Three Day Road
Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden: Psychological Perspective
The novel Three Day Road defines how the Indigenous lifestyle, identities and behavior were charged through the colonialism of the Europeans as well as their own cultural traditions. The setting is a factor to the characters actions and can alter their cultural moral values. Joseph Boyden demonstrates that when an individual is placed in a environment that’s diverges from their origin they must adapt which would result in them deviate from their own value while jeopardizing them in the process. This is especially seen through Elijah’s and Xavier’s adaptability towards the hardships of the war, as there emotions and thoughts were affected by the actions of others characters that were fighting along beside them in the war.
Xavier’ and Elijah’s experience on the war can distort the circumstances from what is morally right and what is not. Though indigenous people are taught to respect life of others, soldiers are people who can step out of that boundary as it is a necessity to kill on the battlefield, but it is possible to get caught up in the glory of those achievement. Elijah becomes a well known sniper with a many kills and starts to enjoy the recognition that comes with his achievements in killing so much that he is desensitised by killing. This is partially due to the fact that Elijah handles his identity by assimilating to the western culture, as his self identity is lost due to their influence. When Xavier bitterly question Elijah’s actions of killing a innocent women he mistook for an enemy he defended himself by saying “I am trained not to hesitate in situations of danger.”(Boyden 306) This made Xavier start to realize that Elijah has been corrupted from the war since he abandoned his cultural lifestyles and thrown away his identity to seek importance through the fame that comes with war.
A war always negatively impacts an individual. When a person goes to war they do not come back the same, as these people have explored and grappled with the idea of death that came with engaging in a war and fighting for survival. No matter what their value about life is, they are forced to be given a weapon and kill if they want to live. As opposed to Elijah going against his culture, Xavier has valued it’s traditions of being a hunter and honoring life despite the act of killing others as a means to survival. According to Xavier for “those who aren’t collected we bury the best we’re able in the able to in the trench sides when they begin to swell and stink. I make sure to thank them that even in death they are still helping.” (Boyden 81) Xavier preserves his culture by thanking the dead for their support, he does this because Niska told him to pray as much as he can and he does this by praying to dead soldiers.
The main differences between these two characters is their ways of coping and internalizing with what they witness and experience in the war. Xavier praying to the dead keeps him in touch with his Native culture and he does not follow Elijah who takes in more of the western culture as he struggle to identify himself as a aboriginal due to western influence.
Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden. Effects of War on Elijah Transformation
Three Day Road: Elijah’s Transformation
Transformation is an action that happens naturally in the lives of human beings. There are certain factors that influence the directions in which people take. Such factors include their family, relations, social class, technology and even war. There are many factors and each one can change an individual’s view for the better or for the worst. In Elijah’s case, war is what affects him in the novel “Three Day Road”. “Three Day Road”, written by Joseph Boyden, is the story of Elijah Wiskeyjack and the transformation that he undergoes as the novel progresses. Elijah is fighting in World War One, which had a significant impact on who he is as a person. As the war progresses, Elijah’s personal direction changes drastically. The transformation of Elijah is proven in the story as his external behavior changes, he begins to find comfort in killing, and his humanity deteriorates.
The environment can be a huge factor to why people decide to change themselves externally. At the start of the war, Elijah is very nervous and a bit more reserved than how he is portrayed later on in the story. This is shown when Xavier states, “Elijah stands next to me, moving his feet about so Sergeant McCaan shouts at him to be still” (Boyden, 15). That simple act of shuffling around shows the readers just how nervous that he is about being in the war. Not only that, but it also shows that he is not sure about himself, whether he should be there or not. Elijah is in a place where he and his best friend are outcasts in a new world full of white men. Xavier does not really mind being left out of the group of men in their battalion, but Elijah on the other hand does not like the feeling of not belonging and slowly changes himself to fit in with the others. This is seen when Xavier states, “Elijah’s taken to talking in an English accent in the last days. This makes the other soldiers laugh, but I wonder why he really does it. It’s like he wants to become something that he’s not” (Boyden, 77). Elijah wants not only to get along with the white men, but to be a part of them. He does not want to be looked down by the other soldiers because of his Indian heritage. Elijah would rather push aside his heritage just to fit in with the rest of the soldiers. He cannot accept the fact, like Xavier has, that he will never be a part of them. Elijah does whatever he possibly can even going as far as to speak in a British accent, imitating the white men. As soon as Elijah believes that he is in their world completely, he begins to start bragging about the number of kills that he has, trying to further impress them. This is evident when Elijah states, “’One hundred and ninety – four, to date,’ Elijah answers. The Corporal’s eyes open wide in astonishment. ‘It’s true!’ Elijah shouts” (Boyden, 287). Elijah shouting the number of Germans that he has killed just shows how much his behavior has changed. In the beginning he was nervous of being where he was that he only stuck with Xavier, but things are not that way anymore. Elijah is becoming more brazen in his actions and does not care about his concerns and worries from before.
