What makes Self-sacrifice possible? (The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline Book Review)


In difficult situations, when survival options are few, self-sacrifice is preferable to having your loved ones captured and killed, if doing so allows your loved ones to survive and live another day. Within the novel,  The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline, it becomes clear that self-sacrifice is absolutely necessary for the characters in the novel to survive. Love of family, conflict, and hope for the future make self-sacrifice possible.

There are many examples of self-sacrifice for the love of family in the novel. Mitch, in a last attempt to save his brother, sacrifices himself to keep Frenchie safe. Seeing that the Recruiters are about to discover them, he calls out, “Come get me morons!” (Dimaline 2). By drawing attention to himself, the Recruiters are forced to focus on Mitch and do not notice Frenchie who is clinging to a tree. Mitch knows he will die, but he is willing to sacrifice himself so Frenchie can survive. Self-sacrifice in the novel is the result of some kind of conflict that creates situations where the survival of many depends on the sacrifice of some.

Although there are many conflicts in the novel, the main one is “Man vs Man”. Indigenous people are in conflict with the Government, represented by the Recruiters. The Recruiters hunt the Indigenous down for their bone marrow so that the majority of people can dream again. At one point, Miig asks his family, “What would you do to save us?” (Dimaline 54). Chi-Boy answers,“ Anything” while Wab says, “Everything” (Dimaline 55). This demonstrates how the members will act if needed. Survival during conflict is why Miig and his family are willing to sacrifice themselves for one another. However, they would never have the strength to do this if they did not have hope.

All of Miig’s family have hope, which means that they believe in the future. This belief gives them the willingness to sacrifice themselves in the hope that the others are going to survive as the future generation of their people. Minerva spends a lot of time teaching the young generation their language and parts of their culture. “No, no . Don’t put out those candles yet. Bring the girls in. I wanna tell yous about the rogarou tonight” (Dimaline 66). The family’s interest shows that they also have hope for the future. Following her plan, Minerva sacrifices herself to protect her family. “...  I saw Minerva’s face, wide awake and without fear. Again she caught my eye, held her fingers to her lips. . . before they curl into a mischievous smile” (Dimaline 150).  Although she is being taken away by the Recruiters, Minerva is smiling that her plan has worked. By hiding the ladder to the loft, she has protected the future of her tribe. Her hope has given her the strength to do this.

Conflict creates an environment that requires great effort from all family members to survive. Their love for one another provides one reason that the family is willing to self-sacrifice. They also have hope for the future. Love of family, hope and the belief in a better future is what makes self-sacrifice possible. As Chi- Boy says after Minerva is taken by the Recruiters, “Sometimes you risk everything for a life worth living, even if you’re not the one that’ll be alive to live it” (Dimaline 152).

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