Crabbe: Important quotes with page numbers
1. “Like most grown-ups, he thinks teenagers are basically stupid and easily manipulated. He thinks he can find feeling with an x-ray machine. People my age may not know how to juggle the books or play politics, but feelings we know about. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 1,”Page 11) While this quote is Crabbe’s perspective on his psychiatrist, it is also a general statement of his belief that adults in positions of authority fail to understand young people. It is this attitude that makes so much of education ineffective.
2. “There are some experiences you want to share with someone, as if the experience is somehow incomplete until you include the other person and its existence. But sometimes something happens that’s so special, so much a part of what you are, you want to kind of save it, at least for a while. And maybe forever… [b]ut if you save it in your head, the memories get newer memories piled on top of them, like old furniture in a dark attic, until you can’t find the originals anymore. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 1,”Page 18)
This quote provides the rationale for the journal form Crabbe chooses to tell his story and highlights the importance of language to making sense of human experience.
3. “But deep down I’m glad I did what I did. I’m glad because it’s the one intelligent, independent, creative thing I’ve done in my life, and the one thing I’ve done for me. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 2,”Page 19) This quote explains Crabbe’s motivation for running away: his desire for autonomy and recognition as an adult.
4. “Words are too easy to ignore, misunderstand, or twist around. Sometimes you have to act and sometimes so dramatically that people are stunned, stopped in their tracks. I don’t say I escaped for only one reason, or that it was all revenge. I was sick of my life and already sick of the future that everybody had planned for me but nobody bothered to consult me about. I wanted to be free, to opt out of the plan. But, like the runner, I wanted to do something that would symbolize what I thought and how I felt. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 2,”Page 19) This quote introduces an important theme in the novel, the contrast between words and actions.
Crabbe has a deep distrust of language at the start of the novel and so feels that he must act to make the adults in his life understand his desire for autonomy.
5. “A lot of people would say I had a drinking problem. I’d have denied that. People only have a problem if they can’t get what they want. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 4,”Page 29) This quote supports the idea that at the start of the novel Crabbe had a lack of insight into the true dimensions of his alcoholism. This misunderstanding is the result of his privileged life in Toronto, one in which having everything one would like is the measure of how good one’s life is.
6. “But the system protects its own. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 4,”Page 31) In this quote, Crabbe articulates his contempt for the values embraced by his family and the adults in positions of authority in his life. Throughout the novel, Crabbe is forced to move beyond rejecting those values—especially the emphasis on maintaining the status quo—and coming up with values of his own, such as living a life of significance by making choices for himself.
7. “One thing I learned pretty quickly at high school was that it doesn’t pay to be honest, to be yourself. ” (“Digression,”Page 34) Crabbe’s life as a teenager in Toronto is one that is shaped by the pressure to conform; this pressure comes from both adults and peers, and it is one that Crabbe can reject definitively only because of his time in the wilderness.
8. “But if you do think about it, school is stupid and ass-backward anyway. The people who know the answers ask the questions. And the people who don’t know the answers answer the questions! ” (“Digression,”Page 36) In this quote, Crabbe critiques conventional education as ineffective. Unlike the education he gains from Mary, conventional education does not provide opportunities for authentic learning. Instead, education enforces group thinking that conforms to the values of adults.
9. “The thing with teaching people to think is that you never know where they’ll end up. ” (“Digression,”Page 39) Crabbe recognizes the value of the one teacher, Mr. Peters, who forced him to use critical thinking skills and reject rote learning. The lesson Mr. Peters teaches Crabbe is one of Crabbe’s motivations for running away, and becomes one of the foundations of Crabbe’s adult identity.
10. “But here I noticed the millions of tiny currents that streaked the surface of the dark water. The far shore was a soft, dark gray line.
Shreds of clouds changed shape quickly, moving across the summer sky. Water, land and sky were blended together, unified by the hiss of the rain… [i]magine. I thought all these thoughts as I sat like a skinny, aching buddha in my little orange cave. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal 8,”Page 60) Nature—specifically the Canadian wilderness—is an important part of the setting and has a significant impact on the development of Crabbe’s character. This scene is the first moment in which Crabbe has the chance to contemplate nature. The encounter gives him a sense of peace and contrasts sharply with his anxiety-inducing life in Toronto.
Crabbe’s self-description of himself as a “buddha,” with its hint of mockery, represents his dawning recognition of what time in the wilderness could mean but also his initial discomfort with the notion.
11. “At last I sat naked at the edge of a lake, like a newborn baby–weak, scared and dirty. After a few minutes I stood and shakily waded into the cold, numbing water. I washed myself clean of my own filth, sweat and fear. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 9,”Page 63) This scene also reinforces the theme of the importance of the relationship between humanity and nature.
Crabbe’s encounter with nature is represented here as rebirth and takes place specifically when he cleans himself up after soiling himself during the bear attack.
12. “But the thing about someone who is escaping is this: he’s more concerned about what he’s leaving than what he’s going to. I was lost from the time I left Ithaca Camp. And what was worse, I did not know I was lost. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 9,”Page 68) A crucial element of the point-of-view and structure of the narrative is that Crabbe tells his story in retrospect. The Crabbe making this point is one who is much older and wiser than the Crabbe in that specific moment. This layering of perspectives is a key way that the author shows the maturation of the narrator.
13. “Layer by layer I was being stripped away: the ordeal with the bear; the waterfall; by breaking down tonight and admitting what I never before admitted to anyone, including myself. What would happen, I wondered, when the last layer was peeled off? What would be left? ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 11,”Page 93) This quote references important experiences Crabbe has with both nature and Mary in the wilderness, and his recognition that his identity is being reshaped by these encounters.
