Question 1: Why do you think the story moves back and forth between the border scenes and the talk about Salt Lake City? Discuss the relationship between the structure of the story and its content.
In the short story Borders by Thomas King, we come across a Blackfoot mother that is struggling to maintain her cultural heritage despite the pressure put on her by officers from two dominating nations. The story moves back and forth between the border scenes to give readers a clear understanding of how minority ethnic communities are manipulated. The mother and her son were on their way to Salt Lake City to visit Laetitia. The young boy was all excited as it had been quite a long since he set eyes on her sister. He also looked forward to visiting Salt Lake City, which was a place he had been hearing of since he was nine years old. However, crossing the border turned to be complicated after there was a misunderstanding in the questions the border officers asked the mother. The precise question that made things hard was about her citizenship. She claimed to be Blackfoot, but the border guards could not register that. “I know that we got Blackfeet on the American side, and the Canadians got Blackfeet on their side. Just so we can keep our records straight, what side do you come from (King 918)?” They were forcing her to choose to be either American or Canadian. Mother took pride in her heritage, and though it seemed to be a party choice, she clung to her stand of being Blackfoot. Other than being the current residence of Laetitia, Salt Lake City is spoken of frequently in the text as the characters believe it to be one of the natural wonders of the universe (King 920). The happening in the story follows a chronological order that is significant in addressing the author’s key theme of pride in one’s heritage. Mother is questioned by different guards, each with a more persuasive approach than the other. I believe Thomas did this intentionally to show how firm mother was in protecting her pride.
Question 2: What happens at the end of the story? Why are they finally allowed to cross the border? Why does Mel say the narrator’s mother is “an inspiration to us all”? Is she? Explain.
Toward the end of the story, reporters came to the scene, and the mother’s situation was aired on television. Immediately after this, she tried crossing the border and was allowed. Surprisingly she did not have to choose to either be Canadian or American. We also learn that Laetitia was not so proud of being Blackfoot, but her attitude came to change after seeing her mother on TV. When mother and the boy arrive at Salt Lake City, Laetitia is so eager to hear direct from them what transpired at the border (King 922). Laetitia is proud of her mother and takes the family to a nice restaurant where they catch up on all the years they have been apart. Mother and the boy were finally allowed to cross the border because the media reporters were on site and they would have exposed the border guards for their manipulation. In fear of escalating the matter and drawing more attention, the officers had no alternative but to allow the Blackfoot through. Mel’s says that mother is an inspiration to us all because of her she stood to what she took pride in. Had it been another person, he or she would have opted to pick any citizenship so long as a pass-through is granted. Perhaps even Laetitia quickly chooses to be either Canadian when she first went to Salt Lake City. Mel must have observed the boy’s mother and seen the patience she had. She did not seem to care about staying at the border for long for her pride’s sake. Mother is truly an inspiration as she symbolizes care, love, hope, and strength. Her loyalty to the native community she comes from is something everyone should desire.
Question 3: Compare this story to Gloria Anzaldua’s “To Live in the Borderlands Means You.”
In the poem “To live in the Borderlands means you,” Gloria Anzaldua’ addresses the hardships individuals living within borders have to endure. From the poem, we learn that living in the borderlands implies that a person is a half breed with several other cultures which makes describing their citizenship difficult. Gloria uses Spanish and English to stress on the different races living in the borderland. Gloria shows the confusion that people in the border have which is different from the message being passed by Thomas in the short story Border. Mother was quite aware of her origin despite it being a minority community. She held on to it and was willing to continue preserving that at all cost. As for Gloria, she puts more emphasis on fitting in, even if it means giving up on some cultural practices. The theme being passed by the poem “To Live in the Borderlands Means You” is the embrace of multiculturalism. Life at the borderlands is not easy and residences there have to be tough to survive. Therefore Gloria is right when she says that a person ought to be at a crossroads (without borders) for them to live on the borderlands (Anzaldúa 4). But in the short story by Thomas, the mother and her son were passing through the border; hence they did not have to be all tough to survive or anything of the sort. Their case was a matter of providing the guards with the required information. After reading both Gloria’s poem and Thomas’ story, one may conclude that there are not many similarities between the two in terms of themes.
Anzaldúa, Gloria. “To Live in the Borderlands Means You.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 17, no. 3, 1996, p. 4. Accessed 1 Sept. 2019.
King, Thomas. “Borders.” World Literature Today, vol. 66, no. 2, 1992, pp. 915-923. Accessed 31 Aug. 2019.