In the novel, medicine river, Thomas King generates a story of a minute community which reflects the condition of the entire nation. The novel makes the reader get a reflection of the first people and their inhabitant. We are at first introduced to Will, who at the beginning starts as a foreigner but becomes a fully acceptable member of that community. The picture that clearly comes out is the real history of Canada. It puts in people’s mind the idea of learning from historical events and using them to better the lives of people. The whole story revolves around a young photographer who returns home and opens a photo studio and in the process; Will realizes the strong point of his background. The use of photography in the novel has got immense significance as the photographs bring history to live. Quite a good number of photographs and each one of them has some information about past. It simply brings out the idea that history is inescapable.
The photographs described during the whole progress of the plot of Medicine River can be seen attempting to illustrate life’s events. They can also be used as cryptograms that make the reader reflect about the past. As we can see, Will’s mother sends him a photo of his father. Will had been making stories tell people about his father before getting the photo. The photograph makes Will know the truth about his father and brings to an end the habit of telling stories about his father. Not only that, the photo makes Will love and appreciate his mother more. The photograph portrays his father. Will now clearly gets the idea of his father as a remarkably industrious man who was always working and never at home. It is also beneficial to note that the photo portrayed Will’s father as a smoker. It was something that taught Will a crucial lesson that smoking was harmful.
Another photo that we can examine is the one brought by David Plume. David Plume comes with an old photograph which has a picture of a wounded knee. Will makes a hugely negative comment about its low quality and how they stored it. Will also gives the ideas of the actual source of the photo. At this point, Will learned on how photos were undependable as well as people to express the comprehensive truth. Will understood that the truth was always appearing in different ways, some ways being reliable while others unreliable.
The other picture that used to develop the plot is Will’s family portrait. The photo was taken after his father’s death in a car accident. This picture portrays Will’s inner feelings after his father’s death since he only put the photo at the conclusion of the book. There are only three people who appear in the photo, and when compared with the photo that Will takes for Joyce blue horn, which includes the entire community. It is clear that Will’s family suffers from isolation. It can be simply because Will’s mother had married a white man. People may wonder how Will’s family related to other extended members of the family. This picture, therefore, takes us back and revives reader’s memory about the past.
When we examine the blue horn family portrait, we realize that it constituted the whole community and Will was also there. The picture appears lively, and Will is portrayed as extremely relaxed and as a person who totally feels at home. It brings forth the idea that Will had finally accepted Medicine River as his home. Accepting to be part and parcel of Medicine River’s community did not just happen easily but it took hard work and total perseverance. This is seen when Will attempts to make everyone in the room for the photo. Will also makes a lot of effort to fix the camera in position so that it would capture all people. The picture is an indication that the present time could not be compared with the past. According to Will, the photo turned out attractive, and he comments about it in a positive manner. He finds it good compared to the previous photos that he had seen. It shows his progress as a member of the society, and he totally accepts his position in this new home, Medicine River. It is noticeable that will puts this new photo lateral to the other smaller portrait of his family. There is evidence that Will’s total acceptance of the past, as well as his appreciation of his present place in society.
The use of different photos across the whole plot is symbolic. Some photos and their appearance are a reflection of old days and they portray how life was during those days. They also portray how things used to be done in the past. Will’s past reveals itself as it is clear that Will grew up without a father. The solitude and the anti-social aspect of his mother are also clear given that the family portrait had only three people. There is discrimination whereby the mother sets herself aside and does not relate well to the other members of the society. At the beginning, Will appears as a person who does not appreciate his background. Though, it changes with time. Later in his stay in the medicine river, Will becomes more attracted to the lifestyles of the people. His initial negative attitudes are brought out by the how comments about the photographs but this changes when he positively comments on the community photograph.
According to how photos are used, it is quite clear that the use of photography throughout the novel is extremely beneficial in bringing the past into the present. Many past events and people are revived through the photographs. Will’s father and his habits such as smoking also appear through the photos. The relationship between Will’s mother and the society is evident in the photos as well. It is an indication that readers could have the clue through the photographs.