After reading the book The Outlanders by Gil Adamson choose one of the following questions to conduct a 6 page essay.
1. The narrator of The Outlander goes into a number of different perspectives at many points in the story. Oftentimes we will be given access to one or more perspective in a scene, but there will also be characters whose perspectives are not entered. More, distance is created from characters by referring to them according to their roles in the story rather than their names (the girl, the widow, the grocer, the old lady, the two men, the Ridgerunner, etc.) Consider the effects of this narrative perspective on your experience of the story. How does it condition your understanding of what is going on?
2. Elements of the gothic genre are obviously at work in this novel: a vulnerable female running alone into the wilderness pursued by men who mean her no good. However, other elements complicate such a reading, since the female is a husband murderer rather than an innocent virgin, and the pursuit is through wide open wilderness rather than a dungeon’s labyrinth. What do gothic conventions contribute to your understanding of the story? Are some gothic conventions being pressed in unexpected ways? What is the role of the gothic in this story, and how does it affect your understanding of the characters?
3. The Outlander is set in the particular time and place of a real-life disaster in the Canadian Rockies. However, the widow’s personal story is one of liberation and love, suggesting romance (as defined in the wider sense, not just a love story.) Do you read the novel as a historical story of victims who could not have anticipated the disaster awaiting them, or as a romance wherein heroes triumph over external circumstances? Since the story is shot through with both these contradictory generic conventions, how do you see history and romance contributing to your understanding of what is being portrayed?
4. The Outlander seems to be a western, since there are horses, guns, outlaws, and a kind of frontier, Canadian-style. And yet, many conventions of the western are undermined by competing contradictory generic elements. What aspects of the story seem to conform to generic conventions of the western, and which ones seem to challenge expectations? What is the overall contribution of the western genre to you interpretation of the novel?
5. Victimhood is a theme in this story, but its treatment seems to change as the plot develops. Is Mary Boulton a victim? Are we to view her as a woman victimized by her times, or one who changes them? Analyze this protagonist for the agency she demonstrates at different points in the novel, and assess your understanding of her by the end.
6. There are some striking, unusual, or unexpected metaphors and patterns of adjectives in the language of this story. If everything in a story is there for a reason, consider the symbolic resonance of some of these narrative patterns.
7. We have learned that plot is a series of motivated episodes and sub-episodes. What is the overall goal of the novel, and how do the episodes move us over time to a conclusion? How does plot embody meaning? Does the plot invoke expectations from other genres to help you understand what kind of a story you are reading?
8. Mary Boulton can be described as a character sometimes caught between her ethos and actant. Identify a number of moments where who she is seems to contradict what she does. Does she interact with characters similarly complicated according to the Actantial Model (e.g. unheroic subject, opponent who is not a villain, would-be helper who opposes, would-be opponent who helps, monstrous custodian, corrupt sender, etc.)? What does such tension contribute to your understanding of both characters and overall meaning? What position does the implied author seem to take?