The Loons

Topics: Family Pages: 6 (1625 words) Published: April 1, 2014
The Loons
Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition; January 2004, p1-2 Article Author:
Cass, Jocelyn Creigh
Document Type:
Work Analysis
Biographical Information:
Laurence, Margaret
Given Name: Jean Margaret Wemyss
Gender: Female
National Identity: Canada
Language: English
Publication Information:
Salem Press
Ontario; Canada; North America
A summary and analysis of The Loons.
Literary Genres/Subgenres:
Short fiction; Sketch
Subject Terms:
Ethnic groups
Immigration or emigration
Native Americans or American Indians
Accession Number:
Literary Reference Center
Publisher Logo:

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The Loons
1. Quick Reference
2. Principal Characters:
3. The Story
4. Themes and Meanings
5. Style and Technique
Margaret Laurence
Given Name: Jean Margaret Wemyss
Born: July 18, 1926; Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada
Died: January 5, 1987; Lakefield, Ontario, Canada
Quick Reference
First published: 1963
Type of plot: Sketch
Time of work: The 1930’s
Locale: Manawaka, a small prairie town in Canada
Principal Characters:
Vanessa MacLeod, a doctor’s daughter and the narrator
Piquette Tonnerre, a Meti girl, two years older than Vanessa Dr. MacLeod, Vanessa’s father
Mrs. MacLeod, Vanessa’s mother
The Story
Jules Tonnerre, half French, half Indian, settled in Manawaka after the Meti Indian uprising of 1885. Three generations of his family now live in a collection of shacks, surrounded by junk, in the river valley outside Manawaka. The town is Scots-Irish and Ukrainian, and the Tonnerres are not part of it in any sense. They work irregularly, they are sometimes involved in drunken brawls, and their domestic lives are as chaotic as their housing.  Because Piquette Tonnerre, Jules’s granddaughter, has a tubercular leg, Dr. MacLeod wants to take her with his own family to their summer cabin at Diamond Lake, for she will have little chance to recuperate at home. Grandmother MacLeod refuses to join them if a half-breed is included in the household. Preferring Piquette to her mother-in-law, the doctor’s wife agrees to have the girl come along. Vanessa, age eleven at this time, loves the unspoiled beauty of Diamond Lake and hopes Piquette will share this love, for Vanessa romanticizes the Indian heritage, its warlike past, and its bond with the wilderness. Piquette, however, rejects all overtures. She silently helps Mrs. MacLeod with the housework, but she will not play and cannot walk or swim far. Most significantly, she will not go to the lake at night to listen to the loons calling mysteriously across the dark water. Vanessa and her father sit by the lake while Piquette remains indoors. The following winter, the doctor dies of pneumonia and Vanessa does not even notice Piquette’s disappearance from school. Four years later, the girls meet again. Vanessa is going away to college; Piquette, gaudily dressed and garishly made up, has been drifting from town to town. Repelled and embarrassed, Vanessa can find nothing to say, but when Piquette recalls Dr. MacLeod’s kindness to her and confides that she is going to marry a blond Englishman, Vanessa bursts into congratulations; she suddenly realizes how desperately Piquette must want to belong somewhere if she will marry into the culture that she so firmly rejected when she was younger. Another two years pass. Vanessa returns from college for the summer. Piquette, says Mrs. MacLeod, is dead. When her marriage failed, she returned — fat, slovenly, and drunken — to Manawaka and lived in one of the family shacks with her two very young children. One evening, after Piquette had been drinking all day, it caught fire and she and the children burned to death. Although her summer home has been sold, Vanessa visits Diamond Lake again and goes to the shore. A tourist resort has been built there, the smell of junk food fills the air, and...
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