“You say that we are drunkards, that we live for drinking. But drinking is a way of dying. Dying without enjoying life” (Mosionier 154), April Raintree, main character of the novel In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton Mosionier, wished she could change her Metis heritage or the spelling of her last name, Raintree, so it would seem less native. Why? Racism and family history, but mostly because of the judgement of a character trait that is carried throughout native woman called, “native girl syndrome”: drinking, doing drugs, having promiscuous sex, and even getting involved in crime.
April discovered that the stereotype is in fact true, but there is no shame in fighting for change. As a child, the dynamic character, April Raintree discovered early of how her parents were alcoholics. She called it a “sickness” and how her parent’s took their “medicine. ” The circumstances she was raised in brought both disrespect for the Native culture and the trait of racism which April learnt while playing in the playground with her sister, Cheryl. “There were two different groups of children that went to the park. One group was the brown- skinned children who looked like Cheryl in most ways.
Some of them even came over to our house with their parents. But they were dirty looking and they dressed in real raggedy clothes. I didn’t care to play with them at all. The other group was white- skinned, and I used to envy them especially the girls with blond hair and blue eyes. They seemed so clean and reminded me of flowers I had seen,” (Mosionier 16) instantaneously April disestablished herself from her Metis heritage and culture to the point that she uses materialism and white culture as a coping mechanism. It helped her to ease the association through heritage and kept her away from the problems that plagued the native peoples.
The foreshadowing of April abandoning Cheryl’s life is also demonstrated through this text. How she compares the dirty looking children who looked similar to Cheryl to the white children with blonde hair and blue eyes which she envied. The youthful events that happened in April’s past brought upon more racism and even bringing distance with her relationship with Cheryl. The plot in which April illustrates the stereotype of Metis people is spread throughout the novel and acquires to worsen when April is taken away from her family.
Separated because of their parent’s, April and Cheryl became foster children at a young age. April was sent to the worst home, she was little better than a slave, despised as a “half- breed” and is kept only for the government support checks that accompany her. For instance, after April had done all the dishes Maggie, the daughter, had stated, “’You’re not finished,’ Maggie said in a bossy tone, ‘You didn’t even sweep the floor. I heard you half- breeds were dirty but now I can see it’s true’” (Mosionier 39), the snide remark explains how April could become prejudice with accepting how she was Metis wanting to be white.
Escaping the foster parents, the DeRosier’s, April became a bright student, eventually growing up to become an independent woman. When finding Bob, April thought she found her prince charming who would take her to the “white” masquerade. A marriage to the rich Toronto businessman quickly ends not only because her husband cheated on her, but because of the racist remarks that were passed through Mrs. Radcliffe; “Didn’t you notice her sister? They’re Indians, Heather. Well, not Indians but half- breeds which is almost the same. And they’re not half- sisters.
They have the same father and the same mother. That’s the trouble with mixed races. You never know how they’re going to turn out. And I would simply dread being a grandmother to a bunch of snivelling little half- breeds! The only reason I can think of why Bob married her after knowing what she was, was simply to get back at me” (Mosionier 115/ 116). In keeping with her survival instinct of making as few waves as possible and seizing whatever good the moment might have to offer, April accepted the settlement and relocated to Winnipeg.
April achieved financial independence after her divorce from Bob, but this was not enough to shield her from a brutal rape that was influenced through racism: this rape In Search of April Raintree is documented as one of the most graphic rape scenes in English literature. On the other hand, April’s childhood experiences had trained her. The indignity and pain of the rape was an extension of her previous life. She knew the act of surviving the worst circumstances and to weaken under power. She had to fight for life and sanity, but she had to use tactics that were non- threatening to her aggressors. Reporting the rape was the first act hich April did to reclaim herself. The trail was traumatic for her; she did ritual bathing and found herself again once the suspects were behind bars. April also had help to accelerate in life from Roger, the man in which she found intensely irritating for years who simply “had a crush” on her and did not know to properly express it, someone who later became her perfect Romeo. Cheryl’s story follows a different path, always challenging the mainstream and trying to embrace her heritage. Her story influences the challenge in which April has to deal with: not excepting to be Metis, “Then the question came to my mind.
What about Cheryl? How was I going to pass for a white person when I had a Metis sister? Especially when she was so proud of what she was? I loved her. I could never cut myself off from her completely. ” Ignoring the racist remarks and not caring whether the people accepted her beliefs or culture, Cheryl grew up into a strong child. She tried to immerse into the native culture and to become a social worker. Cheryl still acted strong towards April and, when April was married to Bob, the white society who critiqued her, “After praising all these people to Cheryl, some came out with the most patronizing remarks.
Oh I’ve read about Indians. Beautiful people they are. But you’re not exactly Indian are you? ’ ‘What is the proper word for people like you? ’ one asked. ‘Women. ’ Cheryl replied instantly. ‘No, no, I mean nationality? ’ ‘Oh, I’m sorry. We’re Canadians. ’ Cheryl smiled sweetly” (Mosionier 107). How blunt Cheryl was of not ashamed of her nationality and how she did not see any differences between herself and the white people. While visiting April, Cheryl wanted to find her parents: “’No! They’re our parents, April! And we’re not orphans,’ Cheryl’s eyes blazed. I want to see them again. Please, April. I have the right to make that decision for myself. You have to tell me where to begin. How do I find them? ’” (Mosionier 109). After finding her father and learning how her mom committed suicide, Cheryl becomes what her social worker, Mrs. Semple, explained was native girl syndrome, “’ It starts out with the fighting, the running away, the lies. Next come the accusations that everyone in the world is against you. There are the sullen uncooperative silences, the feeling sorry for yourselves.
And when you’re out on your own, you get pregnant right away, or can’t find or keep jobs. So you’ll start with alcohol and drugs. From there, you get into shoplifting and prostitution and in our and of jails. You’ll live with men who abuse you. And on it goes. You’ll end up like your parents, living off society’” (Mosionier 32). Hiding her depression from April, Cheryl moves into April’s apartment, being a drunkard and prostituting the streets. After April’s court date, Cheryl became hostile towards April. Drinking every waking minute and fighting; “’you lied to me and I lied to you.
I did find our precious dear ol’ Dad. He’s a gutter creature, April. A gutter- creature! All the tricks I turned, well, that helped him, too. Ahh, but that’s not all. The best part is still to come. ’She smiled a lopsided smile, as if she had lost control of her facial muscles. “Mother, you know what happened to our poor, dear Mother? She jumped off the Louise Bridge, is what she did. Committed suicide’” (Mosionier 180). Depression overcame Cheryl, and after moving out of April’s apartment, she committed suicide on the Louise Bridge, as her mother did.
When April looks through Cheryl’s diary, she finds out about Cheryl’s other secret: her son Henry Lee. “All life dies to give new life” (Mosionier 207), this sentence seems to be imbedding hope in April’s new identity and Henry Lee, youth who represents hope for the future. In Search of April Raintree was compelling and captivating, in spite that the general style of writing was so simple and subtle, but the characters of April Raintree and Cheryl Raintree defined the plot and created Beatrice Culleton Mosionier’s masterpiece.