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Laura Robertsons: “Girl Unprotected” Essay

Personal fulfillment is not a genetic attribute; it is evolved individually over time, and changes in time it takes to achieve. Personal fulfillment is not deteriorated by lack of action, therefore it is subject to change, it may increase or decrease in a person’s life. A individual can acquire personal fulfillment through family, friends, exposure and environment. The Rez Sisters is a play written by Tomson Highway. Readers are introduced to seven extravagant characters, all of whom are residents of Wasaychigan Hill Indian Reserve, in Manitoba Island, Ontario. These seven characters are sisters, half­sisters, a sister­in­law and an adopted niece, known all together as the Rez sisters. Each one of these women are on their own journey to self­fulfillment, wanting to acquire confidence, peace of mind and simply, to be satisfied with their life.

The women raise money to fund a trip to The Biggest Bingo in the World, where they could potentially win the jackpot and fulfill their most desired wishes. In the preparation and on the journey, the women reveal their stories and their relationships with each other. In the play The Rez Sisters, Tomson Highway uses Bingo to symbolize the risks and gambles that life possesses, Pelajia’s hammer to symbolize the ability to create, build and even reshape destiny, and the color black which signifies strength and empowerment in order to depict the essentials an individual must have in order to acquire personal fulfillment ­­­ whatever it may be. First, when readers are introduced to Pelajia Patchnose she is dressed in men’s

attire and “is alone on the roof of her house, nailing shingles on” (1113). It symbolizes a woman who is not bound by
culturally defined gender roles, is independent and therefore strong. From this initial introduction to the moment when the seven women are in an argument, Pelajia’s hammer almost seems as if it never leaves her side; the mental and emotional strength she possesses never truly diminishes but only gets stronger. Pelajia uses her hammer on other occasions as well; when all seven of the women get into an argument “she raises her hammer at veronique” (1132), with the intention to scare her and obtain dominance through fear. Some may view the hammer as a weapon and/or a symbol of defense such as Thor’s hammer. In Germanic mythology Thor’s Hammer is called ‘Mjollnir’, meaning ‘crusher’(Davidson Ellis, 1965), unlike the symbol depicted in The Rez Sisters, Thor’s hammer symbolizes a weapon used to kill. In many myths, “Thor sometimes uses the hammer as a blunt instrument, to shatter the skulls of his opponents”(Davidson, Ellis. 1965).

A hammer is seen as a tool used to construct and reshape. This is evident when Pelajia physically uses her hammer in the opening scene to rebuild her home. A hammer also represents the ability to change, Pelajia was not only able to change the physical state of her home, but has the ability to change any aspect of her life and manipulate it in order to fulfill her personal desires. In her words: the “trusty silver hammer” (1114) is her source of strength, the strength an individual needs to overcome obstacles and barriers in order to conquer life and their own destiny in a way that leads to the best results. The symbolism amplifies the theme of the passage because an individual must be tough like the iron end of a hammer, have the ability to mold themselves to changing circumstances and acquire

an intense drive and commitment to get through challenging times if they want to fulfill their personal aspirations.
Next, when the topic of The Biggest Bingo in the World is brought up, readers learn  what a big deal the bingo was to Wasy women, it symbolizes the tempting gambles life has to offer. No individual can truthfully say they have had enough willpower to overcome the wrath of temptation. It is like a bad cold; everyone attempts to avoid it as much as possible, but at some point, it gets the best of everyone, including the Wasy women. Each woman had her own desires but they all shared a collective journey towards them. In order to attend The Biggest Bingo in the World the women had to overcome an obstacle which was to raise enough money to travel to Toronto where it was being held.

On the journey to self­fulfilment a person is bound to face obstacles, it is up to the individual if they want to let that hurdle stop them, or gain the inner strength to overcome it. The Wasy women chose the latter; “the women start[ed] their funding activities with a vengeance”(1143) raising a total of at least “$1,400”(1143) which was a large sum of money especially on the Wasaychigan Hill Indian Reserve, since there were “no jobs” (1115). The women had to ask themselves another tough question; Considering the possibility of returning home empty handed, was risking this much money to win The Biggest Bingo in the World worth it?

By using bingo as a symbol, Highway suggests that in order to accomplish personal fulfillment you need to take chances in life even if they may seem risky at first. Taking risks empowers you to establish new limits in your mind. As Stacia Pierce, a columnist from the Huffington Post states “we all have boundaries or a comfort zone where we [would] like to

stay and many have misconstrued visions of what we think we deserve or are capable of accomplishing”(Huffington Post, 2013). When you take risks, you can basically destroy such a mindset and continue to establish new boundaries, improve your perspective on life  and your ability to achieve on high levels.

Finally, throughout the play there are numerous reoccurances of the color black, it symbolizes the depths of the unknown and encourages the imagination of a different world from that of everyday realities. Tomson Highway uses this symbolism when he describes the transition of Nanabush from a Seagull to the Nighthawk. The Nighthawk is the dancer in dark feathers with “black wings”(1154) as Zhaboonigan describes. In Native American culture the color black was perceived as a “living” color and worn on the face to prepare for war (WarPaths2PeacePipes, 2014). Black is an extremely aggressive color. Black meant strength. It also indicated that the wearer was a powerful warrior who had proved himself in battle, therefore black was also used to symbolize victory and human life. By using the color black as a symbol, Highway shows readers that there is no boundary to the extent of personal fulfillment; the amount of things an individual can accomplish in their lifetime is endless.

Highway utilizes three components: Bingo, Pelajia’s hammer and the color black to embody the necessities a person needs in order to be successful in achieving any form of personal fulfillment; A person needs to be able to take risks, have strength to construct their own destiny and to explore beyond their imaginations. All these qualities are binded together with one common aspect that is easily relatable: self­confidence. Initially, once an individual builds self­confidence they easily surpass their goal which then creates a type of  momentum, where they fulfill every single one of their desires to the point where they are not only satisfied with life, but truly happy with it as well.

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