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Mary TallMountain, who died in September 1994, had spent her twenty-five years of life writing poetry and novels. Her writing had a significant influence on societal social lives when she addressed various tribal impacts of colonization and Christianity. Mary TallMountain also addressed the issues of truth and equitability of society. On the negative side, much of her fiction was not recognized or attracted by the Native American Renaissance of woman writers. She did, however, receive worldwide acclaim for her work, as many people all over the world admired it. The majority of her readers come from the family of teachers who discovered that the spiritual quality of her writings and teachings moved the children to tears. Her books contain a lot of real-life experiences like surviving the harshness of colonialism, tribalism, and racism combined. Lastly, her stories and poetries aimed at bringing the different worlds together. That is, Irish-American, Russian, Pagan, Catholic Athabascan among others. In the essay, I will analyze various themes used by Mary Tall Mountain in the Book titled “Disposal of Mary Joe’s Children.”
The history of Mary Tall Mountain exhumes from June 19, 1918, when she was born in the tiny village called Nulato in Koyukon, Alaska. In the West of Fairbank, Tall Mountain’s mother had a combination of heritages such as Athabascans, Russian. According to early scientists, the Russians seems to be the native inhabitants of the current day Alaska and that they migrated from Russsian about 35,000 years ago (Welford 45). The heritage diversity continued when her mother married Clem Stroupe who worked as American Army based in Irish and Scottish.
The theme of colonialism and Social Life Transition
Mary Tall Mountain tested the soup from various tribes in Alaska. As earlier mentioned, TallMountain tasted life from different tribes since her parents had the different tribal background. It is worth noting that, TallMountain’s mother fell ill just a few months before she was born. Just like other Athabascans, Demoski was stricken by Tuberculosis. As a caring mother, TallMountain’s mother decided to give out Mary and her brother Billy to Randles for adoption. She did that since she anticipated that she would not live longer anymore. Billy and his wife were white doctors working for the American government. Her main hopes were that her children would get better health, education and some advantages she was unable to provide for them. Most importantly, she hoped that they would not contract tuberculosis (Purdy et. al 197). Upon consultation with the village elders, Mary was granted the opportunity to move with Randles, but Billy remained at home. The standard rules do not allow for giving out of male children to other community as they were deemed to the security and warriors of the community.
TallMountain came close to losing her life even though she was saved from tuberculosis. She encountered the spirits and emotions while staying with the white man in Oregon. She recounts in her poem, the ridiculous she was exposed to from the white children in the neighborhood and school. Besides, she underwent molestation from her stepfather for speaking her native language, which they wanted her to abandon at all costs. As the molestation persevered for a long time, TallMountain changed into alcoholism to avoid stress.
TallMountain’s life entered in a difficult situation during the depression of the 1930s. Her family became migrants whereas her adoptive father died from heart failure shortly after her high school graduation. Besides, her husband, Dal Roberts succumbed to death after three years of marriage. In 1945, TallMountain was left alone after the death of her stepmother that occurred because of Parkinson illness and diabetes. Therefore, she was left to struggle as she studied legal secretary in Portland of Reno.
The depression from the loneliness expressed by Mary TallMountain led her to start drinking alcohol. As soon as she moved to San Francisco, where started practicing her career as the legal secretary, did she joined the drinking spree. She always lived in the grey world up to around her forties. The depression made her grow thinner and thinner every day. She had lost touch with the traditions, Christianity, and another tribal norm. Fortunately enough, she realized the destruction alcohol had caused in her family and career then started a stenographic business where she began enjoying the fruits of being her boss. By bad luck, in 1968 she was diagnosed with the cancer of the liver, but she managed to overcome it (Welford 150). The ripple effects of the treatment led to her closure of the business, as she was not able to run it. Additionally, she sold her apartment to settle the medical bills. Due to the small financial base, TallMountain resolved to resettle in the poorest parts of the San Francisco that had a population combination of older adults, prostitutes, and drug addicts. The change of social status influenced her ways of thinking, but she forecast more than ever.
The theme of colonialism and change in social life contributed much to her failure and successes in life. For example, was it not she was adopted by Agnes and Clem, she would not have been a literature writer. The art of writing emerged from the knowledge she acquired from the journal of Agnes. The weaknesses she experienced during her illness never allowed her to work, though she received disability pension that supplemented her small income from writing. Taking the disease as the starting point of Mary TallMountain’s writing career gives motivation to the people who have lost hope in life because of disability. However much, the circumstances did not go along with her life; she did not end up on the streets as a beggar.
TallMountain’s dedication to the Athabascan culture and religion saw other established writer borrow much content from her poems. She would analyze and illustrate various symbols and devices of unity within the culture. She was the only female writer who understood a couple of languages because of her background diversity. She used her talent to promote the Athabascan tribe and culture across the Native American Literature arenas. The only problem was the alienation of the mixed tribe
In summary, the literary analysis of the Mary TallMountain’s work entitled “Disposal of Mary Joe’s Children, the theme of social life transition is apparent. The change marks the whole story of TallMountain and her family. She struggles after being brought up from a poor background. Consequently, her mother adopts her for a better life that ends with molestation and change of her native language. Her sad moments reached when her adoptive father and mother dies after high school graduation. The fact remained bitter with the illness and lost of property. The inspiration TallMountain gains in her readings emerge from the real-life situations that students and teachers relate her stories with. Therefore, the above theme is very significant for readers.
Welford, Gabrielle. "Mary TallMountain's Writing: Healing the Heart—Going Home." ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 25.1 (1994). Accessed on 9/30/2017 from https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/ariel/article/viewFile/31254/25336
Purdy, John, and James Ruppert, eds. Nothing but the truth: an anthology of Native American literature. Longman Publishing Group, 2001.
Welford, Gabrielle. "Mary TallMountain." American poets since World War II. 2 (1998): 345.
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