The Moccasin Telegraph Analysis
by W. P. Kinsella

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Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Within The Moccasin Telegraph, each story has its beginning, middle, and end, but because Silas is the unifying element, the various plots and characters dovetail into each other while at the same time revealing interesting insights into both the Indian and white world. Moreover, each world contains its share of good and evil, saints and sinners. These techniques not only underscore the humor and the tragedy that are part of life, but they also make for interesting reading.

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Although the narrator, Silas Ermineskin, is a Cree Indian living on the Hobbema Reserve in Canada, these stories deal with the plight of all North American Indians who are still and often unjustly treated by whites ranging from sternly bigoted Royal Canadian Mounted Police constables to pompous bureaucrats who, in "The Queen's Hat," are referred to as a "carload of suits." Intermixed in the stories are the conflicts between the reservation Indians and representatives of the American Indian Movement (AIM) whom the reservation Indians call "Assholes in Moccasins." There are also oblique references to the grim reality of reservation life and alcoholism, unemployment, suicides, and violent deaths. At the same time, as the Indian and white worlds collide, there is a sense of loss, especially in terms of the Indians' heritage and way of life.

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The framework for the stories suggests Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and Anderson's narrator, George Willard. Unlike Winesburg, Ohio, with its more somber tone and its "grotesques," Kinsella's stories, because of their humor, are lighter and more entertaining to read. Yet, both Winesburg, Ohio and Kinsella's Cree Indian stories are basically about the encroachment of civilization and what happens when worlds collide. In addition, eighteen-year-old Silas Ermineskin recalls his two famous narrator-predecessors: Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield. Interestingly enough, although older than Huck, Silas, because he is an Indian and despite his attending school, is closer to Huck's primitive state; although older than Holden, Silas, again because he is an Indian, is not as worldly wise or sophisticated as Holden. Huck, Holden, and Silas are basically concerned, however, with understanding the world and determining their place within it, and all three experience both good and evil. Similar to The Adventures of...

(The entire section is 550 words.)