War was all about the carnage found on the battlefield. Soldiers were forced to kill one another. During the war Xavier hated the fact that he was forced to kill people to the point that he would vomit right on the battlefield. On the other hand Elijah was able to kill people and did not feel regret about it at all. It gave him a sense of comfort and peace when he saw his enemies gunned down. In retrospect, Elijah was not always someone who has an insatiable thirst for killing other people. Before the war started Elijah could not bring himself to kill anything, not even an animal that was meant to sustain him. This is evident in novel when it states, “Elijah finds a stick and approaches the animal. He looks back at me. ‘Do it.’ He hesitates, then swings the stick” (Boyden, 2). Elijah’s hesitation speaks more loudly than his words. The fact that he hesitated to kill the animal that he had found with Xavier shows just how much he respected the life of living creatures. Not only that, but it also shows that he did not have it in him to end the life of another. He needed confirmation from Xavier in order for him to bring himself to hit the animal. This shows that he is not strong enough to handle the death of a creature caused by his own hands. However, as the war continues forward Elijah’s attitude towards killing changes. This is indisputable when it states, “I remember him learning to love killing rather than simply killing to survive” (Boyden, 269). Elijah has changed from that little boy who could not kill an animal to a person who is content with killing humans. Elijah does not just kill to survive anymore; he kills because he wants to. His transformation from the person who he was to the person who he is now is drastic when it states, “I can see that Elijah knows exactly what Thompson’s asking. Thompson is asking if Elijah likes killing. Elijah considers it for a moment. ‘It’s in my blood,’ he finally says” (Boyden, 75). Elijah has gotten so used to killing people that he believes that it is a part of him. In that quote he admits not only to himself, but to the others, that he does not mind what he is doing. Additionally, based on that quote people would have never known that Elijah did not like the idea of killing, but that has changed. Killing is who he is now.
Elijah does not only transform in the novel through his comfort in killing, but also because of his deterioration in his humanity. Elijah and Xavier have a bond that is unbreakable and they would do anything for each other. Elijah had his back throughout most of the novel. This is indisputable in the novel when it reads:
Elijah turns to the lieutenant, and in his funny accent begins to speak, ‘The private says that he went out in search of fresh game for the men. He became lost in this foreign environment and was only able to make it back late last night. He’d planned on reporting to Sergeant McCaan directly, but had not been afforded the chance to before roll call this morning. By then, it was too late’ (Boyden, 255).
Elijah does not want Xavier to get into trouble with Lieutenant Breech, which is why he decides to protect him by lying to Lieutenant Breech directly. This act of compassion shows that Elijah still has his humanity with him. By helping out Elijah he shows some shred of goodness. However, his humanity begins to deteriorate as he loses that shred of goodness within him. This is shown when it states, “’I didn’t know it was a child,’ he says, staring at her. ‘I am trained not to hesitate in situations of danger,’ he answers coldly” (Boyden, 306). Elijah did not care that he had just shot a child in cold blood. He tries to justify that he only did it because he was ‘obligated to by his training’. He does not lose his composure once he finds out that he has dragged innocent people into the war. As a human being he should have found some sort of remorse about the act that he has just committed, but he does not. This only proves that his humanity was quickly leaving him, replacing him with a monster. This is shown in the novel when they state,” He turns the dead man on his stomach and removes his sharpened skinning knife from its sheath and pulls the man’s hair back and removes his scalp with careful motions as simply as he would remove the skin from a pike” (Boyden, 210). Someone who has not lost their humanity would not be scalping people’s heads and keeping it for themselves as souvenirs of their kills. At this point in the book Elijah has completely transformed from a normal human being, who was considerate of others to a cold blooded monster. By Elijah doing this, it just shows that he has lost everything that makes him human, including his compassion for others.
As the war continues, Elijah begins to transform into someone unrecognizable. During the war, Elijah’s external behavior changes. His actions became more brazen when he decided to gain the attention of the white soldiers and be a part of their world. His transformation also takes place in the novel as he begins to feel comfort in killing other humans. Before Elijah did not have the capability within him to kill an animal, let alone another human being. Lastly, his transformation takes place as his humanity deteriorates. The shred of goodness that he used to have completely evaporated as the war continued onwards. Ultimately, throughout the novel Elijah’s transformations has changed him for the worst.
Interpretation of the Beauty of Loss in Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road
The Beauty of Loss
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.” Perhaps the most despairing evidence of union in all mankind is the experience of loss. “Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.” The occurrence of losing a loved one, a prized possession, or even something as intangible as one’s innocence, is something all humanity has in common. This accord is manifested in Joseph Boyden’s novel, Three Day Road. Boyden’s historical composition incorporates several episodes concerning its characters’ diverse encounters with loss. Three Day Road delineates the leitmotif of loss through its three main protagonists, Niska, Xavier, Elijah, and their dejecting narratives.
