An essay about “Wood Grouse on a High Promontory Overlooking Canada”.
Many people have had unpleasant experiences which they will never forget, or worse, which induce injuries of a permanent nature. An accident, misfortune, or war, as the elder brother Gary in this short story has experienced, are the sort of traumatic experiences that make people remember and suffer psychologically for the rest of their lives. .
This story takes place in America close to the Canadian frontier on a scree where the two brothers Gary and Bud are spending the day fishing and discussing life. .
The eldest brother Gary has fought in the war in Vietnam, and has just returned shortly before the time of the story. He is still quite affected by his experiences in Vietnam, as can be seen when he starts crying: .
“”Did you kill anyone in Vietnam?” I said. “Did I kill anyone in Vietnam?” said Gary. “Did you?”. “Did I kill anyone in Vietnam?” said Gary. “Did I kill anyone in Vietnam?”. And again he began to cry silently, in a way I hadn’t figured on at all. “I”m sorry,” I said. “Really”. But he went on crying. He cried with no shame. He cried in a way I didn’t think was possible. He didn’t rub his eyes or try to stop it. He just cried.”” (Line 90 ff.).
It is evident that he is still suffering from the war and is not able to talk about it without crying. Another example is where the little brother Bud throws a stone at a bird, so that it is wounded and eventually killed. Gary reacts very strongly after having relieved the bird of its pain: .
“That’s it,” Gary said, not ashamed of his crying – just crying now while he spoke to me. “That’s all it is”. That’s all there is to it Bud.” (Line 77 ff.) .
This tells us that he has probably seen so many people in pain that the bird reminds him of the wounded people in war. For him it symbolizes the same killing and destruction of life and beauty that he has experienced in Vietnam. Also it is a remark telling us that he has probably killed other human beings and knows how horribly easy it is to take a life.