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Alistair Macleod- Modern World Versus Traditional World

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Modern World versus Traditional World

The stories from Alistair Macleod’s The Lost Salt Gift of Blood are often related to the lives of the people of the Maritimes who are commonly miners, fishermen and farmers. The author repeatedly examines similar themes and issues in his short stories such as isolation, choices versus consequences and the concept of dying culture. However, the most prominent theme deals with the contrast between the rural ways of life and the more modern city life. This theme is not only limited to the Maritime culture; it is something that can be universally understood. His reason for utilizing this theme is to prove that the modern way of life is not always better then the traditional ways. Alistair Macleod utilizes the theme of modernity versus tradition in a way that can be universally understood, allowing the reader to consider the fact that the modern world may not always be better.

There is an exceptional meaning of the theme tradition versus modernity which is expressed significantly throughout Alistair Macleod’s stories. Within “The Return” there are great examples which allow the reader to reveal how different the two lives are. For instance, Alex’s mother, Mary, is not enthusiastic about traveling to Cape Breton. She is compelled to act proper and mature, even though Angus, the narrator’s father, can not hide his over whelming excitement for their arrival. As they are departing the train, a blond young man is drinking and signing a discriminating song. The mother becomes angry and says: Ten years I’ve raised this child in the city of Montreal and he has never seen an adult drink liquor out of a bottle, nor heard that kind of language. (Macleod 74). Thus proving her standards are set extremely high, and will not accept her son being subjected to such things. In Montreal, for example, Mary would only approve of Alex being around the finest of people. There is also a direct contrast between Mary’s father and Angus’s father who is said to be: “…very different from Grandpa Gilbert in Montreal who wears white shirts and dark suits with a vest and a gold watch chain across the front” (Macleod 76). This shows the difference between their lives in Montreal versus Cape Breton. Frequently throughout Macleod’s stories he presents a conflict between modernity and the traditional way of life.

The concept of the traditional world versus the modern world is a global phenomenon which is not limited to the Maritime Provinces. In the world there are a multitude of cultures. Within any culture there are deep rooted traditions that affect the way people view education, entertainment, and jobs. However, due to the advances throughout the world a conflict between modernity and the traditional world has arose. Throughout Alistair Macleod’s The Lost Salt Gift of Blood collection, his stories portray this conflict in a Maritime setting and mostly represent the conflict between the traditional world and the modern world. “The Golden Gift of Grey” deals with the same theme; however, it is set within Northern America. Throughout the story there are examples proving the more traditional ways of life such



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