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.
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