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

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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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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