14. “Growing up in the city, I had a very idealistic attitude toward old Ma Nature, like: the wilderness is a beautiful, peaceful place, populated with cute little birds and noble animals. Well, that’s bunk. So is the opposite notion, that Nature is a monster-mother full of traps and vicious violence. The truth is, nature is just there. All those cute little beings survive by eating each other. On the other hand, you don’t need to think of the wilderness as a horrible threat waiting to gobble you up either. It’s the way it is and that’s that.
You can’t change it by wishful thinking or complaining. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 12,”Page 94) Crabbe contrasts his idealized notion of nature before his time in the wilderness and his more realistic perspective on nature after his time in the wilderness. Nature as a force that is indifferent to humanity is an important theme of the novel.
15. “You aren’t in control like you are in the city. You work with the environment not against it. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 12,”Page 95) A sign of Crabbe’s growing maturity is the way his values change in the wilderness. This quote represents his understanding that mindfulness of one’s actions is crucial to survival.
16. “How my life was symbolized by a mental picture I carry around in my head…a teenager alone in his room, staring into the T. V. screen, hating whatever program is on, sipping on vodka, waiting for sleep… [a]nd how it was mostly my fault. Oh, I like to blame them, blame them all. But it was me. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 12,”Page 100) This image captures Crabbe’s growing recognition that the difficulties of his life in Toronto were in large part his own fault, an epiphany that indicates his maturation.
17. “The carving was all very symbolic. The circle, she said was something called a yin-yang symbol. It expressed a certain basic philosophy of life and existence that emphasized the unity of life and the harmony of inner peace. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 13,”Page 107) Crabbe describes an important symbol: the pipe Mary gave him. The markings on the pipe, especially the yin-yang symbol, reflect Crabbe’s effort to achieve peace for himself, and Mary’s efforts to help him gain that crucial, adult skill.
18. “I grabbed a little self-respect out of those days too. I was in good shape for the first time ever. I could walk at a good pace all day through the bush. The canoe no longer bullied me on a portage; I flipped it onto my shoulders just like they do in the movies and shuffled along, one arm dangling, the other balancing the craft. I was strong. My limbs felt light and supple. I ate like a starved army. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 14,”Page 109) Crabbe articulates the impact of his time in the wilderness with Mary. His relationship with Mary and the physical effort to survive strengthen him physically and mentally.
19. “Life isn’t fair. It isn’t even logical. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 18,”Page 144) Crabbe describes this saying as a favorite of Mary’s. Many events in the novel, including the encounter with the black bear, the injury that hurts Mary’s husband, and Mary’s death, are seemingly random ones. Crabbe’s acceptance of this belief enables him to accept greater responsibility for his own life.
20. “‘Waiting around for somebody to change your life for you is a loser’s game… I think a person reaches maturity when he strikes the last name off the blame list…[a] life without fairness is always worth living; a life without significance isn’t. ’” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 18,”Pages 145-146)
This quote is one of several in which Mary offers Crabbe important ideas about assuming responsibility for his own life and the importance of action. His internalization of this belief is an important marker of a shift in his values and his recognition of just how much autonomy he has. Reflecting on what Mary said is also how he figures out that she was likely in the wilderness to avoid being jailed for killing her husband.
21. “That was the difference between her and my parents (and the other adults I had known). Mary would teach me anything—cooking over a fire, where to find dry wood in a rainstorm, how not to get lost—but somehow she always made it clear that the reason she taught me was so I wouldn’t need her around all the time. My parents were the opposite, always trying to make me dependent so they could control me. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 19,”Page 157) In this quote, Crabbe’s reflection on the nature of his relationship with adults zeroes in on the importance of adults educating young people with an eye towards independence and autonomy, important themes in the novel.
22. “Well, I figured I was ready to begin to live my life. I was healthy, strong, reasonably smart, and young. The fact that I didn’t have a clue what I’d do with my life didn’t bother me at all. One step at a time. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 19,”Page 157) This quote indicates how much Crabbe has changed over the course of the novel. Crabbe’s perception of himself as a person who has all that he needs to be capable of success contrasts with his perception of himself at the start of the novel, when he sees himself as a person struggling to define himself against the adults around him.
23. “To most people, if things don’t fit their mental framework there must be something wrong with the things. Everything that doesn’t conform is strange or crazy or ‘sick. ’” (“Digression,”Page 175) The conflict between the forces of conformity—embodied by teachers, students, and Crabbe’s parents—and the individual desire for conformityis one to which Crabbe returns frequently and persistently. In this chapter, he connects the emphasis on conformity in school to that same emphasis in the hospital and rejects it there as well.
24. “But as I saw them looking so isolated standing together in the middle of that room, my father with his arm around my mother’s thin shoulders, staring out the window, they became, suddenly, people to me—people getting older, looking worn and beaten down at this moment. ” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 22,”Page 179) In this pivotal moment, Crabbe expresses empathy for his parents for the first time. His ability to see them as human beings with flaws and their own needs is a measure of both how much his relationship with them has changed and his own maturity.
25. “‘You see, young man, it’s like you were a seed and there’s new life inside the shell, and it has to break the shell to get out. And when the shell splits from the force, well, that’s a confusing and hurtful time. It’s different for all of us, but we must all break free. ’” (“Crabbe’s Journal: 22,”Page 182) Nurse Owens’s firm hand helps Crabbe to apply Mary’s life lessons back home, without falling into his old habit of avoiding hard conversations; he must be accountable for his own actions. The metaphor of the seed breaking through the shell emphasizes the theme of the quest for identity, an important one in the novel.