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Three Day Road Reader Response Theory

Throughout schooling we are taught about our country’s history, such as the wars that we took part in and more specifically the people who lived here before us, the First Nations. The novel I chose to read for my summative project is Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden which explores the life of two Cree members and more specifically the interactions of them and the colonists. There are three main characters so far in the novel Xavier, Niksha, and Elijah. Xavier and Elijah fought in World War I together as First Nations and the novel is either from Xavier’s perspective or Niksha’s. Niksha is Xavier’s aunt and meet Xavier after he had returned from the war with a leg injury and a morphine addiction.

Reader response theory is all about the reader analyzing what they are reading and determining the meaning by their own past experiences. Being the reader I feel as if this novel is trying to give more insight to the life of the First Nations back then and how they were mistreated, and just how horrible World War I was. I feel as if the desired audience of the novel is primarily Canadians or anyone interested in the history of Canada. Me being Canadian I feel almost obligated to learn more about my country’s history.

I also found the relationship between Xavier and Elijah very compelling. Near the beginning of the novel when they are trying to escape the fire and Elijah says that he hopes the fire doesn’t reach their house and Xavier has a feeling of regret wash over him. Xavier goes on to say, “I remind myself that I made the decision to do this. I will protect him. It is what I do, what I have always tried to do” (Boyden 27). I enjoy this relationship in the novel because it shows how deep their friendship is and how Xavier feels responsible for Elijah. This also goes more in depth about having a close relationship with someone in the war and what it can cause mentally and physically.

Next, is Xavier and how he is mentally once he returns from the war. There is one quote at the beginning when Niksha first picks Xavier up and they begin their journey down the river, “He sleeps, but his sleep is not restful. He twitches and his hands shake. He calls out and this wakes him up” (16). It is also mentioned before that he was sticking himself with a needle which then relaxes him. This indicates a morphine addiction which was common back then after the war for the pain, but what I also found interesting is that he was unable to sleep soundly, constantly twitching and waking himself up. This leads me to believe that Xavier is suffering from PTSD which is a common mental illness that soldiers got in the war having constant recurring flashbacks of their time on the battlefield. I am quite interested in how that is going to play out in the novel and maybe we will see a distinct moment that he keeps having flashbacks too.

Overall enjoying the novel so far, it’s interesting to read about the life of a soldier especially a First Nation soldier, because I have no personal insight on what that is like and am quite curious of how the novel will play out.

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