I Heard the Owl Call My Name

by Margaret Craven

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What are the major allusions in this book, and what kinds of allusions are they (literary, biblical, mythological, historical, etc.)?

The major allusions in this book include the owl, Peter, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The owl links to Greek mythology, Peter the carver connects to Saint Peter and the Bible, and the conflict with the young RCMP officer speaks to the tense history between First Nations people and Canadian authorities.

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One major allusion in I Heard the Owl Call My Name relates to the bird in the title. The owl plays a key role in Greek mythology. In Greek mythology, Athena was known as the patron goddess of Athens and the goddess of wisdom. Athena kept an owl on her shoulder. Supposedly, this owl disclosed the truths of the world to her and instilled her with tremendous knowledge. In Margaret Craven’s novel, an owl reveals critical truths to Mark. Near the end, Mark encounters an owl. This owl shows him that he is on the verge of death. The owl is also a part of Kwakiutl mythology. For the Kwakiutl, the owl serves as a sign of death.

A biblical allusion might involve Peter. In the story, Peter is a carver. Peter’s occupation connects him to Saint Peter from the Bible. Saint Peter's name derives from Petros, which is a Greek translation of Kepa. In Aramaic, Kepa can be defined as rock. Peter’s duties make it possible to see him in the context of Saint Peter.

For historical allusions, the persistent conflicts between First Nations and the Canadian government are referenced in the scene with the young Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer. The officer doesn’t come right away to issue a death certificate. He waits for a “fair day” so that he can bring his daughter. It’s as if the RCMP officer is treating the tragedy as an excuse for a field trip. Additionally, Canada’s history between Christianity and First Nations people is spotlighted. However, in Craven’s narrative, the relationship comes across as less intolerant.

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