3.3 – Mythical, Historical and Literary Allusions in Thomas King’s Novel

Write a blog that hyper-links your research on the characters in GGRW according to the pages assigned to you (271-287). Be sure to make use of Jane Flick’s reference guide on your reading list.

In this section of the novel, there are many historical, literal and mythical allusions available for analysis. While conducting my research for this assignment, I was surprised at how many allusions are contained within this section of the novel, and it truly made me appreciate King’s narrative technique. Since I wrote on Dr. Hovaugh and Alberta Franklin in my previous blog, I focused on other allusions which required in-depth research in order to understand their significance within the context of the novel.

A. A. GABRIEL – When I first came across A. A. Gabriel I had no idea what his name could allude to. With the help of Jane Flick’s reference guide, I was able to establish a framework for my research around A. A. Gabriel’s character. His name alludes to religious figure Archangel Gabriel, who is considered as one of the messengers of God. King makes this allusion clear with the description on A. A. Gabriel’s business card which reads: “A. A. Gabriel, Heavenly Host” (270). He plays the role of God’s servant as he is the figure who informs Mary about her pregnancy with the son of God.

THOUGHT WOMAN – The role of the biblical Mary is played by the Thought Woman in King’s novel, and she is nothing like Mary. I believe King was influenced by Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony in his creation of the Thought Woman. In Silko’s novel, the reader learns the importance about the Thought Woman to the First Nations culture, specifically within the Pueblo culture. The strength and interdependence shown by King’s character directly correlates with what the mythical definition of the Thought Woman. King’s character goes against the orders of conceiving a child which are given by A.A Gabriel. She finds the strength to go against God’s plan, much to the dismay of God’s messenger.

WHITE PAPER – The card that has A.A Gabriel’s information on it is also an allusion. The first time I read the passage I did not think much of it, but then when I re-read it, I noticed the description of the card as being “very white” (270). This set off alarms in my head because of the opposition of the colonizer vs the First Nations, and i researched this allusion. It turns out that the card represents the paper which Trudeau created that essentially ended the Indian Act in 1969. The refusal of the paper‘s contents by the First Nations people is celebrated by King with the Thought Woman, who embodies perseverance against white oppression.

LONE RANGER, HAWKEYE, ROBINSON CRUSOE – These names are allusions to fictional characters who are not of First Nations heritage. They allude to characters that have a big influence over the culture, as is in the context of this discussion. In the context I researched them within, they are involved in the cultural aspect of the First Nations people as they observe Ishmael and Coyote dancing. The aspect of colonization is present in these characters, especially Robinson Crusoe, as he criticizes the Coyote’s dance: “That’s not the right dance at all” (King 274). His name alludes to the Most Fabulous Hero in All Adventure History! Coyote’s character seems to resemble Friday’s character in terms of his interaction with King’s Robinson Crusoe. In Robinson Crusoe, Friday is depicted as the savage inhabitant of the land who must be properly taught by Robinson Crusoe. In King’s novel, I believe this relationship is brought to the forefront in this scene as Crusoe notifies Coyote that he is performing the wrong dance.

BABO JONES – Researching Babo’s character was the most enjoyable part of the assignment for me because I learned so much about her character that was previously unknown to me. I believe that Babo’s character is an allusion to the character in Benito Cerino,  where Babo is an African slave who leads the rebellion upon a Spanish ship. King alludes to the racial oppression and inequalities with his version of Babo. He illustrates it in this scene when Babo is travelling with Dr. Hovaugh to find the missing Indians. Dr. Hovaugh thinks he is in control of Babo, but little does he know that it is Babo who is in control, as she played a major role in releasing the Indians from the hospital. King shows that not everything is what it seems on the surface with his portrayal of Babo.

BILL BURSUM – I read Lionel and Bill Bursum’s story as being interconnected, and how the white man during this time is showing his perceived dominance by not allowing the minority race to gain further equality. Even though Lionel is Bill’s best salesman, “he had never received a raise in all the years he had worked there” (King 277). I came to discover that Bill Bursum is an allusion to the Bursum Bill created by a senator named Holm O. Bursum in 1902, which essentially took land away from First Nations people and given back to the white people in New Mexico. Fortunately, an up rise was caused by the Pueblo tribe and the bill was defeated.

