Christelle. Contemporary Fiction. The Shawl by Louise Edrich

The story demonstrates two ways in which people cope with the death of a loved one. These two ways are of that of incrimination and or reflection. The coping with incrimination is seen through the father of the deceased girl. As evidenced in the passage “For a time, the boy had no understanding of what happened. His father kept what he knew to himself, at least that first year, and when his son asked about his sister’s torn plaid shawl and why it was kept in the house, his father said nothing” in this part of the passage that the father is unwilling to accept that his daughter is gone and continues to hold to this grief. “But he wept when the boy asked if his sister is cold. It was only after his father had been weakened by the disease that he began to tell the story, far too often and always the same way: he told how when the wolves closed on Anakwad had thrown her daughter to them” the father sees the death of his daughter was unjust and offers his son as well as himself an explanation as to why such an injustice could happen. In the father’s eyes, his daughter did not deserve to die and he could accept that is was perhaps by her own fault or the workings of the world. The coping with reflection is seen through the grandson. As evidenced in the story “She saw that the wolves were only hungry. She knew that their need only needed. She knew that you were back there, alone in the snow. She understood that the baby she loved would not live without a mother and that the uncle knew the way. She saw clearly that one person on the wagon had to be offered up, or they all would die” this refutes of that grandfather when he refuses to accept that his daughter’s die may come about naturally. Naturally in the sense that all things must die at one point and none of those things have to power to determine when, where and how. It also refutes the thinking that her death could not come about on her own doing. Sometimes situations arise that force us to make difficult decisions that make us comfortable, in the case of the daughter she had made the ultimate decision.  We should view these two coping mechanisms as right or wrong. Instead, we should view them as allegories to the all-consuming philosophical  question “What is life and why do we have to die?”

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