Why can't the boys live on the reservation in Medicine River, and why is this especially unfair to Rose?

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In Medicine River, Rose goes against the norms of the reservation and is forced to leave. Instead of marrying another Native American, she chooses to marry a white man. This is not accepted on the reservation; therefore, Rose has to suffer the consequences of this decision. This is unfair because she should not be punished for marrying who she loves. Additionally, the letters and photographs found in Rose's room symbolize her difficult past.

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In chapter 1 of Medicine River, we learn that Rose and her two sons, Will and James, were not allowed to live on the reservation because Rose did not do what was expected of her. When Rose decided to marry a white man, she was shunned and no longer...

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viewed as Native American; therefore, she was no longer welcome on the reservation. Additionally, the children she had with her husband were not viewed as Native American either.

This is unfair to Rose and to her children. Because her husband was a white man, she was treated as an outsider, and so were her children. It is unfair that she is being punished simply because of who she chose to marry. Rose is not an outsider, yet she is now perceived as one. Additionally, when her husband abandons her and the children, it is unfair that she is left to suffer the consequences alone.

In terms of symbolism in chapter 1, the letters that Will's dad wrote to Rose can be seen as a significant symbol. The letters symbolize the past, and it is clear that Rose is still holding onto this past. She keeps the letters in a trunk under her photographs and is unwilling to share this with her children. However, Will takes matters into his own hands and goes through the letters without her permission. As he is rummaging through this, Will finds photographs of his mom and dad. The photographs not only symbolize the past but also Will's future.

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Chapter one is told through the narrative of the letters.  Will is seeking to make sense of his father, and in a sense, his own life.  The letters reveal what Will's father communicated to his mother.  These letters are the only means by which Will can piece together the figments and fragments that is his father and the relationship he had towards his mother. It becomes clear that the letters that begin with "Dear Rose" reflect much in way of why Rose's life turned out the way it did.  Rose must move from the reservation because Will's father was an outsider.  The consequence of Rose breaking the norms of reservation life was to be shunned from it.  In addition to this, Rose has to shoulder the burden of dealing with a husband who has abandoned her and her children. It becomes unfair that Rose has to deal with the consequences of another's actions.  In this light, one sees how there is a bitter and sad edge to Rose, something that precludes her from completely healing her son's wounds.

In terms of symbols from the first chapter, paper can be a symbol.  It is paper that enables Will to envision his past.  Paper is what allows him to gain a glimpse into the emotional world of his father.  Paper is what enables this reconnection to happen because of the letters.  Paper is also the symbol that Will uses to generate his photographs, a representation of his present and his future.  Paper is what allows Will to gain a glimpse into his past, while paper is what provides the basis for his condition of being in the world.  This is why paper can be seen as an effective symbol in the exposition of the novel.

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