I Heard The Owl Call My Name

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 12:37   /   Views: 358
Fatal Learning

Mark Brian, the protagonist in Craven’s, I Heard the Owl Call my Name, undergoes a life altering change during his stay at the village of Kingcome. He learns the true meaning of death by experiencing it first and second hand. Mark encounters death directly, or indirectly through these people: Caleb and Jim Wallace, the weesa-bedo, Keetah’s sister, Gordon’s mother, Calamity Bill, and himself.

Mark’s first encounters with death arise from conversations he has with Caleb and Jim Wallace. Caleb advises Mark, when performing a burial service, to always look inside the coffin at the very last minute before burying someone. Caleb tells him he once buried the wrong man. While on patrol with Jim, Mark hears many stories of death associated with the villages in the area. As they pass Ghost Island, Jim tells Mark, “The Indians of Gilford village once buried their dead,”… “in low sheds.” (14) In both of these situations, Mark does not experience death directly, He merely hears and learns about death in a detached or somewhat comical way.

The death of the weesa-bedo is much closer to Mark’s own death than the discussions that surface during his boat ride to Kingcome. Although, Mark does not know the boy, the body is in the vicarage waiting the arrival of Mark, who will help with the burial of the body. This is the first death Mark experiences in the solemn village of Kingcome. The death is indirect because Mark doesn’t actually know the weesa-bedo. During a conversation about the weesa-bedo, Jim informs Mark that dead “…bodies are kept in the vicarage until burial.” (24) This foreshadows Mark’s death because his body resides in the vicarage, and it is only a matter of time before death visits him.

The death of Keetah’s sister is dreadfully near to Mark’s own demise. The RCMP officer claims that the man who Keetah’s sister was engaged to “…left her in Vancouver, penniless, and he disappeared.” (79) Keetah’s sister eventually dies by succumbing to alcohol, cocaine, and the desire’s of men. Her death is indirect because she dies far from the village of Kingcome. It is also direct however, because Mark had previously been acquainted with her. The death of Keetah’s sister is important and very near to Mark’s own death because she dies in the “white man’s world” which is where Mark commences from. This connection signifies that death is lurking amidst the tall trees of Kingcome, lingering for the proper time to strike Mark.

When Mark encounters the death of Gordon’s mother, it affects him to a greater extent then the two earlier demises. After learning that Gordon’s mother has had a breeched birth, Mark rushes to her aid. He kneels beside her and “he held her hand until she died.” (82) This meeting with death is direct, because he is able to witness the entire ordeal. By holding the hand of Gordon’s mother as she crosses the bar, it is as if Mark is holding death in his palms. In the course of this tragic fatality, Mark continues to close in on his own demise.

Calamity Bill’s death paralyzes Mark in a much more severe way than any other death that he undergoes, because of the rigid bond that they share. Their amity is shown when Bill asks Mark to complete an enormous favor for him immediately before he dies. Bill asks Mark to spread his ashes in a place that is very sacred and dear to him. After Calamity Bill passes away, Mark “put on his cassock and said for Calamity a few very simple prayers”. (135) This is the first time Mark prays for the deceased; by doing it now, it signifies his love for Bill. This death is direct because Mark had a great friendship with Bill. This is the final death that Mark experiences during his stay in Kingcome. It is now time to close the doors on Mark once and for all.

Through these life-altering ordeals, Mark fully understands the meaning of death and realizes that it is not a conclusion, but a part of life. Mark “…heard an owl call—once, and again…” (149) after scattering the remains of Calamity Bill in the woods. This is a sign, which not even Marta will deny. For Mark, death is now inevitable in the village of Kingcome. Shortly after telling Marta of the owl who calls his name, Mark dies from an avalanche of trees.

After being sent to the village of Kingcome, Mark learns that death is merely a part of life. The diverse experiences he had with each character elucidate the meaning of life and death. Caleb, Jim, and the weesa-bedo simply open Mark’s mind to the reality of death, while the fatalities of Gordon’s mother and Keetah’s sister shake Mark’s mentality about death due to their severity. Calamity Bill’s demise allows Mark to truly understand the concept of death due to its enormous impact; consequently, when Mark dies, he comprehends the significance of death and its role.

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