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“Three Day Road” is a book that follows two young Native American boys, Elijah and Xavier, who experience firsthand the horrors of war. “Three Day Road” follows the fundamental plot archetype and uses archetypal characters to emphasize how these horrors and terror can affect people differently. Elijah and Xavier are inseparable childhood friends who experience the same war but cope and internalize what they witness and experience in different ways; on in a positive manner and the other in a negative fashion.
At the beginning of the book, the reader is introduced to Elijah and Xavier, two indigenous boys who grew up within the same Cree band and go off to war together. It is never said, but it is implied, that Elijah and Xavier are best friends with much in common. There are, however, some subtle differences;
Elijah grew up with a white man and can speak better English than Xavier. The biggest difference between Xavier and Elijah is in their personalities.
The quote from when Elijah and Xavier’s squadron was under fire from their own allies depicts one difference in their personalities: “Elijah walks beside me. He’s laughing at all this. I don’t find it funny” (Boyden 12). It is apparent from this quote that Xavier is the more serious of the two friends. At this point in the book, one could start to see some archetypes. Xavier is narrating for the most part and seems to have a firm grasp of what is right versus what is wrong, and the reader finds out that he survives the war and returns home to his aunt Niska; therefore he best exemplifies the hero archetype of the story.
Elijah on the other hand, seems to have a careless attitude and at times is ignorant and likes to play jokes, so he is immediately labeled with the trickster archetype. Niska’s wisdom and connection and understanding of nature make her a great candidate for the great mother archetype.
Niska has an ability to understand things without being explicitly told them: “My body hums with Nephew’s pain and with the realization that he has come home only to die” (Boyden 9). Niska infers that under Xavier’s condition, the only reason he came home was to die in peace. At first, nothing is for sure for it cannot be certain until the plot further develops, but there are plenty of hints. The beginning is also where the first two parts of the fundamental plot archetype can be seen. Xavier, the story’s hero, begins his journey as an innocent young boy at home and then we learn he is sent off to fight for his country during World War One. Keep in mind Xavier and Elijah were still inseparable at this point, yet to see the real terror that is war. In the middle of “Three Day Road”, more and more information regarding Xavier, Elijah, and Niska, as well as the archetypes each of them embody is brought to light. Xavier and Elijah begin snipers Canada has to offer.
Their reputations flourish and everything seems to be doing fine. That is until several events occur, the death of Sean Patrick and Elijah’s morphine, causing tension between the two of them. Xavier continues to lead by example for the group and shows qualities of the archetypal hero, and Niska tells stories of her childhood and shares her wisdom to Xavier, again traits of the great mother archetype. The whole middle portion of the book, along the fundamental archetype plot line, would fit under Xavier, the hero, battling monsters in the underworld, or in Xavier’s case, the Fritz. Xavier is also slowly gaining experience as the story develops; we can see him start to gain confidence from winning the sniping competition, he gains a nickname from his peers as “X”. The gradual separation of Xavier and Elijah has started. Elijah begins lying to Xavier and joining the others in ridiculing him at times. After previously assuring Xavier that he had never tried morphine, Elijah finally admits “Did you know that I tried the medicine, the morphine, on the ship to England?” (Boyden 123). As morphine is an extremely addictive drug, this goes to show Elijah’s poor decision-making skills and his betrayal to the promises he made Xavier. Their differences in personality get put under the microscope; Xavier keeps quiet about his accomplishments as Elijah boasts about all the people he has killed. Elijah gives in to morphine as Xavier does not, and perhaps the most important one, Elijah slowly develops a bloodlust while Xavier feels sympathetic for anyone he has had to kill.
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