The Honary Patron Essay, Research Paper
GRADE 12-CANADIAN LITERATURE BOOK REPORT 1997-98 The book chosen to be read for this assignment is called, “The Honorary Patron”. The author of this book is Jack Hodgins and it consists of three hundred and thirty three pages. The initial setting is in Zurich, with a stopover in Toronto. The main narrative takes place in an unnamed small town in British Colombia near Victoria which is trying to organize a “Pacific Coats Arts Festival as a possible tourist attraction. The organizers have nominated as “Honorary Patron” the lead protagonist of the story who is, Jeffrey Crane. During the story, various characters are introduced however the main character, which is the protagonist is Jeffrey Crane. Crane is a semi-retired art historian and teacher, who has lived in Europe for the past forty years as an expatriate and has now been invited back to his old home town In the story, there are two individuals who are the main secondary protagonists. One of them is Elizabeth Argent, Jeffrey s old girlfriend who is dispatched Europe to induce him to accept the invitation to the festival. The other is Ken “Blackie” Blackstone, an old high school classmate of Jeffrey, who, in the intervening forty years, has risen to local eminence as a prominent local businessman, father of large brawling, multigenerational family and key festival patron. There are indeed more characters in the book. However, they do not play such as substantial a role in the book as those mentioned above. The main element of conflict is Crane s sense of ambiguity in “going home” after almost half a century. This is a theme as developed by other writers elsewhere: “you can t go home again”. In this case, home is rural British Colombia in the late 80 s, thus the Canadian angle. His old home town, and the people he knew, have all changed for both the better and the worst. For example, Elizabeth points out sarcastically that now the town has too few jobs and too many shopping malls. The other main conflict is also the result of feelings of ambiguity, i.e. Crane s feelings for Elizabeth. During the whole time they are together, the reader gets a feeling that at some point they will end up together and then there are times when you think they have no chance together. In the end, they go their separate ways and no romantic issues are resolved. Another element of conflict in the story is Crane s mixed relationship with Blackie. The reason for this is that Crane has been living in Europe among intellectuals, then he comes back to his old home town and finds his old classmate evolved into a red neck capitalist. The third and last minor element of conflict in the author s idea of the humorous paradox of an arts festival in a small, unimportant town which has lost its blue-collar economic base. None of the above conflicts above were cleanly resolved. However the feud begins to die down between Crane and Blackie. At one point, the two of them get into a fist fight.. But after knocking Crane to the ground, Blackie gets all concerned about the well being of Crane: “Put your weight on me there. I don t know if the water s still hooked up inside, but we ll find something to clean you up.” (Pg.303) This is the only conflict which was even halfway resolved.
To summarize: The author s main point about life in general , as pointed out above, is the difficulty of “going home again” after 40 years and dealing with people and places which grown in different directions in one s absence. The most distinctively Canadian experience illustrated in this novel is the self-absorbed world of Canada s “chattering classes”, represented by the main protagonist himself. On p. 24, Crane and Elizabeth sit in the cafe in Zurich and Crane remarks “Remember the Sunday-school memory work? He uttered his voice; the earth melted.” The narrator, reading Elizabeth s mind says, “Perhaps she thought it flabby-headed of him, even sentimental, to quote from a childhood source most adults were glad to forget”. (Pg.24) This shows how Crane and his old flame share a distinctively Canadian degree of spiritual shallowness characteristic of the Canadian intellectuals, both expatriate and domestic. Another example: Crane spends upward of 5 pages early in the book, prior to leaving for Canada, in a museum looking at, thinking about and talking about the paintings of an artist named Egon Shieles that most of his readers probably never heard of. The chattering classes and the working classes no longer share cultural common ground. This is true in Canada most of all, which has abandoned the old higher culture but has replaced it with nothing of substance. Now, working people, like Blackie and his blue-collar neighbors, live in a very different mental world than Crane and his friends, asd have very little to talk about. At first when I read the book, I thought it would be a really boring because of how slowly it started, and how the plot limped along and wandered, but then it became interesting. The part that I liked the most was the fist fight between Blackie and Crane. I found it nice how Blackie put his pride behind him and helped Crane in his time of need. I also was impressed by Crane s courage in returning home after so many years. Overall, I would recommend this book for people who are truly interested in finding out what one part of the Canadian experience is all about. For those who enjoy, this book offers a new variation: the un-romance. Over all after I finished the book I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.