April Raintree written by Beatrice Culleton is an inspiring story set during mid to late 20th century about two Metis sisters who struggled against social prejudice. As they grew up through many hardships trying to uncover their unique identity in society, the two sisters discovered the world in two entirely different perspectives. Though they planned to stay together as they grew up, the changing personalities in addition to the distinct beliefs about their Metis heritage separated them not only from society but from each other as well.
However in the end, the story’s tragic, yet surprising ending disclosed the death of one of the sisters. The novel April Raintree exhibits how the communication barrier and social beliefs of the two sisters lead to the suicide of Cheryl Raintree by means of April’s irresponsible actions, Cheryl’s choice to hide her feelings as well as their negative stereotypic beliefs about aboriginal heritage. As April grew up to be more independent, she became over protective of her sister which led the two sisters to become more and more distant and finally lead to the death of Cheryl.
April who was a self reserved person hid a lot of things about life from her younger sibling. “I thought that now was the time I should tell Cheryl what I already knew about our parents. They were liars, weaklings, and drunkards that all the time we were growing up, there was a more important reason for them to live and that was their booze. But no, I couldn’t do that to Cheryl. I couldn’t tell her that alcohol was more important to our parents that their own daughters. I had given her cherished memories of them. I couldn’t take that away now. (Culleton 93) Even though Cheryl was responsible and mature enough to learn the truth about her parents, April still chose to hide it. She did it to protect her sister from being hurt. Nevertheless, this only destroyed the bond between the two sisters. April did not think about how her sister would feel when she finally finds out the truth. She was irresponsible enough to ignore her sister’s feelings and presence on this issue. However, when Cheryl finally found out, it had the complete opposite effect on Cheryl’s life: “All these years, until this very moment.
I envisioned him as a tall, straight, handsome man. In the olden days he would have been a warrior if he had been all Indian. I had made something out of him that he wasn’t, never was. Now I just want to turn and run away, pretend this isn’t happening, that I had never laid eyes on him. Pretend I was an orphan. (Culleton 176) Cheryl couldn’t deal with the fact that her father was addicted to alcohol. All her childhood dreams were broken at the minute she saw the truth. If April let her sister know the truth before, Cheryl would not have gone in to an immense shock.
Since April lied to her, Cheryl started to lie to April as well. Thereafter, there was no bond between the two sisters. The only thing that even kept them together was the fact that they were sisters. And as time passed by, hatred started to build up inside of Cheryl. And soon enough, the two sisters were ashamed of each other: “Yu know something else April? I’m ashamed of you. Yeah, ashamed. You’re not my sister. You are my keeper, buying this house, paying for my keep. That’s all you are, just my keeper. You are disgusting. And you have the nerve to look down on me? ” (Culleton 155) Cheryl had to face the truth on her own. She felt ignored and unwanted. She felt as if her older sister looked down on her. Though April tried to protect Cheryl, she hid the unbearable truths of life from Cheryl rather than sharing both the positive and the negative aspects. This created alienation in the novel which led to the suicide of Cheryl Raintree. On the other hand, Cheryl was responsible for her own death since she hid her own feelings from her sister. She let the pressure built inside her which may have created destructive thoughts in her mind.
Cheryl may have tried to protect her sister as well. “I’m sure she never told me any of those things she discovered because she felt she had to protect me from the truth. She carried that around with her all alone, not wanting to share her problems. And I knew about it! Well, not the part about mother committing suicide. So many lies to protect, and in the end they destroy anyway. ” (Culleton 164) Cheryl’s mind was stressed with all the problems. In addition to the birth of a child, she suffered from Alcoholism, financial instability and prostitution. Yet, she wanted to protect her older sister from these issues.
