Cultral icons and conditioning

williamsThe Coppermine River of Northern Manitoba

In "Truth & Bright Water" Thomas King laces his narrative with vivid descriptions of the landscape. From the "dark twists of willows, mud and undercuts" to the "landscape swallowed up by the ocean of sky", even the movements of his characters seem to be breathed from the topography. As a reader with a disposition towards brands and cultral conditioning, one begins to feel somewhat critical and disconnected from their own interpretation of the world King depicts and the cultural symbolism they have been conditioned with. Does a discontinuity exists between the romanticized depiction of the "noble Indian" as a Canadian cultural icon and the reality of how that culture is represented in popular media? Popular media is the key informer in this relationship so I was curiously intrigued by King's use of popular media iconography as both a cultural informer as well as mood setting element in grounding the personalities of his characters:

- Lums rebelliousness and strong-willed nature is grounded early on through a reference to a Vietnam war movie.

- Mother is a burdened character who retreats into her routines to cope (sewing, hairdressing). She is grounded through the use of a phonograph and a stack of old operas and musicals, music which does not require attention to the lyrics.

- Lucys character is focused on the future, ditzy almost. She wears her discomfort with herself almost as blazingly as the hair on top of her head. Her character is grounded through Marilyn Monroe references and Rolling Stones tunes, music that is heavily lyric focused.

King seems to be drawing focus to the inner narrative of his characters through these subtle popular media references. I'm uncertain at this point if he's attempting to illustrate a cultural prerogative or cultural conditioning. One thing that is evident is his characters penchant to draw comparisons between themselves both culturally and individually using these popular media icons as vehicles. This is often done in an aspirational tone and more often than that belying their own romanticized status as cultural icons in their own right. Perhaps this is the root of the disconnect between popular imagery and reality.