The Affects of History
History is something that molds and shapes a person into who they are today. Thomas King shows this in his novel Truth and Bright Water through many of the characters. He not only lets you see how the aboriginal people’s history has affected their lives today, but also how the personal history of some characters has affected their lives. A person’s past can help one understand why they live their life the way they do; it is the answer to any question you had about them. All the minor events that go on throughout the novel explain how history affects an individual’s identity and Franklin, aunt Cassie and Monroe are excellent examples. First, when told about Franklin in the novel it is easy to not think much of him. More towards the end of the story is where his character becomes more important. A lot is revealed about Franklin through his son, Lum. At the end of the book when Lum is going to commit suicide he truly reveals what went on between him and Franklin. ““Useless!” The rebar snaps free, and in one motion Lum turns and whips it across his chest. “Where’s your pride, son?”” (King p. 271).
Franklin beat his own son and brought him down, and this quote reveals that terrible truth. Lum lived his life feeling useless, pathetic and unloved all because of his father. Along with Lum, Franklin lived a hard life as an aboriginal man trying make money and move on without his wife. As his son got older Franklin noticed a lot of himself in Lum. This didn’t make Franklin’s life any easier because he was not proud of his past accomplishments, or lack there of. So by seeing himself in his son he was reminded of his past and not having any pride and feeling pathetic. This led to the beating and discouragement towards Lum. The author described Franklin as an angry tough man. Throughout the entire novel there was never any point where he was happy. Franklin had to become tough because throughout the history of his life as an aboriginal things were not so easy. No one gave them any reasons to be proud. Also later on in his life Franklin’s wife passed away, which is a great explanation of why he is so angry. All the past events in his life and how he chose to deal with them is what made him the man he is today in this story. Now that Lum is dead as well, Franklin really understands the meaning of not realizing what a good thing you had until it’s gone.
Also, aunt Cassie can relate to that understanding. She even says something along those lines in the novel. ““Just be careful what you give away,” says auntie Cassie. “There are some things you want to keep.””(King p. 259). Even though in this quote she is talking about the giveaway, it is very clear that there is a deeper meaning behind her statement. In her past, or as aunt Cassie says, ““Another life,” she says. “Another time.”” (King p.259), Mia had a huge influence on her. Although it was never stated in the book Mia is her daughter who she had given up for her own personal reasons. Even though Thomas King never revealed the details of that situation, it had a huge affect on aunt Cassie. For example, in the quote where she is warning to watch what you give up, it tells you she has regrets over something she has given up. Aunt Cassie most likely gave up Mia for adoption and has not been able to fully let go.
Even though she tries to forget, this event will forever have an affect on her identity because she gave up a part of herself. This explains why she would send Tecumseh random presents for girls; she would do it subconsciously when reminded of Mia on her birthday. Also, aunt Cassie dropped out of beauty school. She never really got a chance to live her dreams from her past. This gives the reader a reason for why she travels all over, and makes spontaneous decisions because aunt Cassie never wants to miss out again. This is why at the giveaway she burnt the baby clothes; it was her way of trying to move on. Her personal history made her the exciting secretive person she in now. Even though it is obvious she still suffers from her past and has regrets, she still tries to move forward with the future.
Finally, Monroe is the character that is the one trying to get everyone to move forward with the future, but without forgetting their history. There were good and bad moments to the aboriginal’s history. Monroe shows both by trying to restore the good memories and erase the bad. For example, when Monroe was painting the church trying to make it blend in to the beautiful scenery, he was trying to erase the painful memories that the church brought back to the aboriginals. It reminded them of the time in history where they had residential schooling. Assimilation is the best way to explain what happened to the aboriginal children in those schools. Converting their religion to Christianity was a part of that and the church was something
that represented those horrible memories. A conversation had between Tecumseh and Monroe really gives meaning to the horrible damage that period of time in history had on the aboriginal people. ““There’s an old residential school for sale over near Medicine River.” “You going to paint it?” “That’s about all anyone can do.””(King p. 262). When Monroe says that the only thing he can do to the school is paint it, he is saying the damage is already done and the only thing they can do now is move on. Monroe is saying that he can’t just go and remove it and pretend like nothing happened. Painting the church and wanting to paint the school is his way of showing the aboriginal people that they can never permanently forget what happened, but they can make something out of it and move on. Also, Monroe is a restoration artist, but he did more then restore paintings, he tried to restore his culture. Having the giveaway was his way of restoring their traditions and bringing everyone back together. His time away as an artist gave him these great ideas. His past and the history of his people made this weird old man he is, but it brought them great changes.
In conclusion, Franklin, aunt Cassie and Monroe were good examples of how history can affect a person’s identity. Even though in the end of this novel Thomas King never reveals the conclusions to all the minor events that happen, they were put in the story for a reason. That reason was to show how someone’s history can change the person they become today. Truth and Bright Water explains the affects on different individuals but also the aboriginal society as a whole. Monroe really puts that into perspective. Even though everyone has his or her own individual problems we still can’t forget the bigger picture. History will affect someone no matter what; its how you chose to deal with it that will either make it positive or negative.