Out of these three leads, all affected by loss, Niska’s account acquired her a new mental state. Since childhood, Niska withheld a firm faith in the good of man and God. While her father dealt with medicine, her mother, an admired elder of the family’s community, both worked and walked by faith. Niska’s own practices and beliefs are presumed to correspond to those of her community’s, and anything short of it would be an incredible adverse. Unfortunately, Niska does come short, when she falls for a frenchman who somehow finds his way over to her teepee. Niska eventually engages in an intimate relationship with the man, losing her virginity and her innocence. However, when Niska slowly begins to see less of the man, she takes the risk to leave her community and search through white-dominated lands for her significant other. After locating the frenchman, Niska comes to the realization that her so-called lover had been involved in not only one, but multiple love affairs. Disappointed in herself and her actions, Niska contemplates why and how she could not have seen the man’s intentions with her beforehand. Niska acknowledges that the choices she had made were frowned upon by her family, community and faith. Regaining her senses, Niska bans herself to a forest for several years in an attempt to regain and renew her faith. Despite obtaining a second chance to formally follow and practice her beliefs, Niska’s mental state would never be the same. Niska institutes a new fear in herself; the fear of being stripped of her faith. For “it wasn’t his physical body that frightened (…)” (Boyden 217) her, but his motives, his goals, his objectives towards her that were a great detrimental. Niska did not just lose her lover, she lost her faith and mentality to a man she so foolishly fell for. While Niska battled hardships concerning a significant other, a fellow acquaintance of hers encountered a similar experience.
Xavier Bird, Niska’s nephew, was also exposed to an appalling relationship, stripped of his grounded faith in love. Later into the novel, Xavier arrives in a small village just outside of Saint-Eloi. There, he meets and falls in love with a girl named Lisette. Her uncommon shyness and distinct style drew Xavier’s attention, as he believed she was so authentic and different from other girls. Xavier eventually loses his virginity to Lisette and continues to constantly think about her, even after leaving Saint-Eloi. A night comes when Xavier is unable to resist not seeing his one and only lover and decides to sneak out, only to discover that Lisette was a prostitute being paid by Elijah, in hopes to brighten Xavier’s mood during the war and battle seasons. In the midst of the anger, Elijah lectures Xavier, telling him that since he “went to find that girl,”(Boyden 253) Xavier would not have listened anyway if he told him Lisette “was a whore.” (Boyden 253) Elijah then proceeds to scold Xavier on how idiotic it is to grow so attached to a woman who only pleasures you for a night. However, for Xavier, that was not the case. Xavier truly believed he had found the woman of his dreams, only to find out it was all rubbish. His fantasies of being with Lisette came to an early close. Elijah’s notion to pay Lisette in hopes of merely making Xavier feel better did not only strip Xavier of his one-sided romance, but took the remainings of his faith in true love. As Xavier lost his lover, Elijah slowly began to lose something a little more palpable; his feelings.
Elijah Weesageechak, a close friend of Xavier’s, was a true warrior on the battlefield. The duo always gave it their all as they fought for their lives on war grounds. While Xavier had great mercy for all and had no intentions of actually killing anyone, Elijah strangely found content in the act. The moment Xavier fired his gun at another man, killing him, he began to experience hearing loss, losing his ability to hear the many sounds of the world. Contrastingly, Elijah lost something as well. His ability to feel pity, sorrow, mercy and all things in between. He began to take much pride in his kills, even to the extent of bragging, ““Three of them!” (…) “I slit the throats of three of them so quickly that I surprised even myself!””(Boyden 230) As Niska and Xavier found pleasure in intimate relationships, Elijah found that same satisfaction in murder. This of course snowballs into other elements of the body, including sense. While being addicted to Morphine was just a contributing factor, this psychopathic mindset causes Elijah to become emaciated, meaning he no longer felt in need of food, when in reality his body was incredibly malnourished. He additionally experienced frequent episodes, caused by the drug, in an attempt to kill his pain, mentally and physically. The war not only robbed soldiers of their lives, but stole their sanities as well, constantly reminding them about the assassins they once were.
The loss of something, whether tactile or not, can bring great grief. But with that grief comes healing and with that healing comes renewal. Niska, Xavier and Elijah’s narratives may have been distinct in their own way but the one accord that binds them together is loss. Niska and Xavier lost their love and their faith in it, while Elijah lost the sense of how to feel. Despite the trio’s trials and tribulations, in the end, they were able to take away something, some moral, some lesson from what they have lost and apply that to something greater.
Archetypal Theory On Three Day Road
Reading through the novel “Three Day Road”, I have discovered that there are various archetypal themes and characters that dwell in the story. In order to see these archetypes, I had to analyze the text and dig deeper because it was hidden. The characters that I found to have archetypal types of personalities were the three main characters: Xavier who is the protagonist, Elijah who is Xavier’s best friend, and Niska who is Xavier’s aunt, also a protagonist.
