Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hallowe’enAn Evening of Treats and Tricks

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An Evening of Treats and Tricks

The history of Halloween can be argued by many; although the traditions have been altered over the years many of the legends are still present today. It is said that people believed that the spirits of the dead would come back to possess living bodies to survive for the afterlife. To prevent this from happening, people would dress up in costumes and become destructive to the neighbourhood in order to frighten the spirits away. In Ian Adam’s poem Hallowe’en, evil practices based on holiday legends are compared to the lives of a group of young adolescents in a small town.

Adam begins by showing how younger children see Halloween for the treats and the childish pranks. The children are out without parental supervision roaming the streets under the bright light of the evening moon. Without supervision the children are involved in some mischievous behavior such as the “topless outhouse towers toppled”(Wascana Poetry Anthology, 5) and running as if they were being chased by “dogs or wolves”(6). He displays the innocence of the children in this manor to allow the reader to relate back to personal childhood memories of Halloween night.

By displaying the innocence of the younger children, Adam is able to show the contradiction as the children grow up comparing it to the evil that grows as the night goes on. By displaying the “cigarettes and swearing”(), readers are able to understand that the children have aged and moved to a different stage in their life. Now too old for the childish pranks, those teenagers move on to a “richer devilry” (11). What used to be exhilarating is now a part of their past, there are many stories of past Halloween nights and new legends to be made. The teenagers discuss the stories of theft, drinking, sex and fighting and come to the agreement that they need to do something that people will talk about in years to come, create their own “news of achievement” (1). They decide that they will “blockade the main street” (17) with everything and anything they can gather up in the town. As they proceed down the roads of the town trying to collect “junk and debris” (18) for main street, we are also led into new parts in the story of this group of teenagers. We are introduced to two of the characters and the role that alcohol plays in the evening. The comforts of a downtown bank provide group with an indoor drinking spot as well as a place for Barry and jimmy’s girl to “mash and scramble together”( 6). After the short break, the group returns to “scour” () the town and create history. Although the blockade is hard work and everyone is tired, they all work together to create their legend in the middle of the street.

After finishing the blockade, the teenagers start to spread out and experience the evening in different ways. We are introduced to Pete and receive a clear image of his current situation when Adam describes him as “Indian drunk” (4). Pete steals a scarecrow, climbs the fence and begins to climb up the water tower defying the rules and legal boundaries set out before him. Once he reaches the top of the tower, he proceeds to hang the scarecrow, offering his soul to the night just as the stories from long ago. It is during this part of the poem that the comparison to the growing evil of the night and the evil within the teenagers is most prominent. As we continue to read, stories of the past that were spoken of earlier begin to become reality in the teenagers’ night. “All hell is broke loose” (4) as Jimmy confronts Barry about the encounter that took place with jimmy’s girl at the bank earlier in the evening. The worst event of evening, also involves Barry as he proceeds to hoot and shout while he rapes Jane and then disappears into the night. Throughout this poem there is plenty of information as to the events of the evening for this group, but as we near the end the mood becomes quite as the teenagers head for home and walk past “the outline of a hanged man” (47), to signify the legacy of the years to come.

As with the history of Halloween, this night for this group is also only one day of the year. Adam references the future in his statement of “the winter sometime nearer” (48), allowing readers to determine that there are still many days and many roads to travel for this group of teenagers. From the beginning to the end of this poem, Adam compares the innocence and evil of a Halloween night to the lives of these children in a way that readers can connect to their own lives. Although Halloween did not grow out of evil practices, we are able to connect the decisions and reality that the teenagers experience in their lives with the history and tales created from this holiday. The poem displays choices, some good and some bad, achievements, history and experiences according to one holiday night, but as with many poems, Adam enables the comparison of common practice to the stages of life development. Halloween night, just like life and growing up is only as evil as one cares to make it.

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