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I Heard The Owl Call My Name

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Fatal Learning

Mark Brian, the main character in Craven's, I Heard the Owl Call my Name, undergoes a life altering change during his stay at the village of Kingcome. He learns the true meaning of death by experiencing it first and second hand. Mark encounters death directly, or indirectly through these people: Caleb and Jim Wallace, the weesa-bedo, Keetah's sister, Gordon's mother, Calamity Bill, and himself.

Mark's first encounters with death arise from conversations he has with Caleb and Jim Wallace. Caleb advises Mark, when performing a burial service, to always look inside the coffin at the very last minute before burying someone. Caleb tells him he once buried the wrong man. While on patrol with Jim, Mark hears many stories of death associated with the villages in the area. As they pass Ghost Island, Jim tells Mark, "The Indians of Gilford village once buried their dead,"... "in low sheds." (14) In both of these situations, Mark does not experience death directly, He merely hears and learns about death in a detached or somewhat comical way.

The death of the weesa-bedo is much closer to Mark's own death than the discussions that surface during his boat ride to Kingcome. Although, Mark does not know the boy, the body is in the vicarage waiting the arrival of the RCMP officer, who will clear the burial of the body. This is the first death Mark experiences in the solemn village of Kingcome. The death is indirect because Mark doesn't actually know the weesa-bedo. During a conversation about the weesa-bedo, Jim informs Mark that dead "...bodies are kept in the vicarage until burial." (24) The death of Keetah's sister is dreadfully near to Mark's own demise. The RCMP officer claims that the man who Keetah's sister was engaged to "...left her in Vancouver, penniless, and he disappeared." (79) Keetah's sister eventually dies by succumbing to alcohol, cocaine, and the desire's of men. Her death is indirect because she dies far from the village of Kingcome. It is also direct however, because Mark had previously been acquainted with her. The death of Keetah's sister is important and very near to Mark's own death because she dies in the "white man's world" which is where Mark commences from. When Mark encounters the death of Gordon's mother, it affects him to a greater extent then the two earlier demises. After learning that Gordon's mother has had a breeched birth, Mark rushes to her aid. He kneels beside her and "he held her hand until she died." (82) This meeting with death is direct, because he is able to witness the entire ordeal. By holding the hand of Gordon's mother as she crosses the bar, it is as if Mark is holding death in his palms. In the course of this tragic fatality,

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