I Heard the Owl Call My Name

by Margaret Craven

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What are the main themes or ideas conveyed in I Heard the Owl Call My Name?

The main themes of I Heard the Owl Call My Name are the value of taking risks, cultural relativism, and respect for nature. By getting out of his comfort zone, Mark learns to appreciate the beliefs and lifeways of another culture and live in harmony with the natural environment.

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Mark Bryan’s personal transformations are presented along with his physical relocation in I Heard the Owl Call My Name. The novel shows how his expectations are challenged when he moves to a community that greatly differs from his customary environment. Mark’s reasons for moving to coastal British Columbia included his conviction in sharing the values of Christian religion—of which he is a priest. He gradually learns that respect for the Kwakiutl people with whom he is living means accepting beliefs and practices that may contradict the doctrines of his own faith. He also finds elements within Christianity that help him appreciate not only the people but the natural world that surrounds the rural community called Kingcome.

Mark, who is Euro-American, interacts with other white characters with whom he might seem to have more in common, such as the senior priest and a school teacher. Observing their interactions with the First Nations people offers him examples of motivations and practices that may prove helpful or harmful to his own efforts. As Mark gradually develops relationships with individual Kwakiutl people, he gains a deeper appreciation of the ways that culture helps people cope with an environment that is challenging in both natural and social terms. He encourages the younger people to continue aspects of tradition that can help them navigate the wider, predominantly white society.

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