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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 407

Alistair MacLeod's collection of stories, Island, is a series of narratives that center upon the author's native Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia and its residents. Much of the collection is an exploration of the ongoing struggle with nature and the physical and psychological isolation the people are subject to, which is unavoidable in such remote northern regions. But the various peoples of the island are emblematic of humanity, and their world is a microcosm in which the reader, regardless of background and location, will recognize his or her own struggles and emotions.

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Much of MacLeod's technique involves the depiction of work and the way it has changed over time. The economy of Cape Breton well into the twentieth century was based on fishing and coal mining. In MacLeod's story "The Return," a young boy whose parents raised him in Montreal is brought to the island to visit his grandparents; his grandfather, a miner, shows the boy a completely different side of life than he has seen before, both in its strangeness in relation to what he knows of the world and in its dangers. Culture clash is a recurring theme in MacLeood's stories. So is youth versus age and the desire to be independent, as in "The Vastness of the Dark," about an 18-year-old leaving home and striking out on his own.

In each story, MacLeod depicts similar struggles and clashes among nature, people, and animals. "In the Fall" centers on a family having to sell an aging horse to a knacker (one who slaughters animals...

(The entire section contains 407 words.)

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