Reading Between the Lines

After reading through a compelling novel, do you ever consider the numerous different types of symbols and characters throughout the story and what they actually are trying to represent?  In the book, Three Day Road written by Joseph Boyden, there are many different symbols and archetypal criticism hiding in-between the lines of this war story novel.


Firstly, lets start of by talking a bit about the character Elijah. Elijah Weesageechak begins off as an innocent Cree boy who decided to become a Canadian solider during the WWI. Little did we know how this ultimately destroy’s Elijah’s life. This character reminds me of the archetypal character type called ‘The Trickster’. Elijah fits this role because he has changed into an evil, unsteady, and selfish man throughout his time at war and has deceived his culture and his best friend Xavier throughout their war journey together. Furthermore, after Elijah is praised by army leadership because of his ability to shoot a gun accurately he became obsessed with killing, and began collecting the scalps of his victims. This led him to kill anything that frustrates him including other soldiers. “These last years since we left Mushkegowuk we’ve been on a river, and now the river has led to rapids”(366). This quote by Xaxier symbolizes how much their lives as best friends has changed since they left the Mushkegowuk’s. Before the war their lives were as smooth as a river, they got along and their lives were very simple but happy. Now their lives serving in the war has become choppy and uncontrolled like a rapid. When Xavier says “[Elijah] is someone I no longer know”(308) this goes to show that Elijah is not the person we all thought he was, epecially coming from the characater thats known him his entire life. Another quote that expresses how much Elijah has changed is  Elijah says, “I know that it is much more than medicine. Much more” (153). In this quote Elijah is taking about is morphine addiction. He no longer uses it as just a medicine it has become his whole life. This is a problem that leads Elijah on a downward spiral where he becomes a man who is unable to control his actions. According to Elijah,”It’s in my blood”(204).

Another archetypal character I could compare Elijah too is Claudius in the Shakespeare play, Hamlet. Claudius is also ‘The Trickster’ within the story who is undoubtedly the biggest deceiver in the play and ultimately will do anything to get what he wants. He killed his own brother to gain power and would do anything to get a high-class status within the kingdom. Claudius is comfortable with committing immoral acts to get ahead in his life. I believe Claudius and Elijah are alike in many different ways in this sense. They both have lost their since of family and are very caught up in the power of status. Elijah cares entirely about what the other Canadian soldiers think of him and the Claudius cares about what the kingdom thinks of him. They more power they both gain in the end is what causes both these characters to suffer as an end result. Overall I think this helps reveal that Elijah’s character is very common within most stories. There is always someone that is struggling or causing some kind of conflict within the story line.

Secondly, the next character that shows archetypal chracteritics is Niska. Niksa is the aunt of Xavier who was basically the one that raised both Elijah and Xavier on her own. She rescued Xavier and Elijah from a Catholic residential school, and trained them in traditional Cree hunter-gatherer roles, which is how they were going to survive throughout WWI. I think that Niska shows the archetypal role of ‘The Mother’ or ‘The Magician’. Niska acts as a comforting and nuturing character tries to keep the community safe from Windigos. She is very caring towards both Xavier and Elijah and she also sees the terrors of war and the way they have affected him Elijah in a negative way.”Something I haven’t thought about in a long time, it is the story of my childhood, now I tell it to you, Xavier, to keep you alive” (35).  Her goal is to share her wisdom from her stories to her nephew in hopes it will help him stay alive during the war. However, Niska has noticed what the morphine is doing to Elijah and how it has changed him, but she also sees the why behond it. She is understanding but her goal is to help Eljiah to past this. Niska is significant because she represents aboriginal culture and tradition. However, she is also able to communicate with spirits which gives her the archetype name ‘The Magician’. Niska tells lots of stories because she knows about Xavier’s problem with morphine and she believes that telling these stories will help him get better. This type of therapy is very popular within Cree cultures.



Boyden, J. (2005). Three Day Road. Toronto: Penguin Canada.

Xavier and Elijah. Digital image. Weebly. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.



4 thoughts on “Reading Between the Lines

  1. This was very well written Claire! You talked about how you believed Elijah represented “The Trickster” because of his foolish ways, and Niska represented “The Mother”, do you think that Niskas failed to keep Elijah out of trouble? I enjoyed your connection to Hamlet and the similarities are very clear due to your explanation. Good work!


  2. Hey Claire! I really like how you started your blog post with a question. I got me thinking before I had even began reading your analysis. I haven’t read “Three Day Road” but your in-depth analysis makes me very interested. I really like your comparison of Elijah to Shakespeare’s Claudius, it really helped me draw connections that I probably wouldn’t have seen before. Awesome job!


  3. I really liked how you started off your blog with a question. It really engages the reader. I haven’t read this book yet but it seems like something I would like to read. Your analysis of everything is helping me decide as well. I also really enjoyed your connections. Great job!


  4. Hello!
    I agree with you in saying that Elijah could be compared to Claudius from Shakespeare. I am not currently reading this novel, but based on how you described Elijah, he sounds exactly like Claudius — he definitely cares about what the kingdom thinks of him! You stated, “The more power they both gain in the end is what causes both these characters to suffer as an end result.” I am curious to know what exactly happens to Elijah? How does he end up suffering? This intrigues me!

    Liked by 1 person

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