The Marrow Thieves represents a survival story where the extraction of native people's
bone marrow happens. In the dystopian world, most lands are no longer habitable, and there are
torrential rains. Most of the individuals in the land have lost the ability to dream while half of the
population is dead. Since most people cannot dream, there is widespread madness, and only
native people can dream. Hence the Canadian Government extracts the native people's bone
marrow to steal the ability. Miigwans teach a group of youngsters, including French, about the
indigenous individuals' oppression (Dimaline 5). In addition, the youths learn to hunt to survive
in the wilderness. The group travels, and they lose others while recruiting new members in the
group. According to French, the group is looking for a safe place to reside “from where we were
now, running, looking at reality from this one point in time, it seemed as though the world had
suddenly gone mad.” French reunites with his father after an indigenous resistance group
captures them. French's father contributed significantly to there-establishment of the Native
Council. This paper aims at analyzing the themes of the book.
Trauma, identity, and pride are present in The Marrow Thieves through the indigenous
people. Frenchie and the youth are constantly reminded that their bodies are at risk. Hence
indigenous people must protect their bodies and minds from traumatic experiences. In the book,
Isaac and Miig were tricked by indigenous individuals in cahoots with the Canadian
Government. In this situation, Miig deals with two emotional traumas, first he had been betrayed
by his people and the pain of losing his only family member. As for Wab, she experienced sexual
abuse and physical violence while growing up. Her sense of pride and identity is taken away
from her and used as a tool to oppress her. In the novel, the scars that individuals had are a
reflection of the trauma they experienced. According to Dimaline, indigenous identity should be
an antidote to dehumanization and a source a pride. The traditional indigenous Hairstyles such
as Miig's Mohawk and Frenchie's long hair represent a sense of pride. Also, Mig has a tattoo on
the back of his hand that represents love, happiness, and culture. Minerva demonstrates her
identity and pride in her language by singing traditional songs to decimate oppressors. The novel
suggests that the pride and identity of indigenous people plays an important role in helping the
individuals stand up to the Government and bring an end to the harvest of the bone marrow.
Overall, through the novel, readers can recognize the importance of pride and identity and not
replicating the dehumanizing trauma that indigenous humans experienced.
Family and coming of age are present among the indigenous people in the novel. For
instance, Miig treats the individuals he travels with as a family. Also, Miig introduces the young
adults and children as his family. Most of the novel characters had lost their blood-related
families and often referred to their group members as family. However, Frenchie dreams of his
brother, Mitch, who sacrificed himself for Frenchie to survive “sometimes you risk everything
for a life worth living, even if you're not the one that'll be alive to see it.” While trying to
overwhelm his grief, Frenchie learns to embrace his group members as his chosen family.
Frenchie accepting his situation plays a crucial role in his maturation throughout the novel.
According to the book, a young person becomes an adult by fitting in with their families and
embracing the members. Most parents turn into protectors of their children because of the danger
that the indigenous people are exposed to. Frenchie's mum sank into depression after the dad
disappeared, while Wab feels abandoned as her mum was addicted to drugs such as cocaine and
alcohol. In the environment where most people were separated from their blood-families,
Frenchie clings to individuals who protect him and are loyal to him. Frenchie takes concrete
steps into adulthood through his mature feelings for Rose. He uses the feelings to adapt into the
protective role for his chosen family. Frenchie's crush on Rose proves that he can act like an
adult “How could I have fear when this girl would allow me this close? How could anything
matter but this small miracle of having someone I could love?” While Frenchie is getting into
adulthood, his relationship with his chosen family makes him integrate his past and future. In
general, the novel emphasizes the importance of chosen family and how it played a crucial role
for the youth to come to age.
Humans and nature is a theme that is evident in the novel. The people in the book are
often in conflict with one another. The disputes arose because of the negative impact of climate
change. In The Marrow Thieves, sea levels rose while the oil pipelines had poisoned numerous
freshwater sources. Earthquakes and warmer temperatures drastically changed the weather and
the landscape of the world. Hence the changes in the climate made it impossible for indigenous
people to dream. Non-indigenous people hunt for the bone marrow of the indigenous population
to regain their ability to dream. People who embrace and take care of the environment are best
suited to prepare for nature changes. The destruction of nature often contributes to a deeply
corrupted world. The Marrow Thieves illustrates how the climatic changes altered the lives of all
individuals. Apart from affecting their ability to dream, the changes turned people desperate and
ill. Most individuals depend on medical interventions to conceive and bear children. Wab grows
up in a city where the Government cut utilities such as food stores and cell service. Hence
individuals began to take up residence in the streets and hallways. All people suffer the
consequences of climate change. Overall, Indigenous people pay for the changes in nature with
their bodies and lives.
Another theme evident in The Marrow Thieves is indigenous oppression and language.
The majority of the people in the book have lost their ability to dream. Indigenous individuals
are kidnapped, and their bone marrow extracted. The fact that the oppression took place in
government facilities such as the residential schools represents the history of oppression.
Residential schools in Canada were started in 1876 to separate the indigenous children from their
families. In the schools, students were forbidden from practicing their spiritual beliefs and
speaking their languages. Hence students could not communicate with their families nor visit
them. Also, indigenous oppression is evident because people lived in fear of being hunted. Wab
is a victim of physical violence and sexual assault because she is an indigenous human. Meg uses
her language to sing traditional songs to decimate oppressors. Overall, indigenous oppression
and language are evident throughout the novel.
Some of the themes portrayed in the Marrow Thieves include trauma, identity and pride,
humans and nature, family and coming to age, and indigenous oppression and language.
Dimaline, Cherie. "The marrow thieves." Canadian Children's Book News 41.1