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Society’s firewood A literary essay on Margaret Laurence’s ‘The Half-Husky’ by Mark Rozema

What is it that determines what a person is to become? Is it our genetic makeup or is it our environment – the sum of our experiences that brings our personalities upon us? In the short, loosely autobiographical story; ‘The Half-husky’ the author; Margaret Laurence, gives her say on this. Harvey’s attitude and personality correspond with his environment; Vanessa’s attitude is in tandem with her environment, and Nanuk has both a loving and a savage side. Is this simply his nature or is it the sum of his experiences? Margaret Laurence is suggesting that it is our experiences – the environment we live in – that determine what we are to become.

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There is almost a direct correlation between Harvey and the environment in which he spent most of his life, more importantly the early years of his life, the developing years. Harvey is described as “lethargic” and “pallid”. This is reflective of the area of town, the environment that he grew up in; the north end of town. The north end of town is filled with “shacks and shanties”. An unhealthy environment like this saps one of their health and vitality – making them like Harvey, “pallid” and “lethargic”. Harvey “” Nanuk on a regular basis, causing him deliberate and pointless pain. He has no desired end, the pain he causes Nanuk is both a means and an end. This is the same as his home life where his aunt causes him pain when she “ him across the face” with an “explosive quickness”.

Harvey’s neighborhood is the kind of neighborhood where there is a mentality of do now and think later, so this is what Harvey does. Harvey is symbolized in this story by the plebeian poplar, he, like the wood is considered of little value and so is put into an environment in which there is little chance of him gaining any value. He is placed into a sinkhole, created by society. Harvey’s personality is reflective of his life experiences; he is a plebeian poplar log that is being stored outside.

Like Harvey, Vanessa reacts to situations in ways very similar to the ways her main influences would react to those same situations. When talking to her brother about what to name her new dog she notices that her voice carries a “disturbing echo” of her grandfather’s voice. She is also similar to her mother as, after a fight, they would “both go about perpetually worrying ways.” Vanessa lives in the nice end of town; her “Brick House” is a rock of consistency and reliability in her life. She is insecure when she is away from her solid brick house and the comfort and consistency that go along with it. Vanessa’s neighborhood is very calm and consistent and this shows in Vanessa. She is predictable and loving, just like the environment she was raised in. Vanessa is symbolized by the birch logs that are stored in the basement. From birth she is expected to be an attribute to society and so they store her in the metaphorical basement, where she is guaranteed to succeed. Vanessa’s personality is very similar to the sum of her experiences; she is definitely a birch log in the basement.

Nanuk is born with the savage nature of a husky. Based on his parentage alone Vanessa’s grandfather has a strong conviction of mistrust for Nanuk and wouldn’t “trust one of them things as far as could see it”. He believes that a half-husky would be “more then likely” to “tear Roddie to bits”. Nanuk however has no such plan; he only reacts aggressively to his environment when his environment does the same to him. Such is the contrast between the tormented Nanuk and the normal Nanuk the mere moment after being abused by Harvey he welcomes Vanessa “in his usual way”. Nanuk reacts with hostility only to hostility and always returns kindness. Grandfather’s convictions are the rambling of and old man and Harvey is responsible for anything wrong with Nanuk’s personality. Nanuk is a product of his environment; he is a log of plebeian poplar that has been stored in the basement by mistake. Because of his surroundings Nanuk took on many of the characteristics of a ‘birch log’.

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The evidence is conclusive, Vanessa, Harvey, and Nanuk all have personalities that are in tandem with how they were brought up. They are reflections of their environment, whether it be a heated basement, cold outside or a combination of both. Margaret Laurence answers one of life’s big questions in The Half-Husky; nature vs. nurture. She suggests that environment determines a person’s value to society, not blood or breed. You have some control over the environment that you live your life in, you choose your friends. Hang out with the ‘birch logs’ and you might find that some of their bark rubs off onto you. Place yourself in healthy situations. So where are you stored, in the basement among the birch logs or outside in the pile of useless poplar?

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Society's firewood A literary essay on Margaret Laurence's 'The Half-Husky' by Mark Rozema
Artscolumbia
Artscolumbia
What is it that determines what a person is to become? Is it our genetic makeup or is it our environment – the sum of our experiences that brings our personalities upon us? In the short, loosely autobiographical story; 'The Half-husky' the author; Margaret Laurence, gives her say on this. Harvey's attitude and personality correspond with his environment; Vanessa's attitude is in tandem with her environment, and Nanuk has both a loving and a savage side. Is this simply his nature or is it
2018-05-25 11:58:43
Society's firewood A literary essay on Margaret Laurence's 'The Half-Husky' by Mark Rozema
$ 13.900 2018-12-31
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