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THEMES OF ISOLATION IN SASKATCHEWAN RADIO DRAMA - page 52 / 185

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Timescape: History Plays and Isolation

46

machines of his prime. While the children represent a vision of friendship and

community akin to Frye’s archetypal images of the human world of comedy, Nelson’s

isolation fits Frye’s tragic archetypal image of the human world. Nelson is isolated

because his occupation is now history. When the old-time thresher was relegated to

history by the combination harvester, the thresher’s steam engineer became antiquated as

well. Compounding this isolation for Nelson is the fact that he was removed, or isolated,

from the threshing crews even before the threshing crews were antiquated. The thresher

took his hand. So painful is this loss to him that he can’t even tell the children that he

was the little boy who realized his dream of becoming an engineer on a threshing crew.

Mr. Peterson has to reveal this to the students after Nelson has left. Nonetheless, there is

a sense that Nelson’s loss was part of the evolution of technology – the great advance of

invention. Though Nelson’s personal loss is tragic, society progresses as a result of such

sacrifices by its pioneers.

The children commented on how far machinery has come since farmers used the

museum-retired threshers. The museum can be seen as both a celebration of past

technologies and as a graveyard full of out-of-date hulks of metal, once-animated and

vital machines that now sit silent and still. This mechanical graveyard evokes Frye’s

“tragic vision [of] the mineral world” which “is seen in terms of deserts, rocks and ruins

(quoted in Bate 608 – italics added). The children, however, swing the cycle to a higher,

more comic point in Frye’s cycle. They are youth, the dawn, and hope for the future.

They feel more in awe of Nelson’s sacrifice than sorry for his loss. In this educational

drama of 1955, there is a sense of prairie histories being stories of necessary sacrifice and

loss. Optimism wins out over sorrow. Perhaps this optimism is a reflection of the post-

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