Monday, June 23, 2014

Reader's Diary #1138- E. Pauline Johnson: The Derelict

E. Pauline Johnson's "The Derelict" is a sympathetic look at a character who is looked down upon by his family and by society. Toward the end, however, one suspects that Johnson felt that it was he, in fact, who was the superior one and she rewards him appropriately.

It tells of a Anglican priest named Cragstone who immigrated to Canada from England and fell in love with a young woman named Lydia, who was the daughter of mixed heritage (her mother was Chippewa, her father English). Cragstone knew this love would never be accepted for a multitude of reasons: his position, her race and societal status, and that she was believed to be a thief. It is that last reason that Cragstone perceives to be his biggest hurdle to marrying Lydia, so when he attends a deathbed confession and the dying man reveals that the he had been responsible for the theft that Lydia had been accused, Cragstone rushes to proclaim her innocence. Revealing what was told to him in confession, however, gets him a lot of trouble with the church.

Given that Johnson herself came from mixed heritage and that it comes up twice in the story, the theme of love being more important than societal/cultural norms or church rules would be an obvious takeaway and a message that most of us with a more liberal mindset would support. My only concern is that I wonder if it's not somewhat selfish. If Cragstone didn't love Lydia, would her innocence be less important?

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