Survival: Oppression, Resistance and Resilience (The Marrow Thieves By Cherie Dimaline Book Review)
In the novel The Marrow Thieves, Cherie Dimaline says “Sometimes you risk everything for a life worth living, even if you’re not the one that’ll be alive to see it.”(Dimaline 152). This idea reflects that self-sacrifice is what strengthens humans to become selfless as well as compassionate. Throughout the novel, there are many moments where the characters in their makeshift family display acts of self-sacrifice either by giving their life away or something they value. For instance, a prime example of self-sacrifice is when Minerva, the elder of the group gives her life away to keep her family safe. Likewise, Miigwans and Frenchie being the ones to test the electrocuted fence is another selfless act. Finally, Frenchie sacrifices his life with his dad to continue his journey with the group shows the amount of courage he has. Therefore, the group does not hesitate to do anything for the people that they love and care about.
The most selfless act someone can do is give their life away to keep people alive, safe, and protected. Minerva is the Elder of the group, always has her grey hair in two braids, and often seems questionably sane. At the beginning of the story, Frenchie frequently thought that Minerva is a burden to the group due to her immobility and being mostly mute. However, Minerva cares deeply about her family with her actions rather than words. When the group finally finds shelter, they listen carefully to the Recruiters taking Minerva away when Frenchie points out that, “They dragged out Minerva, who stayed silent, whose smile was the last thing we saw as they turned through the doorway, whom we were sure we would never see again.” (Dimaline 151). Minerva has many options on what she could do about the Recruiter coming like warn the group, or sleep above in the barn with everyone else. Instead, she mentally decided that the best thing she could do is give herself up in an effort to stop the Recruiters from coming for everyone else. Chi- Boy says that Minerva risked everything for a life worth living even if she is not the one going to live it. Minerva is the sole reason that the rest of the group lives and the cause for the revolution the group decides to take on. After the capture of the elder in the group Frenchie decides he cannot do this anymore, “But there was no more north in my heart. And I wasn’t sure what I meant until I said it out loud. ‘I’m going after Minerva’(Dimaline 153). The loss of the youngest child in the group RiRi, and now Minerva is great enough for Frenchie to decide that instead of hiding they were going to save her while starting a revolution. To sacrifice your own life for other people is a heavy decision yet is noble and brave.
Being selfless also means to put your life before others no matter how important one thinks they are. This event speaks volumes about Frenchie’s and Miig altruism and solidary. Without any doubt, both men decide in seconds that if the fence is electrical when they touch it they would die. The thought of Miig going to touch what they thought is electrocuted fence made the group feel petrified, “Rose hissed like a recoiling snake her hand reaching to cover RiRi’s eyes in anticipation of Miig dancing an electric jig, sizzling like a piece of frying meat.” (Dimaline 57). Everyone in the group believes that Miig is the most significant person in the family. They might not say it out loud but if Miig were to die it would be hard for them to survive or even move on. However, Miig never shows any feelings of superiority plus remains remarkably humble for his role in the group. In addition, Frenchie and Miig did not have to test out the electrocuted fence however in that moment they decide that no one’s life is worth losing. Frenchie believes that the most important figure in the group is Miig hence why he thought that, “We couldn’t manage without him, and yet here he was, about to make a run at a potentially electrified fence so that we could be sheltered and fed for another night.” (Dimaline 57). Frenchie learns a valuable lesson from this experience which is that no one should be sacrificed for anyone else. He learns that everyone in the group is valuable yet essential. To summarize, Miig testing out the electrical fence plays a significant role which benefits the rest of the group.
The greatest sacrifice is the loss of one’s happiness for the benefit of someone else. Frenchie sacrifices his life with his dad to be with his makeshift family is the biggest moment of self-sacrifice in the novel. When Frenchie is talking to his father about the thought of leaving, “He paused until I lifted my head and looked at him. He was crying too, already saying goodbye.” (Dimaline 217). When Frenchie finally finds his father he thinks that his life is somewhat complete. He has lost so many people that finding his father is like a gift from God. However, when Frenchie expresses to his father that he needs to go back to the group, his father give him permission. To self- sacrifice is not only about giving one’s life away but to give something you value. In this case, Frenchie gives up his relationship with his dad for the group. When Frenchie finally realizes he needs to go after Rose he says, “I took off running, away from camp, the council, my family; running towards Rose, who was somewhere beyond the birch beaded edge of the woods, running towards an idea of home that I wasn’t willing to lose, not even if it meant running away from the family I already found.” (Dimaline 217). In his heart, Frenchie knew that he could not leave his makeshift family for his father. The group has gone through so much loss and love for Frenchie to just leave. He sacrifices a life with happiness, love and joy with his dad for a life with Rose as well as the rest of the group.
To conclude, there are numerous moments throughout the novel where the characters sacrifice their love or family for the benefit of others. Firstly, Minerva surrenders her life for the survival of the rest of the group. In addition, Miig and Frenchie testing the electrical fence instead of any other group member is another act of courage. Lastly, Frenchie losing his relationship with his dad to continue on the journey with his group is fearless as well as valiant. To summarize, without a doubt the group will sacrifice anything for the greater good of their family.