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THEMES OF ISOLATION IN SASKATCHEWAN RADIO DRAMA - page 40 / 185

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Timescape: History Plays and Isolation

34

Both Mitchell’s Jaanus and Schroeder’s Sukanen live out a great Saskatchewan

tragedy. In Frye’s phases, Sukanen shows himself, in some ways, to be better than his

fellow man. But his flaws lead to him being tragically isolated – as either outcast or

hermit. He is betrayed, not by any one traitor, but by many of his neighbours. Then, his

suffering and death soon follow. He is driven to isolation and death because his world is

too small to contain his glorious, heroic spirit. The senselessness of Sukanen’s death also

fulfils Atwood’s definition of a typical tragic Canadian Hero. Sukanen struggles

heroically, but dies before he can even try to fulfill his dream.

Both playwrights agree that Sukanen’s hospitalization was a blow from which he

could not recover. His plan - to get his ship to the river, raft it to Hudson Bay, and sail it

home to Finland - was aborted. Whether or not his dream was plausible, it was left

untried – killed by his doubting neighbours. Sukanen’s neighbours claimed to have had

him committed in order to prevent him from doing himself harm. But his neighbours’

malice was also becoming a danger to Sukanen. By removing him, they no longer had a

target for their frustrations. Schroeder and Mitchell agree that, by separating him from

his ship and any chance of fulfilling his dream in the material world, the cure kills

Sukanen as surely as if his boat had sunk on the way home. Mitchell portrays Jaanus as

dreaming of finishing his voyage while in his coma, thus imagining the realization of his

dream. By escaping this mortal, material world and continuing his dream, Jaanus ends

Mitchell’s play on a higher, more comic side of Frye’s cycle. Schroeder, however, has

Sukanen awake and affirm his knowledge of exactly how geographically far away he is

from his intended destination, his hometown in Finland. Schroeder’s Sukanen cannot

that great, could he?’ It's going to take some time and a lot more books like Hodgins' Invention of the World before we stop being so self deprecating about our heroes. It's not Greek gods we're inventing here, after all. We may be celebrating vision, but it's a grounded vision after all.”

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