From my understanding, Xavier shows the characteristic of an outcast and the hero. Since Xavier is the narrator, he likes to describes events and while analyzing, I found that Xavier is similar to the Hero archetype because he stands for what he is good while showing acts of courage, but also differentiates because he doesn’t feel like he needs to earn the credit for doing good. A good is example is as Xavier hears the other soldiers speaking, “’It’s Elijah that’s the killer,’ Grey Eyes says suddenly. ‘X just spots for him. Elijah told me how X threw up the first time he saw Elijah get a kill.’ …I leave without a sound so that they do not know I have been there, my ears hot” (Boyden 88), he doesn’t let the enemy know that they are not correct, even if it affects his honor. This quote demonstrates how Xavier has a good mindset and in his convictions of doing the right thing by helping Elijah defeat Germans. Another case of Xavier that this statement shows is that Xavier isn’t compelled by a sense of duty. He realizes that what the soldiers are trying to state, is that Xavier is futile and Elijah doesn’t need him, yet he gives them a chance to accept what they need regardless of whether they don’t have the foggiest idea about reality that without Xavier Elijah would not have the strength to overcome Germans.
Xavier is always portraying Elijah as the trickster when he regularly tricks the English-talking soldiers with his fake dialect and accent, influencing it to appear as though he is one of them. The reason why I Elijah is a trickster is by his activities in the private school where he regularly escaped inconvenience by cajoling the nuns. Another basic thing Elijah does is speak like the soldiers to deceive and influence them to trust he is one of them. Elijah utilizes their intonation, as well as utilizes the same type of vocabulary, for example, “’Dear Henry,’ Elijah says, ‘would you be a kind chap and make me a cup of tea?’” (Boyden 125). This quote shows exactly how much of a trickster Elijah can be when speaking with the Englishmen. Although, when he speaks with Xavier, he is truthful, unlike when he talks to the Englishmen, it’s all lies and deceiving.
As indicated by her sustaining of Xavier and the way she uses spirituality to guide her, I imagine that Niska depicts the qualities of a mentor and magician. There were two statements that truly demonstrate a case of this in Niska’s character. The principal quote is when Niska depicts how she showed Xavier when he was a kid,“I taught you [Xavier] all I knew about the bush, the best way to snare rabbits and how to use their fur for protection against the cold… what plants and herbs were edible and which had healing properties” (Boyden 186). This statement implies that all Xavier knows and does would not be conceivable without the information that Niska gave him. Xavier’s mom was miserable discouraged after her dad’s passing, she put Xavier in a private school since she couldn’t deal with him. Niska protected him from the anguish that the school gave him, and raised him to be the man he is. The second statement is from when Niska summons the spirits of wildlife in her tent. She says, “I asked him [the spirit] to go out and find the source of my hurt an extinguish it” (Boyden 151). The core of her torment is the Frenchman that manhandled her, and after she asks for the spirits to encourage her, the Frenchman suspiciously kills himself. It is apparent that Niska has the ability to speak with extraordinary creatures, relating that she has the magician archetype.
“Lost innocence” is a theme that is available all through the entire book. The novel initially portrays how Elijah and Xavier were upbeat as young men, meandering in the hedge, having a great time being children. As the book advances, Xavier turns out to be more discouraged and dependent on morphine with a specific end goal to diminish his torment. Elijah likewise ends up dependent on morphine and turns distraught as he can’t stop his hunger for executing. Elijah ventures to scalp the men he executes with a specific end goal to be perceived as the best expert rifleman.
“The Hunger Games” has the most relation with the book Three Day Road because of how similar the characters are. Firstly, Xavier is like Katniss, both being brave and standing for whats right, and Niska is like Haymitch because they are both mentors. A typical model image in this book is the shading dark color and the number three. The shading dark is utilized relatively every other page while portraying individuals, creatures, and articles. It speaks to death when fighters cover themselves in it for disguise, and distress when Xavier gazes into the caught creature’s eyes, which are depicted as dark. The number three is huge in this book not just in light of the title, three day road, but since of the measure of times it appears in this novel. Three pages of the novel examine the number three so as to introduce its importance in both the European-Canadians’ lives and the Cree’s. It’s hard to say what will happen as the book ends because of the way things happen so fast in their journey.
Applying a Feminist Theory to Three Day Road
Three Day Road is a novel that happens in and is about World War I and local Canadians that battled in the war, the part of ladies amid this time-frame, which in 1914 to 1917 is still particularly so clear. It can be evident that women’s liberation in the cutting edge world offered motivation to the writer to incorporate these specific parts of the novel since it was composed after a large portion of the women’s activist developments, which occurred in the 1960’s. Amid the time of the war, local Canadians were repudiated and oppressed while ladies were not being dealt with the same as men did. The heroes, Niska and Xavier, knew what was going on. It’s optimal to remember that Niska is both female and a local Canadian, so she was separated for being both a lady and a Cree.
