I Heard the Owl Call My Name

by Margaret Craven

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What is the summary of "I Heard the Owl Call My Name?" The language of novel is difficult for my students, as English is their second language.

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I Heard the Owl Call My Name is a novel by Margaret Craven . The narrative follows the author's travels into a tribe of Native Americans called the Kwakiutl and details what she learned from the experience. Craven's novel covers the struggles of growing up, the difficulty people from different...

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I Heard the Owl Call My Name is a novel by Margaret Craven. The narrative follows the author's travels into a tribe of Native Americans called the Kwakiutl and details what she learned from the experience. Craven's novel covers the struggles of growing up, the difficulty people from different cultures have in finding common meaning, and the universality of human concerns regardless of cultural differences. The story takes place in British Columbia, which Craven describes masterfully. This setting provides readers a respite from modern economics, technology, and rapid cultural change.

Craven brings the reader into the story through the character Mark Brian. He is sent to the village of Kwakiutl to be a preacher. Although Mark doesn't fit in with the Native Americans at first, he vows to try. He spends time with local residents, goes hunting, and begins to develop a better understanding of the Native Americans's relationship with nature. As Mark adjusts to life with the Kwakiutl, Craven explores the difference between their culture and that which Mark came from.

After being honored by the village, Mark hears an owl call his name. This hearkens back to a Kwakiutl myth suggesting he is about to die. Soon after, Mark does die in a landslide. These events give the reader an opportunity to explore what it means to die and whether there's any way for us to prepare for it. They also question the rightness of traditions and culture.

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I Heard the Owl Call My Name was written in 1967 by American author Margaret Craven.

Mark Brian, a young Anglican vicar, suffers from an unnamed terminal illness. His bishop assigns him to the First Nations parish in British Columbia. This parish exists within the village of Kingcome, which is home to a tribe of Kwakiutl Native Americans. While the bishop knows about the disease, he does not tell Brian, instead hoping Brian will have the opportunity to gain an understanding of the meaning of life through this assignment.

The disparity between the Native American and white cultures becomes quickly apparent through a number of plot points. Brian learns that many Native Americans have left the tribe and failed to succeed as a result, so the Native Americans are naturally distrusting of Brian. Brian observes the values the Native Americans hold, specifically the importance of family and selflessness.

The tribe begins to trust Brian and eventually accept him as one of their own. In spite of the initial tribulations, Brian has now found a home and a family.

Just before the bishop calls Brian back, he hears the owl call his name, which is a harbinger for death in Kwakiutl culture. Shortly after, Brian dies in a landslide.

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Mark Brian is sent to the village of Kwakiutl to be a preacher.  Although he doesn’t know it, he is very sick.  Mark learns that Kwakiutl is a culture unlike his because the residents work as a community. They value family, generosity and cooperation.  Mark isn’t sure he can fit in with the Indians, but he is willing to try.  He first meets the villagers and learns that they value spirituality - some had a vision concerning his arrival.  He learns local legends and attends a potlatch, where a family provide food and give away gifts.  Mark goes on hunting, and starts to understand the relationship with nature.  He intervenes when he sees visiting medical personnel being rude to the people.  He gets closer to the villagers until Mrs. Hudson’s granddaughter comes home with her white fiancée, whose attitude towards the villagers is insulting.  Mark is considered guilty of being part of the bad influence of the white man.  Mark raises a baby seal and comforts Gordon’s dying mother.  He feels accepted by the village, who help him to build a new vicarage.  He argues with an anthropologist and lives through flooding and freezing.  He is honored by the village and, shortly after, hears the owl call his name – an Indian myth that suggests impending dies.  Mark dies in a landslide and is laid to rest by the village.

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