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Volume VIII Number 10 . . . . January 18, 2002
Ron is marking time in his St. Lawrence high school until he is old enough to quit and find a job, like his older brothers in Toronto. His attitude infuriates his father, who is already angry that a strike he doesn't support has put him out of work. An indifferent student at best, Ron chooses to research the strike as a school assignment, not because he is interested in the topic, but just to annoy his father. His research takes the form of interviews with a retired miner who draws him into the topic despite his initial lack of interest. As Ron learns the history behind the issues, he comes to understand and appreciate his father somewhat better, especially when he learns that his father's cough is not simply a smoker's hack.
Dorion portrays 14-year-old Ron as a typical adolescent who is subject to peer pressure and the need to be cool. His lack of motivation, his relationships with others, and his preoccupation with his image all seem to indicate a shallow individual. But slowly readers see him develop a social conscience and a more caring nature, including a grudging respect for the girl with whom he works on the school project. His wry observations, couched in their unique Newfoundland dialect, remain amusing but are less biting and critical as he becomes more sensitive to those around him.
While this story is about Ron's adolescent concerns, it is also firmly grounded in Newfoundland outport life of twenty-five years ago and explores the universal toll a strike takes in a small company town. Through the convention of the old miner talking about his life, Dorion reveals the appalling conditions that existed in the mines and conveys the union point-of-view. Through Ron's conversations with a girl whose father is a manager and his arguments with his own father, the author presents other perspectives on the strike. Readers cannot fail to come away with a clearer understanding of the many issues involved in labour disputes and how they affect communities.
Alison Mews is the Director of the Curriculum materials Centre at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, NF.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.