The representation the title in Robinsons, “Traplines”, symbolizes the presence and significance of native traditions in the main character’s life. The infrequency of the hunt, however, represents Will’s potential loss of tradition. The title of Birdsell’s “Wednesday Circle”, is also physically represented in the story, as the main character’s support group. However, she remains stuck almost ‘in the middle’ with her problem left unresolved, parallel to the fact that the church group meets in the middle of the week to gossip and are not productive.
In addition to the insightful clues these titles provide about the plots, the writers also utilize foreshadowing to intensify the events leading up to the Smythes offer to adopt Will in “Traplines”, and Mr. Joy sexually abusing Betty in “The Wednesday Circle”. Birdsell and Robinson’s main characters reject any possibility of escape from their unhealthy, abusive situations. These authors craft the presentation of their stories to maintain the realistic qualities of underplayed native roots and unresolved endings.
Birdsell uses religious values to restrict Betty from resolving her abusive situation, and contrastingly, Robinson uses cultural values to restrict Will from accepting help from outsiders. The core beliefs and identity of Will and Betty restrict them from accepting help, or asking for it, despite their daily encounters with abuse. Betty’s religious mindset causes her to believe that silent prayers will protect her from Mr. Joy’s sexual abuse, which traps her in this painful situation, without a simple means for escape.
The verses she has memorized spring into her head when Mr. Joy is trying to take advantage of her. Birdsell includes the phrase, “Be not afraid… for I am with you” on page 288, and “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world” on page 286. Both of which imply that God is with Betty in her time of pain, though they do not protect her from being assaulted. Since religious upbringings tend to teach children to be kind and to avoid hurting other people, Betty’s lack of violent resistance is an example of her religious mindset.
When Mr. Joy touches her, she tries to protect her chest with cartons (289), when he pins her against a wall she tries to push him away (290) and eventually she realizes “the only way out of this is to tell” (290). However, she not once contemplates defending herself and disabling Mr. Joy so that she can get out of there. This inability to protect herself while realistic for naive teenagers demonstrates her tight relationship with religion. The strong religious beliefs of Betty’s mom and the church group restrict Betty from revealing the events for fear of her reaction.
After deciding that she must tell the church group, she hears them discuss a situation almost identical to hers, in which her mom says that God “doesn’t condemn us… We condemn ourselves. We make that choice” (293). Although Birdsell does not reveal Betty’s exact emotions through a third person perspective, it can be inferred that this sentence causes Betty to decide not to ask for help as it suggests that her mom would not be sympathetic. Near the end of the story, Birdsell writes, “Her whole body is covered in handprint” and a couple lines down as Betty leaves the room, “and they don’t notice” (294).
The Wednesday Circle she built up in her head as a protective barrier against the world is quickly unfurled as she realizes that they are limited in their ability to help her, and likewise she restricts herself from asking for help. While Betty’s religious identity restricted her from asking for help, Will’s native identity restricts him from accepting help, as his family and their home is his main connection to their native identity, where agreeing to move in with the Smythes would hinder this connection. Will’s native identity is underplayed in “Traplines”, with only the repeated term ‘village’ and the act of hunting as clues.
This limited portrayal of the native identity demonstrates the limited connection will has to his heritage. Robinson utilizes the native tradition of hunting to connect Will to his heritage as him and his father check trap lines. The first few paragraphs of this story on page 455 represent a connection between hunting animals and native heritage, through the way Robinson structured the paragraph. On page 455 Robinson writes, “There is nothing else in the other traps. We head back to the truck. The snow crunches. ” Robinson also continues this trend in the other hunting scene on page 475.
Short, deliberate sentences narrate the actions seemingly without too much effort. This is similar to old oral storytelling with simple phrases, to make passing on the stories easier. Being adopted by the Smythes would benefit Will’s education and health, but it would restrict access to his culture. While the Smythes admit to not being perfect, they are a white couple that tries to fix Will’s living situation by taking him away from his culture and assimilating him into theirs. On page 455 Robinsons suggests, “Mrs. Smythe would say the trees here are like the ones on Christmas postcards. Although this is merely Will’s thought, this sentence implies that the Smythes view the wilderness around the village as something that should be commercialized. As this thought of Will’s is an example of how tradition is manipulated, Will realizes that the Smythes culture is different from his own, and they do not understand his native roots.
Similarly, when Mr. Smythe asks Will, “Where’d they hit you this time? ” (465) he is concerned with Will’s safety, but also expresses a condescending undertone that belittles native identity, as Mr. Smythe just assumes that he is taking painkillers because he was abused. Despite the fact that Eric hits Will, he continues to live with his family because the village sustains his connection to his native roots. The absence of Betty’s father and siblings “The Wednesday Circle” limits who she can look to for help, where the presence of Will’s sibling establishes entrapment. Although Birdsell writes in the third person, the story is restricted to Betty’s knowledge as it tightly follows her experience of events.
Keeping this in mind, the absence of Betty’s father and six siblings in Birdsell’s writing implies that Betty feels they are irrelevant to her story, or that she does not feel like she can talk with them. The only time Birdsell mentions Betty’s siblings in the text is when she describes how Mrs. Joy compares their appearances (287). By only referring to these characters once in the text, Birdsell illuminates their inability to help or listen to Betty. In the other text, Robinson emphasizes the presence of Will’s sibling Eric, who creates the major conflict, by including him in almost every scene.
Robinson introduces Eric on page 457 as he gets into an argument with their father, and on page 458 following their argument, Eric tries to get Will to fight him while swearing uncontrollably. For Will, Eric represents physical violence. Eric’s consistent presence in the story traps Will in fear and restricts him from believing that things will be okay. Despite the fact that these characters have friends and family around them, they feel isolated and are limited in ways to change their conditions.
Robinson and Birdsell’s main characters Betty and Will reflect realistic teenagers who trap themselves into their abusive relationships, opposed to trying to escape. Robinson uses Mr. Joy to hinder Betty’s escape as he threatens to tell stories about his encounters with Betty (293). Betty seems adamant on asking for help until she overhears her mom essentially argue that a girl in Betty’s shoes would be to blame for not defending herself. Robinson utilizes this scene to demonstrate the restrictions individuals place on themselves, and how difficult it is to ask for help with the possibility of rejection or resistance.
Will is trapped in the familial abuse cycle as his capability for growth is limited by his life at home. Personalities and behaviour traits stem from the family and develop based on influential presences in an individual’s life. Will reflects his brother’s choices when he claims that he would love to enact revenge, “I can’t wait until I’m bigger. I’d love to smear him against the wall. ” (459) Robinson uses the unusual word choice of “smear” to create a vivid image. This sentence makes sense of Eric’s abusive nature which is his attempt at finding revenge for his father’s abuse in someone he can hurt.
Additionally, when escape routes are offered in reality, most people are too scared to ask for help or to make a drastic change like leaving their family for another. Granted Will is limited by his family situation, but his inability to leave is founded on the real difficulty of the situation. Will’s health and education are limited by Eric’s treatment of him, but it is not enough to make him leave the village and his family. His education is negatively affected by his fear of Eric as he avoids their shared room where his homework is left.
However, his father is easy on him (464), so he does not completely dislike his life as it is. If he did not get along with his parents it would have been more likely for Will to accept the Smythes’ offer, but considering the lack of a direct connection between Will and the problems of his family, it is realistic for him to stay where he is. Robinson and Birdsell foreshadow important events and reflect realistic choices in their stories. Robinson’s story replicates the opinion of a realistic native individual as they would not naturally point out their own native qualities of life.