[personal profile] lanlin
Written by Thomas King , “Borders” is a story happens at the Canada-America border at Coutt. The main character is a mother from Blackfoot. She refuses to identify her citizenship either as Canadian or American; instead, she insists that she is Blackfoot, and because of that she and her 12-year-old son have to stay in between the border offices of Canada and America. The title “Borders” indicates two borders: one is the obvious physical border between Canada and USA; the other is the hidden metaphoric border between someone’s identity and citizenship, which is the main border Kings wants to show readers in this story.

King tells the story through the young boy, and that gives the story a light and relaxing tone; at some places, it is even humorous. For example, King describes the two border guards coming out of their office as “swaying back and forth like two cowboys headed for a bar or a gunfight” (135). An adult probably won’t think like that, but in a boy’s eyes, how they walk looks just that funny. Another example is during the second night, the mother is telling traditional stories to the boy, but the boy is so hungry that all he can think is if Mel will bring them some hamburgers (142). By telling the story from the son, there is no analysis on why this is happening and what will happen later, etc. That gives the readers a wide space to reflect the story and try to find the answers by themselves.

King writes in great details. It is amazing how well a 12-year-old boy can observe things. When a woman in American border office comes to talk to the mother, the boy notices that she has a gun, her gun is silver, there are “several chips in the wood handle,” and her name ‘Stella’ is “scratched into the metal butt” (136). Another place is the description of a media guy who is “good-looking”, “in a dark blue suit and an orange tie with little ducks on it” (143).

Comparison is used to show different personalities, attitudes and changes. One great example can be found from how the four guards talk with the mother regarding citizenship in different ways. The first guard asked directly “Citizenship?” at first; then he tried to get the mother to confirm if she was Canadian; after the mother insisted she was Blackfoot, he asked a question about firearms and tobacco before he asked “citizenship?” directly again (135). The second guard acknowledged that the mother and the son were Blackfoot, although he said “Blackfeet”; then he asked, “what side do you come from? Canadian side or American side?” (136) The third guard was a woman. This time she told the mother that she wouldn’t keep the record of what the mother said to her about citizenship. The readers can feel that by then the guard just want to get the job done and she is making compromise for the mother to pick a citizenship to claim (136). The fourth guard is a young woman from Canadian border. She asked the mother “are you both Canadians?” After the mother said Blackfoot, she told the mother that she had friend from Blackfoot; moreover, she said to the mother “I’d be proud of being Blackfoot if I were Blackfoot.” Even she is fond of Blackfoot; she can let the mother and the son enter Canada because the mother refuses to be either American or Canadian (138-139). From those details, readers might have the negative impression of American guards compared to Canadian guard. The first three guards are from America, and none of them shows sympathy or recognition to the mother, but the fourth one who is from Canada does.

Comparison is used not only among different people, but also on the same person. The sister Laetitia’s attitude towards Blackfoot changes dramatically in the story. Earlier, Laetitia was so eager to leave Blackfoot to go to Salt Lake City. Everything in Salt Lake City seemed better than Blackfoot: the temple, the ski sites, the mountains, the park and the zoo. She thought Salt Lake City was “one of the best places in the entire world” (139). However, after she saw her mom’s story at the border on TV, she feels so proud of her mom that she wants to hear the story over and over; even better, she tells her mother that she is thinking about moving back to Blackfoot (144). The shift of her attitude towards Blackfoot reveals that she recognizes her identity of being Blackfoot and feels proud of it.

“Borders” is a very insightful story, and its main idea is that to well protect the pride and gain justice, you must honour your identify first. As Mel told the mother in the end, “justice was a damn hard thing to get, but that we shouldn’t give up” (143). This is a great story for people living in Canada, especially for the Native people and immigrants. You can easily changing your citizenship, but your identity wouldn’t change because it is deeply bonded to your history and culture.
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lanlin

June 2013

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