The poem Woodticks written by Joy Kogawa describes the Canadian citizens’ harassment towards the Japanese Canadians. It also enlightens the influence of the ill treatment of the Canadian Authorities that the poetess and her family went through during the World War II. The poem illustrates the racial and cultural discrimination with phrases, such as “ taunted gibberish”, “ crowded me off the path of the mountain” that are disturbing. The impact of the poem on the reader enforces him to think about the diverse aspects of the way people are interconnected to their fate and become accountable for the powerless and most susceptible associates of the social order.
The poet upon watching the behavior of the Canadian cyclist towards her daughter is forced into nostalgia. She thinks about the time when she was eight years old, the time of World War II when it was believed that the Japanese were enemies of Canada. The Canadian boys and their sisters were harassing her, so in order to escape from them she runs into the forest and gets lost. The figures of speech used in lines 1 “ his slanted Caucasian eyes”, in line 7 “ the ghost town of Slocan” shows the impact of the past on the poetess’s memory. The reader comes across an intense commiseration for the world of animals when reading the words “ taunted gibberish” (line 3). She feared that she would get wood ticks in her scalp which the doctor will have to cure with a warm needle. She was merely eight and was worried that she might slip and fall, get badly hurt and also the fear of being stung by insects was overcoming her. For instance the lines, “ fearing wood ticks which burrowed into your scalp beneath” (line 12-13), “ thick silence of streaming woods and cobwebs” (line 17-18) aids in providing a clear picture to the reader of the situation the child was in. The reader is touched by the poem and hence develops sympathies for the eight year old girl who upon being bullied by whites ends up getting lost in the forest.
The narrator tried to use their laughter to redirect herself back to the path she was walking on. Her intension was to remain unseen far behind them so that they will not bully her anymore. The words, “ faster than their laughter” in line 23, shows how adamant the poetess was to get away from the terrors of the world and reach the safety of her home. Sympathy for the Japanese stationed as citizens in Canada is evoked and how cultural differences changes the behaviors of others. Finally she finds her right path and sprints to reach her destination safe and sound and promises never to go to the mountain again. At the end she is brought back to the present by her daughter Deider who also has fears of the wood ticks and wants her mother to walk faster, though the poetess has told her before that there weren’t any wood ticks in Saskatoon where they were living now.
The poetess uses a skillful handling of narration in the poem with explicit characters, the mother who is the narrator and her eight year old daughter. She engages them in a particular action that is, walking and then coming across a teenager who taunts and levels cultural disgrace. The narrator reveals places such as ‘ Slocan’, B. C and Saskatoon’ to explain the context of the poem. The Asian and European exposures in the poem are the proceedings of the immigrants who have newly landed. It becomes obvious that Slocan is the place, which gives the narrator a dramatic reminder of her youth incidents. To sum up the poem is strongly coupled with dreadful recollections of horror and cultural discriminations to the point that they still haunt the poetess even though at present she is in Saskatoon, a place that is poles apart from Slocan.