Narration has a profound effect on the interpretation of a story. This interpretation changes depending on whom the narrator is and whether they are involved in the story. In Thomas King’s short story “Borders”, a twelve-year-old boy recounts the experience he had with his mother crossing the United States border. As a result of a child narrating, it is easy to see the contrast between the boy and his mother, the ignorance by the government, and the compassion in the duty-free manager Mel.
Using the boy as the narrator was important to the telling of “Borders” because it provided an honest, unbiased communication of the events that occur in the story. The contrast between the son and his mother is initially presented in “Borders” when they make their first attempt at crossing the US border. This contrast is displayed here through the importance each character possesses for their identity.
It is clear that the son does not have the same stubborn approach to his identity at the border that his mother has: “It would have been easier if my mother had just said ‘Canadian’ and been done with it, but I could see she wasn’t going to do that,” (King 135).
The boy’s compliant attitude and low importance of identity is stressed again when he and his mother are speaking with the Inspector Pratt.
Again, the son is willing to relinquish his identity as a non-Canadian, against his mothers actions, in order to cross the border to see his older sister: “I told Stella that we were Canadian and Blackfoot, but she said it didn’t count because I was a minor,” (137). The boy’s attitude presented by Thomas King is very different from his mothers. The boy’s mother is biased and not compliant. When Inspector Pratt tells the mother “if [she] didn’t declare her citizenship, [she] would have to go back to where [she] came from,” she simply refuses to renounce where she stands on her citizenship (King 137).
As a result of this, she “thanked Stella for her time … and drove back to the Canadian border,” (King 137). This refusal to accept the way things were by the mother shows that she holds great importance in her identity as Blackfoot and is not willing to conform based on rules the government has put in place. Her Blackfoot identity is touched upon again when she is telling her son about her grandmother’s storytelling on the prairies, which further emphasizes her love for her native culture. Another major distinction between the boy and his mother is in their levels of pride.
The boy sees no reason to have any arrogance over his nationality but his mother is very determined to make her pride known. This difference is clearly substantiated when the boy says, “Pride is a good thing to have you know. Laetitia had a lot of pride, and so did my mother. I figured that someday I’d have it too,” (King 140). These variations between the son and his mother are a very important reason for the child to narrate the story. This is because the child fails to allow pride or experience to bias the story.
Not only is the importance of the child narrating conveyed through the parent/child contrast, but also it is visible as a result of the child’s blunt, unbiased descriptions of the ignorance of the American and Canadian governments. This ignorance toward the First Nation’s people is shown by the language and attitudes of the border guards. The Canadian border guard demonstrates her lack of compassion towards the boy and his mother when she says, “I’d be proud of being Blackfoot if I were Blackfoot. But you have to be American or Canadian,” (King 138).
This displays her ignorance in the way that she is so strict in saying that the identity that these people have claimed for their entire lives, in an official sense, is worthless. It is not just the Canadians who display this ignorant attitude; the American border guard that is brought in for assistance upon the son and his mother’s first attempt into the USA shows a high level of ignorance. He strongly states that he “know[s] that we got Blackfeet on the American side and the Canadians got Blackfeet on their side,” (King 135).
This lack of cultural understanding is ignorant, as the First Nation’s tribe does not accept the plural of Blackfoot to be Blackfeet (. This term, along with numerous others, have been used by the government, causing “the reporters [to] come over and ask [the boy] questions about how it felt to be an Indian without a country,”(King 142). The incorrect attitudes of the governments in the story can be described so bluntly in the story because the narrator is a child who just tells things as they are.
As a result of the narrator’s honesty, Mel, the manager at the duty-free shop is displayed in such a way that his compassion, and benevolence are able to be seen. His compassion is for the situation of the boy and his mother is displayed through his disagreement with the governments’ actions: “You’d think [the government] could handle the simple things,” (King 141). His compassion is additionally emphasized by his encouragement “that [the boy and his mother] shouldn’t give up” because “justice was a damn hard thing to get,” (King 143).
Throughout the story, this character is described in an honest fashion that allows his positive traits to be displayed. Mel’s benevolence is presented repeatedly throughout the story but is the clearest at the end of the story when the boy and his mother are passing through the border on their way home. Mel tells the mother “that she was an inspiration to us all,” and then he “came out into the parking lot and waved at [the boy and his mother] all the way to the Canadian border,” (King 144).
This compassion and benevolence illustrated by Mel are very important to the story, and would not be as clear without the honest narration of the young boy. In Thomas King’s “Borders” the use of a child narrator is key. The boy narrating uses an honest and unbiased approach to telling the story. This lack of external influences on the event within the story allows for a concise narrative and provides the opportunity to see how the stubborn attitudes of the mother “Borders”, the ignorance of the governments, and the compassion of Mel effect the journey of a boy and his mother, who just want to escape life’s borders and go see the boys sister.
Cite this Borders: Narrator and Boy
Borders: Narrator and Boy. (2017, Mar 25). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/borders-narrator-and-boy/