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THEMES OF ISOLATION IN SASKATCHEWAN RADIO DRAMA - page 60 / 185

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Timescape: History Plays and Isolation

54

drifter. Jessie reads Alec’s last letter, which says he can’t wait to come back home. But

Jessie now knows where Alec’s true loyalty lies: with his own thirst for adventure. Jessie

declares to herself in her empty sod house, “Yeah, until next time Alec. A whole winter

like this. I can’t, Alec. I can’t go on like this.” The wind howls ominously. The play

ends. Sam told Alec he could always come back home. That’s true. But Sam never

promised that Jessie would still be there to welcome Alec home. At the end of the play,

Alec is in Frye’s tragic cycle facing disillusionment with his dream and the downfall of

his scheme. But Alec is hopeful of spring and a triumphant return home, which could

move him towards Frye’s comic cycle. But Alec is unaware that his marriage is also in

danger of dissolving. The irony is that, in Frye’s world, the hero’s utopia is real and he

will achieve it after a period of suffering. Alec’s hope is delusional and destructive in

this more Atwood-envisioned world. In Frye’s terms, Jessie ends the play on a more

purely tragic note. She is alone, in winter, in the desert (the prairie in winter) facing the

dissolution of her marriage.

Radio plays that deal in history are plays of everyday struggles. But everyday

struggles are often bigger when looked upon through the veil of history, especially when

plays are dealing with the history of settlement. Characters like Mr. Nelson struggle to

keep pace with progress, and end up being chewed-up by it. Characters struggle to

survive alone in the face of their harsh new world. This struggle can be made all the

more difficult when a character first has to reconcile an imagined new country with the

actual new country. Characters like Frank Dobson and Alec find their idyllic, hoped-for

Utopia is no longer attainable or realistic. Frank chooses to make the best of it. Then he

dies, leaving the grimly realistic version of his dream-farm to his widow and his son.

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