Firstly, I would like to express how Niska was treated by European Canadians. When she strolled through the European-ruled town, called Moose Factory, the people in the town pointed their fingers at her and parents drew their children closer to them as if Niska was a monster to them. In the story Niska says in a quote, “Parents called their children to them when I came close… Young men pointed at me and stared when they thought I was not looking” (Boyden 145). It is clear that because Niska was Native the European parents saw her as a threat, but it’s important to realize that only the men pointed at her and spread gossip about her appearance because she is a woman. In those times, women would only be accepted into society if they met the society’s expectations of a woman. These standards include specific clothing and beautiful face, as well as being owned and obedient to men. Since Niska ignored the ignorance and rules, she was an outcast of the European society.
In a similar section, there was a vital point about ladies amid the 1910’s that the creator was attempting to make. As Niska strolled into the town, an old woman requested her to come inside her home. This woman was Cree, as Niska and knew Niska’s dad, who was slaughtered in this town by the Europeans, which is the fundamental motivation behind why she helped Niska. Since this woman lived in this place, she knew the desires for how a lady is relied upon to dress in this town and gave Niska clothes to hide from Europeans by giving her, “…the clothes of wemistikoshiw [white European] women, a long cotton skirt, a white cotton shirt, a brightly colored bandanna to tie about my head” (Boyden 146). Niska puts these garments on and no one in the town focuses at her or says anything in regards to her. This demonstrates ladies need to take after these strict rules to meet the standards of a woman in society.
The point of Niska’s trip into the town was to discover her accomplice in that time, a Frenchman. The Frenchman, taking care of business, exploited Niska’s sentiments towards him and sold out her by disregarding her in a church. Since Niska was her dad’s little girl, she holds her dad’s forces inside her. The reason the Frenchman carried her into the church was to decimate her soul by contaminating her under the European’s god. Subsequent to doing this, the man says, “’I took your ahcahk’” (Boyden 149) (ahcahk means spirit in Cree) and “’You are nothing special, just another squaw whore’” (Boyden 149). The Frenchman had gone up against the basic man’s disregard towards a woman and even ventures to call Niska a prostitute since she adored him. Additionally, since Niska is a lady, she is relied upon to not have any forces. This is the thing that drives the Frenchman to double-cross her and endeavor to take her forces from her.
A standout amongst the most vital pieces that the creator incorporates into the novel is that not all men treat ladies like the larger part. For instance, Xavier is a man that regards people as equivalents. After a long fight, Xavier and his squad go to a massage parlor to rest after a devastating win in the war. Xavier does not realize this is a house of ill-repute and expect this is only a bar. Ladies are being passed and purchased like beverages, however Xavier sees one lady that he instantly begins to look all starry eyed at. Xavier is stunned when he hears Elijah say, “’I knew that a woman would be good for you but that you would never visit a whore” (Boyden 216). Xavier had no clue that Lisette, the lady who Xavier became hopelessly enamored with was one of the laborers in the house of the brothel and was stunned when he discovered that Elijah paid her for her opportunity with Xavier. Xavier ended up annoyed with Elijah since he was embarrassed that Lisette was being dealt with like this.
All in all, the novel Three Day Road has numerous perspectives that show how ladies were ineffectively treated amid the day and age of the main world war. Niska encounters this separation by and by through mishandle and daunt. It’s imperative to understand that not all men affronted ladies like the dominant part.
Killing to Belong: The Windigo in Joseph Boyden’s “Three Day Road”
In Joseph Boyden’s novel “Three Day Road,” the windigo killer plays an important role within the central characters’ Cree community. Through their separate, individual experiences, both Niska and Xavier struggle to assert their place within this community through attempting to kill an augmented version of their own windigo. For Niska, her Frenchman lover represents this windigo in a metaphorical sense. Niska’s murder of the Frenchman is a blatant attempt to feel she belongs as a windigo killer in her community.
In her first story, Niska implicitly tells Xavier that she wants to fulfill the windigo killer role within her tribe. Niska first introduces herself as an outcast, who distinctly does not fit in with anyone. She is not akin with the other children, who think she is “damaged” and “crazy”(Boyden, 35), and feels “too young to be accepted by the adults”(46). Seemingly, Niska is only accepted and comforted by her father who she wants to “watch over” and “stay close to”(36). Even with the possibility of discovering the world for herself before her “first blood of womanhood,” Niska chooses to have “nothing of that” and instead “[stays] close to [her] father”(36). Because of her lack of self-discovery, her father very heavily influences Niska’s sense of self, including how she belongs within her tribe. This effect is most strongly demonstrated when Niska discovers her and her father belong to a lineage of windigo killers. This is done through example when Niska’s father allows her to watch as he suffocates Micah’s wife and child because they have consumed Micah’s flesh, and therefore turned windigo. Afterwards, he tells Niska that his identity within the tribe must become the role she assumes when he says, “’one day I will be gone and you might have to do the same’”(45). Because this is only told to Niska, this quotation concretely establishes that descendants of Niska’s family are the only ones who can fulfill this role within the community. Thus, the windigo killer role defines belonging within the tribe for Niska and members of her family. This quote is also important because it is the only time in the novel in which Niska’s father speaks directly to her. The fact that Niska recalls her father’s exact words in this moment speaks to the importance Niska places on honoring the windigo killer role in relation to her father. Niska expresses her desire to meet the expectation placed on members of her family when she says, “I desperately wanted to possess [his gifts] for myself”(46). This asserts that Niska desires the aforementioned sense of belonging that the windigo killer role will bring her. She witnesses that her father’s gifts allow the adults in the tribe to “[walk] with purpose”(46), and allows the color to return to the children’s faces. This gives another purpose to Niska’s desire to become a windigo killer, which is contributing to the collective health of the tribe. Niska feels she will be able to attain a position of belonging, and contribute to the wellbeing of the tribe if she emulates her father by killing a windigo.
