In Alden Nowlan's "Skipper" there are parallels between the characters in the story and Nowlan's personal life. As Patrick Toner notes, "Nowlan felt compelled to understand himself by creating a fictional world based loosely on events and people from his own life"(Toner 31). Alden Nowlan grew up in a small mill town near Windsor, Nova Scotia in the 1930's. His mother was a young bride of only fifteen, who made attempts to leave the small town of Stanley, Nova Scotia but continuously reconciled with her husband and stayed. It did not, however, deter her from encouraging her children to leave.
I find this fact to be the most obvious parallel between Nowlan's mother and Ethel (Skipper's mother). The connection between Rupert Syverson and Alden Nowlan's father is the alcoholism and the apparent contentment of living in a small rural community. 2 Both Skipper and Nowlan feared (or possibly hated) their father, while still trying to find ways to please him.
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There are differences between the two families. The most notable difference between the short story and the life of Alden Nowlan is that Nowlan was able to escape the town of his youth. Nowlan's mother, though unable to escape the town, did, however, escape the man. Ethel was not able to escape either situation in the short story. There are many other comparisons that could be made, but through these few parallels it is obvious to see that Alden Nowlan wrote (as many writers do) about his own experiences.
- Toner, Patrick. If I could turn and meet myself: The life of Alden Nowlan. Fredericton, NB: Gooselane Editions. 2000.