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THEMES OF ISOLATION IN SASKATCHEWAN RADIO DRAMA - page 55 / 185

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Timescape: History Plays and Isolation

49

worthless remittance men50. The city is full of signs reading “Men wanted, Englishmen

need not apply.” The longer he is in Winnipeg, the more isolated he feels.

When Frank does find work, it’s as a hired hand: first for an exploitive crook who

does not pay, house, or feed him adequately; then for a good-natured, hard-working

family man in Saskatchewan named Charlie Baxter. While Frank is working for Charlie,

grasshoppers hit Charlie’s whole crop, and Frank says, “All we could do was watch and

listen to a year’s work being totally destroyed.” Such destruction highlights the reality

that even established farmers are alone in the face of nature’s power. Despite such

adversity, Charlie still advises Frank to go try for a homestead of his own, saying, “If you

don’t starve to death in the first three years, you’ve got a chance.” Eventually, Frank

does move to his own farm. During the first month on his homestead, Frank finds a sense

of peace and pride in solitude reminiscent of Beaupré’s vision of his home. Frank muses,

“Being out here alone is strange and wonderful in a wild sort of way. The land is never

still. Clouds race by and, at night, the stars are so close I could almost jump up and grab

one.” Soon, though, his letters home take a more dire tone, as the reality of his isolation

sets in: “sometimes I worry about my sanity ... I woke up convinced that I could hear you

calling me, but it was only that damn wind. This truly is the land God gave to Cain.”51

Even Frank’s beloved stars become cold and dead. Frank calls them “white diamond

eyes. All around me are silver teardrops dismembered and floating to the ground.”

50 “Remittance men” – Concise Oxford Dictionary definition – “emigrant subsisting on remittances from home” – more specifically, as explained to me by my grandfather, the late Bill McWilliams (I’m paraphrasing), “a man whose relatives back home send him enough money to live on – but not enough money to come home.”

51 Land God Gave to Cain, The - The Land God Gave to Cain, was Jacques Cartier’s description of the north shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence, which he first sighted in 1534. Cartier was presumably alluding to Genesis 4, in which Cain, having killed his brother, is condemned to till land that is barren” (The Canadian Encyclopedia).

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