Niska’s Frenchman-lover is a symbolic representation of Niska’s own windigo. The Frenchman is not a windigo as has been described previously in the novel. He does not “eat other people’s flesh” or “grow into [a] wild beast,”(44) but meets the description in a much less literal sense. Similar to a windigo consuming flesh, an organ sacred to the physical body, the Frenchman violently takes Niska’s “’ahcahk, [her] spirit’”(174), which is obviously very sacred to her metaphysical, spiritual body. Just as a windigo can “be satisfied only by more human flesh”(44), the Frenchman “’has a taste for red meat that he can’t satisfy”’(169). In this quotation, “red meat” is taken to mean having sex with Cree women and producing “little half-French, half-Indian children”(169). Both the windigo in the traditional Cree tale and the Frenchman have an insatiable appetite for consuming something that is sacred to another person. In the Frenchman’s case, he consumes sex with multiple Cree women, promising to take them “’to be his forever’”(173). This promise is a sacred act, but instead of committing to one woman, he produces multiple children “that he refuses to claim”(169). When Niska becomes a victim of his consumption, the Frenchman consumes two sacred pieces of Niska, one physical and one spiritual. As a result, he becomes an obvious target for Niska’s first windigo kill.
Niska’s murder of the Frenchman, then, is her first act as a windigo killer. Just before Niska goes to visit the Frenchman in town, she comes across “an old woman, [whose] face [is] as wrinkled and round as a dried apple”(168) who foreshadows Niska’s windigo killing. When the old woman says “’Happiness is not yours to have. You are a windigo killer,’”(169) she is alluding to Niska’s perceived happiness as the lover of the Frenchman and how that happiness will soon come to an end as Niska fulfills her role as a windigo killer. The old woman’s prediction is conceived when Niska “[asks the lynx] to go out and find the source of [her] hurt and extinguish it”(176). When she hears that the Frenchman “ran to the top storey of the hotel […] and flung himself through the window” because he “could not escape” the “pursuing demons,”(176) this prediction is realized. Niska purposefully uses her Cree spirituality (the lynx) to cause the Frenchman to go mad and kill himself, thus intending and committing her first windigo killing. The fact that Niska is not actually present when the windigo Frenchman dies is significant in comparison to the example set by her father. When Niska’s father kills Micah’s wife, he “[covers] her face with a blanket” and “[looks] up”(45), which is an obvious attempt to depersonalize the windigo as she dies. Similarly, by not physically going and killing the Frenchman herself, Niska is attempting to depersonalize him in death because of the “fear and anger”(175) thinking about him brings her. Finally, much like how Niska’s father’s windigo killing causes the tribe to feel a sense of peace because “something unwanted”(46) had left, Niska killing the Frenchman brings her “A sense of peace”(176). Because Niska’s murder of the Frenchman is intentional and committed in a similar manner as her fathers’ windigo killings, it is an obvious attempt to fulfill her generational role as a windigo killer within her community.
From the beginning of the novel, Niska clearly demonstrates how she wants to belong. Her concept of what it means to belong is heavily influenced by her father’s role as a windigo killer, as she witnesses how it allows him to contribute to the safety and security of the tribe. This, coupled with a lack of a sense of belonging as a child drives Niska to attempt to insert herself into her father’s role as a windigo killer. She does so for the first time in the novel by killing her Frenchman-lover. This extreme action is Niska’s attempt to meet the expectations her community places on descendants of her family and in doing so, find a sense of purpose and belonging within this community.
The Influence of War: Xavier, Elijah, and Their Conflict
There is no glory in war; it only tears relationships apart and nobody returns home unscathed. In Joseph Boyden’s novel Three Day Road, the true horrors and realities of war are revealed. Through the characters of Xavier and Elijah, the historical fiction demonstrates that war leads to conflict within one’s closest relations. Xavier and Elijah are the best of friends and share a great bond of brotherhood, however, the war brings out the worst in them. They are introduced to the western culture and become exposed to several addictive elements. The most devastating of all is morphine which causes Elijah to lose his morality. This leads to conflict between Xavier and Elijah because of their contrasting beliefs. Xavier is a much more traditional individual who resists the European influence whereas Elijah embraces it. This cross-cultural conundrum leads to disagreement within the two companions sparking their competitive nature. As the two battle out to determine who is the dominant figure, the influence of the war and European ideologies on the two are clearly demonstrated. Although Xavier and Elijah share a deep emotional bond, their relationship is slowly torn apart during the war through the use of morphine, feelings of jealousy, and the division of culture.
