Influences on Thomas King while Writing “The Baby in the Airmail Box”
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There are many aspects that can influence an author while writing a story. In the story, “The Baby in the Airmail Box” by Thomas King, many different aspects influence the writing of this story. Kings influences including personal, social and political influences. First, personal influences like racial struggle and discrimination has influenced King. Second, family structures and different groups of people in society impacts King’s writing immensely. Finally, the political relationship between the Canadian government and the Aboriginals influences King while he writes deeply. Therefore, it is clear that Thomas King incorporates personal, social and political influences throughout his short story, “The Baby in the Airmail Box” which is evident through the exploration of his that people of native descent face many struggles throughout their lives because of their culture. Personal influences such as racial struggle impact King significantly.
First, several aspects of King own personal life are illustrated throughout the plot of the story. As a native, King’s writing focus on the racial struggles and discrimination that Aboriginals face their lives because of their culture. In the text, Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, an Indian are discriminated against by the adoption agency when they try to adopt a white baby. In the text it says. “‘We have a problem’ says Linda […] ‘[They are] Indian’, says Linda […] ‘Cree’ […] ‘They would like a baby,’ she says, without even a hint of a smile, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal would like a white baby’” (Thomas King 1-2). Linda is discriminating the Cardinals and telling them that they cannot adopt a white baby, because they are Indian; she is judging them based on their culture. If the Cardinals were of another race, there would be no problem in them adopting the baby.
Linda is discriminating them and telling them that because they are of Native descent that they cannot adopt a white baby. King influences this part of the text because as a native he faces discrimination in his life because of his culture. In an interview that King did with CBC, he reveals that he had asked a girl to senior prom, but her father refused to let her go with him, because he thought King was Mexican. King continues the story, “Good news, [I am] not Mexican, [I am] Indian, as if that would have helped. I went to prom myself that year” (CBC 8th Fire). King is judged strictly on his appearance and not on the basis of him as a person. King also, focuses on the many stereotypes that are given to the Natives and tries to abolish them through his writing. In the text when Oren’s cousin calls her to thank her for the white baby, “Two weeks, after the raid on the bingo game, Oren’s cousin calls her to thank her for the white baby ‘Where in the world did you get it?’ ‘In the mail’ ‘and they say we [do not] know how to take care of our kids’” (King 12).
Here, Oren’s cousin brings up a common Native stereotype on how society perceives First Nations as useless parents that do not know how to take cate of their kids. Society as a whole thinks of them as useless parents even though they know how to take care of their kids and in the text it is the white parents who are irresponsible. As an Aboriginal growing up in a predominately white neighbourhood, King faces many challenges with his culture, as many of his neighbours and peers discriminate him by stereotyping his culture. King talks about his childhood, “I should probably begin by saying that at eighteen, I was not the prettiest of creatures. Tall and skinny, with no more co-ordination than a three legged stepladder, I also had drawn the pimple card to brighten my adolescence” (Thomas King, The Truth about Shot Stories). King is saying that his appearance during his teenage years was stereotypically very ‘Indian’, he was thin, scrawny, and very clumsy, which led to many of his peers being racist towards him.
Family structures and different groups of people in society influences King immensely. Second, social influences such as family structure and different groups of people in society highly influence King’s writing. King is highly influenced by the social aspect of family structures of Native families. Approximately, one-third of all Aboriginal children under the age of fifteen lived in a single parent family in 1996; this was twice the rate of the general population (Joe Sawchuck,Social Conditions of Aboriginal People). In the story, Natives try to auction off the white baby during bingo, which displays the lack of significance of the baby. In the text it says, “‘What about bingo?’”(King 1). The Natives not caring about the baby and willing to auction it off to random people relates to the family structures of Natives and it portrayal of being improper. King experiences the same unbalanced family structure with his own family. King grew up thinking that his father was dead, after he left King’s family when King was only five years old, which relates to King having an unstable family structure (King,The Truth about Short Stories).