ELI STANDS ALONE – In the context of the passage in which Eli is talking to his family about finally being home, I think King’s character alludes to Elijah Harper, but in an opposite sense. Elijah Harper was the voice for Native rights as he stood up against the Meech Lake Accord and successfully won. In the sequence of pages I studied involving Eli, he is an outsider to his own culture, and does not have anything flattering to say about the reserves, as illustrated with his interaction with Norma: “The reserve’s not the world, Norma” (King 287). His reluctance to attend the Sun Dance with Karen shows that he is ashamed of his identity or lack of.

Works Cited

Davidson, E. Arnold. Border Crossings: Thomas King’s Cultural Inversions. Toronto: University of      Toronto Press, 1993. Print.

Flick, Jane. “Reading Notes for Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water”. Canadian                 Literature 161/162. Autumn, 1999. Print.

King, Thomas. Green Grass, Running Water. Toronto: Harper Perennial, 1999. Print.

“Canton Asylum for Insane Indians.” Canton Asylum for Insane Indians. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.            <http://cantonasylumforinsaneindians.com/history_blog/the-canton-asylum-for-insane-           indians/the-bursum-bill>.

“Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and the Effects of White Contact on Pueblo Myth and                 Ritual.” Lislie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.                                                          <http://history.hanover.edu/hhr/hhr93_2.html>.

“Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel.” – Orthodox Church in America. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.                    <http://oca.org/saints/lives/2015/03/26/100886-synaxis-of-the-archangel-gabriel>.

“The White Paper 1969.” The White Paper 1969. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.                                                 <http://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/home/government-policy/the-white-paper-              1969.html>.


6 thoughts on “3.3 – Mythical, Historical and Literary Allusions in Thomas King’s Novel

  1. JessicaRamsey

    Hey Rajin!

    Thanks for posting in the Facebook group about your site! I always get so confused who to start with and then I seem to just read the blogs on and on! I am excited about this read today! You have so many great connections and my pages were further away from yours (they were a little earlier) so it’s nice for some more detail.

    Your connection to Mary from “The Thought Woman” is brilliant. I honestly wouldn’t have thought of this because like you mention, King totally strays about from the biblical Mary and gives us something completely different. When I read GGRW I didn’t even think of Mary in the bible but now that you mention it I’ve gone back to read it and you’re spot on, I believe. Why do you think King wants us to see The Thought Woman as Mary, but also as a the complete opposite? This must be intentional right?

    Coming from a Christian background this is quite absurd to me, the idea of God’s messenger opposing God himself. Even though we’ve read so many different versions of creation in this class, it’s hard for me to stray away from the one I was told as a kid.

    Have your background influences affected your thinking within this course, especially with King’s allusions?

    Thanks for the post!

    Jessica R

  2. RajinSidhu Post author

    Hi Jessica!

    Thank you so much for commenting on my blog! At first when I encountered Thought Woman in the novel, I had no idea what to make of her. It wasn’t until researching A.A Gabriel’s character that I thought of Thought Woman as being an allusion to the biblical Mary. I love what King does with the character because I think he challenges the idea of creation stories, and which ones are real or not. If Thought Woman is Mary and she does not want to concieve Jesus Christ, than how did Christianity come to fruition? I think it goes back to one of the first ideas that was grained into my head in this course: no stories are exactly the same. They change from generation to generation, and story teller to story teller. I’m curious as to what you think about this line: “But there is only one Thought Woman” says Coyote” (King 272)? I think Coyote is demonstrating the same type of thinking I did after I read this passage for this first time. Is it possible for the story to be told if there is no Mary? Is there not only one Mary?

    My background influences have definitely impacted the manner in which I approach the readings in this course. The beauty of this course is that I am able to read all of my fellow peers’ blogs and it allows me to read the story from a different point of view. I have been trying to approach these creation stories as if I do not know anything about the subject, but it is pretty difficult to consistently do so. Like you, I am sticking to the stories that I was told as a kid, but a little part of me is beginning to question them.

    Rajin Sidhu

  3. AlexandraLashbrook

    Hi Rajin!

    Thank you for an amazing close reading on your section of the novel. I found it really helpful in understanding this section, as the novel can become quite confusing at times. The allusion of the “white paper” was the most interesting allusion for me, as like you said, when read once you don’t really understand the meaning of it until it is further researched. King has an amazing ability to allude to all of these historical contexts in the novel, and I thank you for researching this as I now know what the allusion is! I find it interesting that King calls it the “white paper” as the color white can refer to a group of people, but also can stand for defeat. Trudeau did end the Indian Act, in a sense winning against the Native peoples, but the Native peoples did not give up after this event in seeking out equality and land rights. Do you think King chose this color to describe the paper for a reason?
    In your description of Thought Woman, I really enjoyed the connection you make between her and Mary. Even though she does not act like Mary, she conceives a child and becomes a role model for her peoples (much like Mary in the Christian religion is). Thought Woman becomes the independent and strong woman, acting as a role model. Your connection between her and Silko’s novel again really helped me to understand her character and her importance in Native American history.