Addiction is a destructive disease which festers in individuals, simply shattering one’s sense and judgment. Throughout the war, Elijah becomes more and more attracted to morphine. This drug acts both as a sedative and steroid for Elijah, however, this advancement comes at a cost. Elijah becomes addicted to the drug and uses the morphine to escape from the war. The drug dulls his internal struggles. Even when Elijah is not in physical pain and the medicine is not necessary, his, “body screams out for the needle” (Boyden 337). He is unable to control his desire for the morphine which allures his sense of judgment. This is seen further when Elijah shoots the mother and her child without hesitation. Xavier becomes furious with Elijah’s and questions what the reasoning is for his actions, however, Elijah mildly responses by saying, “I didn’t know it was a child” (Boyden 306). The morphine has taken a hold on Elijah’s senses as he cannot understand his actions have consequences. This clash between Xavier’s and Elijah’s moral beliefs fuel the conflict they have with each other. As the plot is driven by their rivalry one can understand Xavier is very traditional, whereas Elijah is extremely western minded. Xavier’s disagreement with Elijah’s use of morphine sparks the beginning of their conflict through the cross-cultural conundrum.
Conflict arises as one’s cultural beliefs contradict others actions. Xavier and Elijah are in constant conflict with each other because of their differences in heritage. Xavier is raised by Niska in the bush and has developed Aboriginal beliefs and ideologies. Although Elijah is also of native descent, he is an orphan raised at a residential school. Elijah does not know if he belongs in native society or in the western society. The Europeans value the glory and successes of war whereas the natives prefer peace. Elijah desperately wants to fit in so he tries to prove himself to the other soldiers by going on a killing rampage. Xavier realizes that Elijah’s actions have led him to become “something invincible, something inhuman” (Boyden 348). Elijah starts to scalp people after a successful kill and even collect hair and body parts as trophies. His inhumane actions begin the awakening of his Windigo spirit. Elijah continues his killings for the glory, attention, and approval he receives which builds internal conflict with Xavier. Xavier is known to come from a “line of Windigo killers” (Boyden 348) and he struggles to uphold his family’s legacy. Although the signs are clear that Elijah has indeed transformed into a Windigo Xavier resists the temptation to end Elijah’s life because he values their friendship. Ultimately Elijah betrays Xavier by condemning to the Wendigo spirit to gain fame within the battalion. His actions identify the theme of how far people will go to fit into society. Elijah does not know where he belongs and he sacrifices everything he has including his friendship with Xavier to feel acknowledged. As Elijah struggles with his Windigo spirit and Xavier attempts to hold his legacy as a wendigo killer it leads to utmost rivalry and jealousy between the two.
Jealousy is an emotion that only harms oneself and unleashes one’s dark innermost demons. Xavier has jealousy towards Elijah because everyone believes he is the superior soldier. Although Elijah secretly understands that Xavier is a much better soldier; Elijah is able to manipulate Xavier and make him look like a “useless bush Indian” (Boyden 109). Xavier is virtually ignored by the rest of the battalion because of his lack of communication, therefore Elijah is able to present himself as the superior individual. Although Xavier is able to recognize what is happening he sticks to his ethic of noninterference. This action shows Xavier is so culturally sound and this causes Elijah to develop jealousy towards Xavier. Xavier never has his heritage stripped from him while Elijah has everything taken away from him. Elijah will do anything to redeem himself and become the best soldier. Moreover, Elijah’s ambition to prove himself not places himself in danger but it also endangers the other soldiers. When he leaves his post without warning simply to gain more kills, his plainly explains that he “was out there killing fritz” (Boyden 178). This highlights the selfishness within Elijah since he only cares about self-gain because he shows no regard for the other soldiers. Throughout Xavier and Elijah’s conflicts with each other, their differences in character are clearly demonstrated. Furthermore one sees Elijah has a selfish and addictive personality where he is always trying to please others. He tries overly hard to fit. Xavier on the other hand already has an identity and doesn’t care about impressing others. Xavier’s character development is also demonstrated throughout the jealousy because he matures from his conflicts with Elijah and his experiences at war. Xavier finally understands the only way to free Elijah from the windigo spirit and his drive for power is to end Elijah’s life.
Xavier and Elijah share a powerful bond, however war tears them apart from their own jealousy, addictions, and cultural differences. Although Xavier and Elijah share a great bond of brotherhood during their childhood, the war breaks them apart. The European way of life exposes the addictive drug morphine. This drug drives Elijah mad and this introduces great animosity between the two. Their disagreement with cultural values expresses the cross-cultural conundrum. Xavier is a traditional individual who is against the Europeans beliefs whereas Elijah is assimilated into the western culture. Elijah does whatever is necessary to please other and this allows the opportunity for the Windigo to develop. As their differences in opinions clash with each other, it brings forth their aggressive nature. As the two fight out who is the predominant figure, the impact of the war on the two is unmistakably illustrated. There are no winners in war; war only destroys one’s most valued relationships and leaves individuals broken.
