As we live our lives, the things we see, hear, say and do, all have an impact on what we become. We are constantly changing; our experiences and the people we meet shape our identities. In the novel April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton, April’s mother figures all had a significant part in shaping her personal identity. The mother figures in April’s life were her real mother (Mrs. Raintree), Mrs. DeRosier and Mrs. Dion. Mrs. Raintree and Mrs. DeRosier had negative influences upon April’s personal identity causing her to be ashamed of being Metis. On the other hand, Mrs. Dion had a positive impact upon April helping her to realize that her life had a purpose.
Mrs. Raintree and Mrs. DeRosier were two mother figures that had a negative influence on April’s identity. Mrs. Raintree was an alcoholic and had parties that became violent. “It seemed to me that after the welfare cheque days, came the medicine days.” Pg. 2. This quote indicates that the money that was meant to be spent to help April’s family was wasted on alcohol. April’s mother neglected both April and Cheryl because of drinking. This shapes April into becoming more independent by having to take care of herself and Cheryl. April’s mother is a cause of why the girls were taken away to foster homes.
April ends up being separated from Cheryl when she goes to live with the DeRosiers. Mrs. Derosier is a racist and is cruel to April. “Mrs. DeRosier had said, ‘…you half-breeds’”. Pg. 26. Mrs. DeRosier neglected April except for when she was needed to do chores. April was treated like a servant at the DeRosier’s household. Mrs. DeRosier would leave with her children and leave April to do all the chores. “She left me instructions to wash the floors and clean the bathroom after I finished the breakfast dishes.” Pg. 29. Both April’s mother and Mrs. DeRosier helped shape April into being ashamed of being Metis. She learned to hide her true feelings. With these two mother figures, April felt scared, not safe and unimportant.
April’s personal identity was positively influenced by another mother figure – Mrs. Dion. In contrast to April’s mother and Mrs. DeRosier, Mrs. Dion was kind and loving April. Mrs. Dion was April’s first foster mother; she was always there for April and treated her equally. “The next day, when we got up, Mrs. Dion gave me a pretty dress from Nicole’s closet and told me there were more clothes that were too small for Nicole. I was very happy.” Pg. 13. Mrs. Dion took care of April and made her feel safe and loved. Living with a white family in a nice home and around kind people made April feel that living as a white person was better than being bullied and treated unfairly as a Metis.
When Mrs. Dion was sick, April began feeling closer to her and started calling her “Maman.” She truly loved Mrs. Dion but she had to be sent away. When she last spoke to her, Ms. Dion told her “We all love you very much, April. When life seems unbearable, remember there’s always a reason.” Pg. 24. April lives an “unbearable” life but Mrs. Dion helps her have faith that she can help others. What Mrs. Dion said helped shape April’s personal identity because April had such a connection to Mrs. Dion. April’s loss affects her deeply because she ends up having to live with Mrs. DeRosier.
In conclusion, April’s mother figures had a hand in shaping her personal identity. She had positive experiences with Mrs. Dion but unfortunately, her experiences with her mother and Mrs. DeRosier caused her to be ashamed of being a Metis. Which leads her to become self-centered and take a leadership role by assuming charge of Cheryl.