The Surrounded by D’Arcy McNickle
- Method of Obtaining: I purchased my copy.
- Published by: University of New Mexico Press
- Release Date: Original 1936, this edition 2/1/1978
As “The Surrounded ” opens, Archilde Le n has just returned from the big city to his father’s ranch on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. The story that unfolds captures the intense and varied conflict that already characterized reservation life in 1936, when this remarkable novel was first published.
Educated at a federal Indian boarding school, Archilde is torn not only between white and Indian cultures but also between love for his Spanish father and his Indian mother, who in her old age is rejecting white culture and religion to return to the ways of her people. Archilde’s young contemporaries, meanwhile, are succumbing to the destructive influence of reservation life, growing increasingly uprooted, dissolute, and hopeless. Although Archilde plans to leave the reservation after a brief visit, his entanglements delay his departure until he faces destruction by the white man’s law.
- This was assigned reading for my Non-Western Literature course
I also recommend:
- Fool’s Crow by James Welch
- Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff
The Surrounded by D’Arcy McNickle is a heart-aching story of the Salish Indians who were forced into a place of “in-between” through the conversion of the tribe to the Catholic faith and the loss of their reservation land, through sale, to the white man.
The narrative follows Archilde, the second to youngest son of Max Leon, a Spaniard, and Catharine, a Salish woman. Archilde is one of seven sons – each of whom has chosen to live in a sort of disregard for the traditions and desires of Max.
Every character in this book has layers of layers of complexity. Archilde is viewed by his mother as one person, his father another, and the people surrounding him as yet another. Max Leon surprises again and again with his choices, Catharine’s character is a beautiful portrayal in the heartbreak that can occur when tradition is squashed beneath the ideas of “civilization,” and the supporting cast provide the necessary surroundings for the story to evolve in a way that was representative of the time and history of the Salish people in Montana.
I loved this book for it’s honest, relevant message. It was written in the 1930s, but continues to be a treasure of a book. The Salish live in these pages – not in their original lifestyle, but rather a as a reminder of what happens when one culture pressures another into a life and set of beliefs which are not their own.
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