    1. RajinSidhu Post author

      Hi Alex! Thank you so much for commenting on my blog!

      I think King did deliberately chose the color white for A.A Gabriel’s paper as it resembles the superior race in the interaction between he and Thought Woman. As soon as Gabriel takes out the white card, he establishes his dominance over Thought Woman as a superior. There is a sense of hierarchy at play here as I picture a businessman taking out his card and showing it to a client or someone who is need of help. I couldn’t help but think of A.A Gabriel as someone in a position of power showing his dominance. I thought it was interesting that on the white card it says “Heavenly Host” (King 270). He is the messenger of God and he shows no respect towards Thought Woman because he takes ownership of her by naming her Mary. In this scene Thought Woman represents the Native land that was taken by the white, European settlers, who is represented by A.A Gabriel and this white card. Your idea of the card standing for defeat is brilliant! I would argue that the card does stand for defeat because A.A Gabriel does not get what he wants, as Thought Woman demonstrates the fortitude to go against A.A Gabriel’s wishes, and in doing so, she defeats the purpose of the white.

      Leslie Silko’s novel is one of my favorite books that I have been fortunate enough to read. I love Thought Woman and the impact she has had on First Nations culture. King’s Thought Woman is equally as important because as you mention, she shows courage to go against the “Heavenly Host’s” orders, and it takes an independent, strong woman to do that.

      Rajin Sidhu

  4. Shamina Kallu

    Hi Rajin!
    This was a very interesting blog post to read and gave me much to think about that I had not before considered. As I’ve mentioned in my comments on other students’ blogs, I am very unfamiliar with biblical allusions and definitely feel that I missed much of what was being referenced in this respect.

    You did an excellent job elaborating on King’s many allusions in a very in-depth way. I, too, mention the “White Paper” in my post for this week, although I think your section more obviously alluded to the White Paper. In doing more in depth research into this piece of legislation, I found it fascinating how some individuals see it as an essentially racist act, while others see it as a misguided attempt for equality. Ultimately, I think, we can both agree that the blatant disregard of First Nations’ peoples opinions and desires, and the silencing of their voices is especially evident in acts such as the White Paper.

    Your discussion of A.A Gabriel and Mary was extremely interesting as well! I’m not sure if this was included in your section, I think it may have been just the page before (but I think it is important, in general, to the overall context of the novel so I will discuss it here). I thought A.A Gabriel’s interaction with Thought Woman wherein he completely ignores the name she identifies herself with and calls her Mary instead, is a very clear indication of the dismissal of First Nations’ lives and individualities by colonial settlers. I think King includes A.A Gabriel renaming “Thought Woman” to “Mary” as a means of alluding to the attempts to erase First Nations identities, and to assimilate them via Christianity. Back in high school, I took BC First Nations 12, and I recall learning about the attempts to assimilate First Nations people by “renaming” them (giving them more “Christian-sounding” names) and this is definitely one of the first connections that came to mind in reading this section and considering the interaction between Thought Woman and A.A. Gabriel. I think in mistaking Thought Woman for Mary, King is also merging the two starkly contrasting cultures and stories, while also making evident the conflicts between them.

    Anyways, thanks again for your great insights 🙂
    – Shamina

  5. RajinSidhu Post author

    Hi Shamina! Thank you so much for commenting on my blog!

    I love your insight about the white paper, and after reading your blog, I am in complete agreement with what you think it stands for. In this context, the white paper and A.A Gabriel do silence Thought Woman by taking away her name. Thank you for bringing light to their interaction in your comment! I had a difficult time fitting this assignment into 1000 words, so I chose to focus on the characters as individuals rather than their interactions with each other. For me a name represents identity. It is the “home” for your body and soul. By naming Thought Woman “Mary”, A.A Gabriel is taking away her identity and making her blank, kind of like a white paper. I think it is a metaphor for the actions taken by the White, European settlers who took away the Native peoples homes. Even thought Thought Woman is defeated because her name has been taken away from her, she displays the courage of her culture as she does not give in to A.A Gabriel’s demands.

    Rajin Sidhu

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