The Moose and the Sparrow

by Hugh Garner

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The Moose and the Sparrow Characters

The main characters in “The Moose and the Sparrow” are Cecil, Moose Maddon, and Mr. Anderson.

  • Cecil is the protagonist, an intelligent but physically weak university student who has never worked at a lumber camp before.
  • Moose Maddon is the antagonist, a powerful, imposing lumberjack who is given to acts of aggression.
  • Mr. Anderson is the narrator, a thoughtful and perceptive lumberjack who goes by “Pop.”


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Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 793


Cecil is the protagonist of “The Moose and the Sparrow.” A young man of about nineteen, he is a university student sent to work in a Canadian lumber camp in the hopes of earning money to pay for his education. He has finished his first year studying arts—the story does not clarify whether this refers to fine arts or liberal arts—when the story begins and intends to enroll in law school after completing his undergraduate degree. He is a natural student, with a promising academic future. Despite a difficult upbringing in foster homes, he manages to graduate high school a year early.

From the outset, he struggles to adapt to the work at the lumber camp and to fit in socially with the rest of the men. The other men are strong and rugged, with the knowledge and experience to work safely and comfortably in the difficult setting of a remote lumber camp. Cecil, by contrast, is small and slight, and his strength is his mental acuity. The narrator, Mr. Anderson, describes him as “hardly taller than an axe handle, and almost as thin,” and likens him to a sparrow, a delicate, inquisitive bird.

Though he starts his tenure at the lumberjack camp as an outcast of sorts, rejected for his bumbling ineptitude when attempting to complete his assigned work, it is soon clear to the other men that Moose’s bullying behavior toward Cecil is dangerous and unreasonable. For the most part, Cecil refuses to show his own emotions about this outwardly, keeping an even, measured temper until the night that Mr. Anderson finds him crying on the riverbank.

Unable to afford to participate in the evening poker games played by many of the other lumberjacks in the camp, Cecil instead takes to crafting ornate trinkets for the other men with copper wire. This, in combination to his perseverance under Moose’s tyranny, endears him to the other men in the camp.

When Moose drunkenly falls from a log bridge the night after seriously injuring Cecil, Mr. Anderson comes to suspect the young student of trailing a wire across the log to trip his tormentor and send him falling to his death. His suspicions are never confirmed. The strong possibility that Cecil kills Moose arguably frames him as a kind of antihero.

Moose Maddon

Moose Maddon is the story’s antagonist. The foreman of the lumberjack crew to which Cecil gets assigned, Moose is a natural lumberjack. He is big, strong, imposing, and perfectly comfortable doing the difficult work of logging. The reader can assume that "Moose" is likely to be a nickname, a result of his being “a big moose of a man.”

Per Mr. Anderson, the narrator, Moose is an angry, dour man despite his natural abilities as a lumberjack. When the slight, bumbling Cecil is assigned to his team, Moose’s underlying anger and his frustration over Cecil’s presence coalesce into endless malevolent vitriol.

Moose hazes Cecil with some traditional pranks upon arrival, but he begins escalating further the longer Cecil stays at camp. The less Cecil reacts to his tormenting, the angrier Moose becomes and the worse he treats the new recruit.

If Mr. Anderson’s guess is correct, Moose’s treatment of Cecil may largely be driven by jealousy of the younger man’s opportunities in life. To him, Cecil’s intelligence and life trajectory imply a certain privilege—pathways that to Moose feel closed-off and impossible.

As Moose’s treatment of Cecil becomes increasingly sadistic, the other members of the crew start to turn on him. When he dies one night by drunkenly falling off a log bridge, the lumberjacks at...

(This entire section contains 793 words.)

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camp are shocked and surprised by his death’s suddenness but not especially heartbroken by it.

Mr. Anderson / “Pop”

Mr. Anderson is the narrator of “The Moose and the Sparrow.” He reveals little about himself in the narrative, but it is implied that he is older than many of the other lumberjacks at the camp. In one interaction with Cecil, he notes that the young student is the only one in camp who refers to him as Mr. Anderson instead of “Pop.”

Mr. Anderson has a kind, sympathetic heart. When he finds Cecil crying on the riverbank, he becomes increasingly concerned about Moose’s treatment of the younger man. Ultimately, he takes it upon himself to try to have Cecil removed from camp for his own safety.

When Cecil makes him a watch strap before he leaves camp, Mr. Anderson is grateful, but that gratitude soon takes on a macabre element when he realizes that Moose may have been tripped before falling into the ravine. The wire Cecil has used in the watch strap, he realizes, may be evidence of murder.