in a storm with passengers and crew and a boy who was being taken to a hospital. The theme explores the effect of nature's might on those on shore awaiting the return of the ship and their loved ones.

The theme in "Last Spring They Came," set in Toronto (1927)--reflecting the Modernist movement in defragmentation of personal identity--explores the psychological adaptation, or, in the case of brothers Alfred and Harry, maladaptation of immigrants to new environments and to new expectations on established personalities. The brothers shine in the inventive letters they send home to England yet fail miserably as journalists. Though their personalities are well adapted to their old world, they cannot make psychological adjustments to new expectations. Their attempt lasts less than a year.

The theme of "One-Two-Three Little Indians" (1952)--a Modernist story of fragmented identity--is exploitation of humankind in general (the mining camp) and of Native American Indians in particular: (1) exploitation of labor and health for profit; (2) exploitation by American whites of Native Americans for a form of entertainment; (3) exploitation of tourists by Native Americans who must first exploit themselves in order to exploit the tourists in order to achieve a means to an end (such as Tom's need for money). Tom parades himself as a "real Indian" in order to take money for his son's medical expenses: Tom takes "a bedraggled band of cloth into which a large goose feather had been sown" and exploits himself so as to appear like "'a real Indian with a feather'n everything.'"

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