Nikki Bum bacco Ms Harrison ENG OAC July 21, 2000 It is a fact that almost all of the people in Canada are immigrants, or come from immigrant descent. If it were not for the millions of people who have fled to Canada in hope of a better life, Canada would never have prospered into what it is today. As a result of this fact, it is hard to believe that immigrants are still faced with many hardships when they enter Canada. Most immigrants have good intentions in mind when coming to a new country. Immigrants coming to Canada believe that they will be able to keep their culture, become successful and prosper. These misleading hopes set the immigrant up for a life of continuous disappointment.
Canadian Literature portrays the immigrant experience in a negative light. The Canadian experience for immigrants appears to be programmed for failure. Immigrants try to adopt a new identity in hope that this will enable them to succeed in the future. Venturing to new lands often compels immigrants to isolate themselves from society, by holding onto their own traditions and disregarding the new culture. Immigrants who seek to become successful in Canada are often let down by what they have found, and are left feeling fearful, desolate and helpless. Immigrant characters in Canadian literature often express a fear of losing their identity and culture.
For most immigrants, culture is the only thing that truly belongs to them when they come to a new country. In the novel The Black Madonna by Frank Paci, Assunta Barr one is one of the main characters who has immigrated from Italy to a small town in Northern Ontario. Her refusal to adapt or change herself in any way to become more Canadian exemplifies her desire to keep her Italian heritage. It had been a long time since she had steppe off that train with her dowry trunk.
And in all that time she had never ceased to puzzle him. He didnt know whether she had purposely refused to adapt to the new ways or if she was incapable of doing so. She was certainly stubborn. She had strange old-country customs that she insisted on maintaining even though they were primitive and embarrassing (Paci 11). Assuntas desire to keep her customs was what helped to preserve her Italian identity. By keeping her identity Assunta felt like her homeland was somehow constantly with her.
The poem Alien by Mary Elizabeth Colman also exemplifies the immigrants fear of losing their identity. Dear hills of home, why did I leave your arms / How can I love this vast, clamorous land / Whose noisy people hold me in contempt (Colman 9-11). This immigrant is in fear of the new land which they have come to, and is afraid of the people around them. Because immigrants hold their culture so close to them when they travel to new lands, they defend it with every ounce of their being. Without culture or identity immigrants are defenceless in a new country. The immigrant in Canadian literature is often regretful of leaving their homeland because of the disappointments they discover about Canada.
Most immigrants believe that getting a Canadian passport and citizenship is their key to unlocking the good life In Canadian literature the opposite of this occurs because the ideal of what Canada is does not meet its reality. This is best exemplified through the short story Hunky by Hugh Garner and the poems Land of Opportunity by F.R. Scott and I Fight Back by Lillian Allen. In the story Hunky the main character Hunky is a German immigrant working in the tobacco fields for a very arrogant employer. Hunky wants nothing more than to become a Canadian citizen because he feels that having his citizenship is the key to obtaining the good life. He placed great stress on the fact that he hoped to become a Canadian citizen in the fall. His longing for citizenship was not only gratitude and patriotism towards the country that had given him asylum, but a craving for status as a recognized human being (Garner 135).
The poem Land of Opportunity by F.R. Scott exemplifies the disappointment of the Canadian status. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce / These are privileged names in my country / But I AM ILLEGAL HERE. (Scott, 2-4). The poem goes on to say I come to Canada / And found the Doors / of Opportunities Well Guarded (7-9). This poem expresses the immigrant womans disappointments found when she came to Canada.
In the poem I Fight Back by Lillian Allen, the main character expresses the deep anger immigrants have instilled against Canada. Got involved in a Communist demonstration, /And is now being deported by the Canadian Government. /This will teach these foreign reds / The sort of country theyve come to. (Allen, l 9-12). Immigrants are often left disappointed because their images of Canada do not meet with the ideal and truth of what the country is like.
Immigrants in Canadian literature are constantly struggling with denying their past in order to succeed in the future. In Joy Kowaga Obason Naomis uncle struggles with his identity. A families silence about the force of the interment of the Japanese in Vancouver, compels Naomi to gather information on her dead uncles that has been responsible for changing her life. Naomi's uncle was of Japanese sailor whose ships had been taken over by the R.C.M.P. While Naomi searched through her grandfathers belongings she found a box box filled with her grandfathers old boat building tools and a shoe box containing a document from the R.C.M.P. The document stated that Naomis uncle must leave his area and report to the local Registrar of Enemy Aliens where he will later be placed in an interment camp. Even though, Naomis uncle was a Canadian citizen, the Canadian government took over his ships because of his Japanese origin. Naomis uncle was robbed not only of his ships, but so of his morals and ethics.
By hiding his past in shoe boxes he wanted nothing to with his Japanese origin. A letter was also found from the Office of the Custodian from the Japanese Evacuation Section, stating that it was not his fault nor the police, nor the men who rioted against him that his ships had been taken over and he was placed in an interment camp. The Canadian government was just doing their job (67). During World War II injustice was the only thing that was constant in a world full of chaos. Naomis uncle developed an inner conflict in coping with his identity. Hiding all of possessions that resembled his past, Naomis uncle adopted a false identity, which he thought was the only key to sucess in the future.
