Barbara Gowdy's The White Bone

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Barbara Gowdy`s novel “The White Bone” illustrates a theme of consciousness and what it means to be alive. The elephants struggle to survive in the harsh conditions of Africa, displaying unique traits only thought to be human. The “hindleggers” (humans) of the novel are portrayed as malevolent creatures that wreak havoc on the various elephant families of the African lands. In Barbara Gowdy’s novel, the elephant’s consciousness was similar to that of the humans by portraying their treatment of the dead, religion and family structure and thought to be strictly human nature. Throughout the novel, the reader will find it easy to relate to the elephants and feel for the ones killed. This is mostly due to the fact that the elephant’s family mourns…show more content…
After death, Christians believe that they go to heaven as a reward for being a moral and noble (What Does the Bible Say about Death?, The elephants believe after they die they will be taken to ‘’The She” described by the narrator after saying “Sky cows are dead cows who have ascended to the sky to join the family of she” (Pg.31), but they can only go if they are of the right age and still have their tusks though. This place is like heaven since it is also a sanctuary where they can be safe and not fear predators, disease or drought. On the reverse side of things when one acts immorally they are sent to hell which is supposed to be punishment for their bad deeds when they were alive. The elephants have thought of this and although not implicitly stated, the footer of the page clarifies what they mean by stating “Dead humans are banished to a place beneath the earth known as The Fissure” which almost mirrors hell in location and purpose since it is underground and tries to be retributive to those that have acted wickedly. The elephants believe the humans are evil and malevolent so they must go to a place that suits them as such. Finally, if the elephants lose their tusks in “The She”, they will fall and be sent to “The Eternal Shoreless Water”, a place that is not desired to be in, but also not as bad as “The Fissure”. They are in limbo in the same way as ghosts that roam the planet are trapped between both afterlives. Just as well as death, the human’s and elephant’s beliefs in what comes after it are very much

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