Short story Analysis: Totem
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Short story Analysis: Totem
Thomas King’s Totem is a short story that details the issues of colonization faced by the indigenous tribes of Canada when European settlers moved to the region. The characters, museum displays, and cultural artifacts are literary symbols used by the author to talk about indigenous Canadian cultures and colonization. Firstly, the museum displays are used to show the settlement of Europeans and indigenous tribes in different geographical locations. For instance, through Walter’s narration of various shows such as the “contemporary Canadian art from the Atlantic provinces” and “a show on Northwest Coast carving,” we understand where different groups were located during the colonization period. Pacific Northwest natives are associated with totem poles, while the Atlantic provinces in Canada are associated with European settlement. From this, we see that the author associates specific art with its culture and geographic region. Secondly, the main cultural artifact that is focused on in the story, the totem pole, is used to represent indigenous Canadian tribes and their cultural traditions. The sounds made by the totem pole can be attributed to the complaints and grievances that were made by the indigenous Pacific Northwest tribes during the settlement of Europeans in the region. Lastly, the characters symbolize European settlers, and their actions show how they sought to eradicate tribes that did not conform to their cultural norms. For instance, the removal of the totem pole after the demands made by Beebe Hill symbolizes the power white settlers had in making rules that saw the destruction of indigenous tribes. Moreover, the chainsaw used by Larue and Jimmy symbolizes weapons such as blades and guns used by Europeans to kill people during colonization. The ease at which each totem pole was brought down shows how despite the resistance indigenous people tried to put, they were powerless against the methods used by settlers to colonize.
Thomas King (2020, September). Totem. Retrieved March 5, 2021, from

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