She never really took the time to ask her sister to help her. Cheryl took all the pressure on her shoulders: “So April Raintree, you think you got all the answers, eh? But you can’t tell me nothing, can you? Because in reality, you know zilch. I’m the one who knows what life is really about. Me. That’s who. I got the answers. I found the answers all by myself. You lied to me and I lied to you. ”(Culleton 159) Cheryl’s reactions towards her sister prove that she lived in frustration. The only time she let her feelings out was when she was drunk. All the other time, she kept them all inside. She ever really agreed to talk with April in day time either. The first time Cheryl talks about her feelings to April was in the last letter she wrote before committing suicide. “April there should be at least a little joy in living and when there is no joy, and then we become the living dead. And I can’t live this living death any longer. To drink myself to sleep, day in and day out” (Culleton 184) These final words of Cheryl clearly demonstrates how she committed suicide due to stress and pressure. She defined life as ‘living death’. But when she finally let her feelings out, it was too late to save her life.
If she somehow talked to her sister or even Nancy about how she was feeling about life, she would have been able to relax her head from all the problems and this outcome would not have occurred. Thus Cheryl’s choice to hide her feelings from other people was also a reason that led to the suicide since it built up pressure inside the character’s mind. Moreover, the two sisters were surrounded with stereotypic ideas when growing up. As Cheryl realized how these facts depicted her own life, she collapsed in strength and courage which lead her to lose hope in life.
Unlike April Raintree, Cheryl Raintree was more of an outgoing person from her childhood. She was proud of her heritage and was prepared to bring the pride in to the heritage as well. However, in the society at that time, the typical stereotype of the Natives would be to be drunkards. Even at school, the sisters had to face these kinds of discriminations. “Then Mrs Semple gave us a little speech about what she called native girls’ syndrome. ‘… and you girls are headed in that direction. It starts out with the fighting, the running away, and the lies. Next come the accusations that the whole world is against you.
There are the sullen cooperative silences, the feeling sorry for yourselves. And when you go on your own, you get pregnant right away or keep jobs. So you’ll start with alcohol and drugs. From there, you get into shoplifting and prostitution and in and out of jails. You’ll live with men who abuse you. And on it goes’”. (Culleton 48) These kinds of comments went in to the heads of both girls. April who was ashamed to be a half native took care of herself so that she would never come across a situation like mentioned. However Cheryl was proud of who she was and never really took the time to prevent her from anything.
However as time passed, she started to realize that her own life reflected many of the things said in the ‘native girl’s syndrome’: “I have a drink. Another one. Another one. My parents deserted me. April has left me, mark… is a good for nothing woman user. Make that last word, abuser. I have another drink. And another one. Let mark use me. I don’t care anymore. ”(Culleton 181) This is the point where Cheryl gives up on life. She feels deserted and by mentioning the word ‘abuser’ it is clear that she is comparing her life to what she has heard about aboriginals.
The alcoholism, prostitution, abuse and money problems are all present in her life. Her idealistic opinions about Metis heritage collapses and she comes to a point where she doesn’t care about her life anymore. A sense of loneliness surrounds her, yet, she cannot do anything regarding that. She feels as if she has lost the instinct to live: “Do not feel sorrow or guilt over my death. Man thinks he can control nature. Man is wrong. The Great Spirit has made nature stronger than man by putting in each of us a part of nature. We all have the instinct to survive. If that instinct is gone, then we die. (Culleton 184)This quote mentioned in the letter of Cheryl Raintree indicates how she comes to an understand of human nature. She believes that nature is stronger than man. Nevertheless the stereotypic beliefs of the society made Cheryl lose hope and a meaning in life which lead to the suicide herself. The negligent actions taken by the two sisters, April and Cheryl Raintree in addition to their negative outlook on stereotypes lead to the Suicide of the younger sister, Cheryl. The two characters’ transition from childhood to adulthood is illustrated in the novel April Raintree where the two sisters have to face many hardships.
In order for us to survive in society successfully, communication and confidence are two essential elements. The one who lacks these elements may seek the help of another. However when that fails, you will have to depend truly on yourself. No matter how tough u may think you are, life measures your limits and abilities in every single way. Thus we should not be scared to reach out to people and let them know who we really are while reaching for the highest goals so we can be confident about ourselves
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