King teaches Native studies at the University of Lethbridge, in Alberta (Brian John Bubsy, Thomas King) and because of his extensive knowledge, King is pressured to write about Native stereotypes to try and abolish them. In the text when the Cardinals try to adopt the white baby, they tell Bob, at the adoption agency that, “‘Both of us speak Cree, ’says Mrs. Cardinal.‘Mr. Cardinal sings on the drums and I belong to the women’s society on the reserve, and we know many of the old stories about living in harmony with nature, so we have a great deal we can give a white baby’”(King 7).
King brings up many stereotypes given to Natives, which he portrays in a positive way. King feels as though, he has a social responsibility to try and educate people on the Native culture, so that they become more aware and less despicable towards the Aboriginals. In an interview that King did with CBC, he says, “Most Canadians [do not] know a thing about Canadian history”(CBC 8th Fire). King is saying that if individuals do not know anything about Canadian history then they are more likely to be discriminating towards the Native culture. Through his extensive knowledge of the First Nations, that most people do not have, he want to educate people on their beliefs and culture through his writing. The relationship between the Canadian government and Aboriginals effects King significantly.
Third, the political relationship between Aboriginals and the Canadian government influences King significantly. The Multiculturalism Act of 1971, occurred at the same time that King was at the University of Utah, this act in particular influenced King greatly. In the story, King points out the different family structures that resulted from the act. When Bob tries to tell the Cardinals that they try to match the baby with the family, the Cardinals reply by telling him, “‘sure’ says Mrs. Cardinal. ‘But lots of white people have been adopting red babies.’ ‘Yes’ says Mr. Cardinal ‘You see black babies with white parents too.’ ‘And yellow babies with white parents’ says Mrs. Cardinal’ ‘[Do not] forget brown babies with white parents’ says Mr. Cardinal” (King 5). The political relationship between the Canadian government and Aboriginals is rough. King is surrounded by knowledge on Natives, this act influences him to write about the Native culture and how this act had no real effect on the Natives because they were still discriminated against.
King uses different tools to talk about Natives, and their political situation. In the story he writes about how unfair the government treats them, “ ‘We [cannot] let government agencies kidnap a member of our tribe’” (King 9). Orena does not want the agency to kidnap the baby, who is now considered a member of their tribe. King is using his political influence to bring awareness to the fact that they Canadian government do not treat Aboriginals fairly and cause them a great deal of pain and struggle. King, who was a NDP candidate in Guelph in 2007, uses his political influence to bring alertness to how the Canadian government has been treating Natives.(Bubsy,Thomas King) King is aware that the relationship between the two groups and now he can bring awareness to it politically and try to change it for the good through his new position. King is influenced by the political relationship between the Canadian government and people of the Native descent.
In the short story, “The Baby in the Airmail Box” by Thomas King, different types of influences such as; personal, social, and political influences, effect King, which is proved through his theme that people of the Native descent face many struggles throughout their lives because of their culture. Fist, personal influences like racism and discrimination influence King. Second, social influences such as family structures and different groups of people in society highly effect King. Finally, political influences such as the relationship between the Canadian government and Aboriginals influence King immensely. These influences lead King to write the short story “The Baby in the Airmail Box” the way that he did.
Blackstock, Cindy. “Q&A: Thomas King”. CBC 8th Fire.2011. Broadcasted Busby, Brian John. “Thomas King.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. 7 Apr. 2008. Web. 24 Oct. 2014. King, Thomas. “The Baby in the Airmail Box.” A Short History of Indians in Canada: Stories. Toronto: Harper Collins, 2005.Print. King, Thomas. “The Truth about Short Stories.” Massey Lectures. CBC Radio, House of Anansi Press, Massey Collage. McGill University, Montreal. 13 June 2003. Lecture. Sawchuck, Joe. “Social Conditions of Aboriginal People.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. 31 Oct.
2011. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.