What is the author saying about the prairies within Saskatchewan,Alberta, and Manitoba?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The prairies of Canada offer Brian the chance to understand the nature of existence.  Being in the world and the meaning of human consciousness in the face of cosmic reality can be better understood in the prairies. Through this, Mitchell is suggesting that the prairies are able to speak more than the setting inhabited by people.  

The prairies speak to Brian.  They are able to offer a statement about the nature of being in the world.  Brian understands the terrible misfortune that exists in the world.  He experiences and witnesses deception, cruelty, and deliberate harm.  The deceit that human beings can perpetrate seeks to take away from the wind and the implications of the forces in the world that are larger than human beings.  Brian understands what being is in this world through his time on the prairies.  The wind that blows over the prairies carries with it a sense of understanding that moves beyond what is temporal.  Human beings that see themselves as the causation of existence are wrong, and Brian understands the true nature of existence from being on the prairies: “Here was the least common denominator of nature, the skeleton requirements simply, of land and sky—Saskatchewan prairie.”   Through being on the prairie, Brian is able to recognize that the human condition is merely a part of something much larger.  The wind that blows over the prairie and what leads to the horizon seen on it help to define existence in the world.  The experiences of human beings pale in this larger sense of identity.  The elation and joy that Brian feels about the larger presence that has "seen the wind" is understood through his presence on the prairie.  It is here in which Mitchell is making clear that the "skeleton requirements" intrinsic to the prairie allow for a greater understanding of being in the world.

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