No Glory In War
War increases conflicts causing relationships to break revealing one’s true nature. In the historical fictional novel Three Day Road, Joseph Boyden uses the character’s Xavier and Elijah to explain how conflicts lead to devastating effects in war. The contrasting personalities and different cultural values between Xavier and Elijah, the need to be superior, and Elijah’s fixation with terminating enemies advance the plot; ultimately leading to disastrous effects on war which affects relationships.
The first clash is the cross cultural conundrum Elijah and Xavier face against each other. Elijah is seen to embrace the western side with welcome arms while Xavier finds it strange. A prime example of the western side is the use of morphine: “Just a little bit? A push to get me through, this difficult evening?” (Boyden 146). Here, Elijah is seen desperate for morphine to which Xavier, disapproves. In fact, Xavier tells Elijah that he [Elijah] will no longer have any morphine, to which Elijah dismisses later on in the novel, and becomes addicted, thus, a wedge is driven between them. Another difference is Elijah’s ability to speak English, while Xavier can not. Due to Elijah’s experiences in residential schools, Elijah learns English. As a result, Elijah finds it easier to converse with his fellow soldiers, while Xavier is seen as a social outcast. Moreover, Elijah and Xavier have different perspectives on the indigenous cultures. Xavier views the indigenous culture in high regard while Elijah views the culture distastefully. As a matter of fact, Elijah insults Xavier numerously by calling Xavier a heathen, even though he himself is indigenous. On the other hand, the attention Elijah receives drives the wedge between his relationship with Xavier further since Xavier is treated as if he invisible. Moreover, Elijah’s ability to make friends and conversation causes Xaver to feel envy.
Due to Elijah’s skill in English, Elijah receives attention from his comrades. However, Xavier does not receive any attention, giving way to jealousy and a need to compete. Since Elijah has taken the spotlight, Xavier feels that he has become “a brown ghost” (Boyden 65). Thus, Xavier has become more competitive to gain recognition for his efforts and attention. This is seen in the shooting competition where Xavier competes to be acknowledged as the best shot. Xavier is tired of being ignored and being in Elijah’s shadow, so he takes this as an opportunity to show that he is capable of the same skills of Elijah. Xavier even thinks about revealing to the other soldiers that he taught Elijah how to hunt. Moreover, when Xavier eliminates the German sniper that had been slaying Xavier and Elijah’s allies, he picks up the German’s Mauser. Here Xavier and Elijah’s are in disagreement of who uses the Mauser. Elijah tries to convince Xavier to give him the Mauser, but Xavier denies him the weapon. Furthermore, the murderous rampage Elijah fulfills himself with; along with his disappearances increases the distance between them and sets the novel for the final battle: Xavier versus Elijah.
Elijah’s addiction to slaying German soldiers causes Xavier to be wary for him. Elijah wanders off by himself numerous times, and causes Xavier to worry for his safety as well as what he is doing. The two differ in morals as well. Xavier understands that it his duty to kill the enemy, and even prays for forgiveness after murdering. However, Elijah has become obsessed with killing, and can not come back to his normal self. Xavier realizes this through the death of a innocent woman and her child. He even scalps an enemy’s head after slaying him. Elijah tries to justify his actions by telling Xavier was in trouble, but one can tell that it was a civilian, not a soldier. As a result, Xavier tries to distance himself from Elijah and worries what to do to help him. On the other hand, Elijah’s stories of his adventures into German lines causes Xavier to realize that Elijah has become mentally unstable and must be stopped. Moreover, Xavier held suspicions that Elijah had gone Windigo from the moment Elijah offered Xavier horsemeat, which is not possible since there are no horses near. However, what truly reinforced this suspicion was the confrontation from Xavier to Elijah: “I think you did more than just kill that young soldier yesterday” (Boyden 370). Elijah does not answer the question, but insteads poses a question on his own : “Why do you say that” (Boyden 350). He then proceeds to threaten Xavier to get out of his way, which shows that the relationship between Xavier and Elijah has become fragile. Therefore, it is no surprise when Elijah tells Xavier that only one of them will survive in the battle. Furthermore, Xavier comes from a line of Windigo killers, meaning that Xavier must do what is needed of him. Xavier then takes it upon himself to eliminate Elijah, to free him from the evil Windigo spirit, and to stop further madness.
The differing and evolving characteristics between Xavier and Elijah move the plot forward concluding that war ravages relationships, which is shown with the bond between Xavier and Elijah. The dissimilarities in Xavier and Elijah’s cultures, competitive natures, and Elijah’s excessive murders are all results of the pressures war puts upon the soldiers. To put it simply, war ends in bonds breaking and causes one to reveal his or her true nature. There is no victor in war; what is left is a broken individual that has lost everything.