Immigrants try to adopt a new identity because they feel this is the only way they can succeed in the unaccustomed lands. Although immigrants struggle with maintaining their identity, they are often robbed of their heritage by unbeatable forces. War and prejudice force immigrants to adhere to the ways of their new surroundings and loose their old traditions. Joy Kowaga depicts this immigrant experience through Naomis uncles life experiences.
Being robed of his ships and placed in an interment camp because of his heritage, forced Naomis uncle to pull away from his past. Naomi follows in the footsteps of her uncle, and tries to pull away from her heritage also. Naomis denial of her past is exemplified in the quote, Our past is a's clotted as old webs hung in dark attics, still sticky and hovering waiting for us to adhere and submit or depart (54). Naomis past wants to cling to her however she detaches from herself from her culture by refusing to carry on the traditions of her Japanese heritage. Naomis opposing views against her Japanese origin were moulded during her adolescent years during World War II, when Canadians feared that the Japanese would attack Canada just as they had bored the United States at Pearl Harbour.
Leaving their past behind, immigrants struggle to survive by any means possible. Naturally humans are constant striving to survive. This constant struggle compels humans to change their culture, in order to continue and flourish. Immigrants in Canadian Literature are also faced with feelings of isolation from society and the land. The isolation that immigrants experience is usually isolation from society. Assunta Barr ones character in The Black Madonna is an example of how immigrants are socially isolated from society.
In the case of Assunta, however, this isolation is self-inflicted. The fact that Assunta never really left her small Italian neighbourhood in the west end of Sault Ste. Marie was the reason why she was socially isolated. Assunta does not interact with anyone other than the Italian women in her neighbourhood. Assunta had never gone beyond short Sunday car rides to the outskirts of the Sault. (Paci 7).
Even though Assunta was an ocean and a half away from her homeland of Italy, she was still isolated from society. It seemed she had gone from one Italian village in Marche to another one in Northern Ontario-the west end. (11). Assuntas refusal to learn the English language, also contributed to her isolation from society. In the poem Alien by Mary Elizabeth Colman, the main character also feels isolated by Canadas land. I AM afraid.
This land is strange to me, /So new, so fierce, so large, with noisy folk. (Colman lines 1-2). The immigrant is isolated by the land because it is so new for them. The poem goes on to say How can I love this vast clamorous land (line 10).
The main character portrayed in the poem Alien feels isolated in the unfamiliar land. Being in forge in surroundings, leaves the immigrant feeling helpless and isolated. Throughout Canadian Literature isolation has an extreme effect upon the developement of an individuals character. Immigrants in Canadian literature will at one point be faced with isolation, but must think positively to overcome these feelings.
Canadian literature shows immigrant children to be embarrassed and shameful of their heritage. It seems as though all children of immigrants try their hardest to rise above and create a better life for themselves than what their parents before them had. This is evident through the character of Marie in the novel The Black Madonna. Marie works diligently at her school work because she feels that her school smarts will help her rise above her past, and they do when she gets accepted to university. She would show her soon enough that she could do things alone. Go to Toronto.
Become a doctor even. There were even endless possibilities once she got away. She would be so glad to be rid of them all. Shed show them that she didnt need them (Paci 79). This quote shows the hostility that Marie holds towards her heritage. Most Canadian works on the immigrant portray immigrant children as being shameful of their past and longing to escape the reality of who they really are.
Feelings of emptiness and helplessness seem to be inevitable for the immigrant in Canadian literature. For the immigrant Canada is a land of re occuring disappointments. Canadian Literature is filled with failure because of immigrants origin. The novel The Black Madonna is a good example in showing the many negative aspects of an immigrants life. The main character Assunta portrays the many disappointments immigrants are faced with when travelling to new lands.
The short story Hunky and poems I Fight Back, Alien, and Land of Opportunity are works which portray the immigrant as a victim. Hunky, The Land of Opportunity and I Fight Back portray characters who are disappointed with the immigrant experience. The immigrant struggle with identity is exemplified in the short story Obason by Joy Kowaga. Denying his Japanese origin Naomis uncle hoped to become successful in Canada. Canadian works depict immigrant children as being embarrassed or shameful of their past. Maries character in The Black Madonna and Naomis character in Obason exemplify the immigrant childrens dishonourable attitude towards their culture.
It is unfortunate that immigrants must experience hardships during their time in new lands. Immigrating to a new country should be an exceptional opportunity enabling foreigners to become auspicious. Unfortunately, the only lesson that immigrants embark upon when inhabiting among Canadas vast land is: Endurance, Survival, No Victory. In the past other Canadians made great sacrifices so that we today can enjoy the freedom, the quality of life, and the ez dard of living that we have. Hopefully, in time, immigrants will feel more comfortable with life in new lands and adapt to the constant culture changes in the world. Allen, Lillian.
I fight Back. Canadian Poets. Canada: Little Brown and Co., 1970. Colman, Mary Elizabeth.
Alien. An Anthology of Canadian Literature in English. Canada: Oxford University Press, 1990. Garner, Hugh. Hunky.
Canadian Poets. Kowaga, Joy. Obason. Paci, Frank.
The Black Madonna. Canada: Oberon Press, 1982. Scott, F.R. The Land of Opportunity. Canadian Content. Canada: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1992..