Blackout Poem – “The Stranger”

“The stranger” Analysis

The poem, “The Stranger,” by Gord Downie has a deeper meaning than what the reader may consider. From reading the poem with no background information the reader would think it is about a lonely man walking down a path. However, the poem is actually telling the tragic story of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 after running away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. This poem is one of a collection of poems from Gord Downie’s Secret Path that have been formed into songs, a book and an animated film. The collection of poems are all about Wenjack’s story. A theme for this poem would be that people run from their problems when there is no outlet to communicate them. Gord Downie uses many helpful poetic devices to convey his message. For example, he uses repetition of the line, “I am the stranger,” to try and emphasize this mood. He uses an allusion to a stereotype by saying, “My dad is not a wild man,” to try and show that not everyone follows this stereotype. Another poetic device used is imagery of, “On a secret path,” to show the reader the feeling of Wenjack being alone and nobody being there to help him. Also, “Let me catch my breath,” is personification, because you can’t actually catch your breath. In this poem Gord Downie reflects on a part of Canadian history that not many people like to talk about. Canadian Residential schools were a shameful way of treating First Nations people. The country had a 130-year practice of ripping aboriginal children away from their families on a thoughtless mission to assimilate them, force Christianity upon them and destroy an entire culture that had walked these lands for generations. The story of Chanie Wenjack is painful and unsettling, but as Canadians we need to learn from this and about the thousands of others like Wenjack.

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