Hugh Garner was a Canadian novelist. He was born in 1913 in England, but he moved to Canada at the age of six, where he grew up in a poor neighbourhood in Toronto. His short stories and novels are inspired by his life experiences, among others his travels across the USA and Canada looking for jobs, and his time in the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Garner’s background is the foundation for his writing and he is well known for his illustrations of the working-class. Cabbagetown is the best-known example of his style.
Cecil, a young college graduate, finds himself in a lumber camp in British Columbia, Canada, trying to make some money for his second year at University. His childhood has been filled with a certain degree of trouble and misery, as he has been forced to move from foster home to foster home. Despite this, thanks to hard work and determination, he is on good way to getting himself a dissent education.
A relationship based on hate soon develops between Cecil and one of the saw bosses, Moose Maddon, who spends all his time trying to make Cecil break down and flee with his tail between his legs. Jealousy is most likely the reason for Moose’s dislike and hate towards Cecil, because Cecil has achieved so much more than Moose himself, both education vice and because of Cecil’s handiness. It even goes as far as to Moose trying to physically hurt Cecil, who has trouble understanding why Moose pick on him like he does. Fortunately Cecil feels support from most of the workers and particularly from a man named Mr. Anderson or Pop, who helps Cecil keep is head held high.
One morning Moose’s lifeless body is found at the bottom of a deep ravine outside the camp, but the death is soon declared to have been an accident. However, Mr. Anderson later notices burn marks in the bark of two small trees that faces each other diagonally across the ravine, which might have been made by wire loops. A wire stretch between the two trees would easily have thrown a man head-first down into the ravine. A thought slowly dawns on Mr. Anderson; what if he might be wearing the evidence of a murder as a wristwatch strap, which Cecil made of his last piece of wire before he left?
The plot takes place in the 16th or 17th century, which is suggested by the use of planes, in a logging camp in the vest of Canada, more precisely in British Columbia. Mainly, the workers’ lives are described with Cecil, Moose and Mr. Anderson in the foreground. Based on the fact that the workers on several occasions sit outside the bunkhouses in the evenings, it is fear to believe that the story did not take place at wintertime. The camp is located on a riverbank, because the narrator, on more than one occasion, refers to the river; for example, “…I was walking along the river having an after-supper pipe…”. It is also indicated that the camp is situated in an area with a number of other camps close by, when Moose leaves to drink and play poker in Camp Three, presumably by foot, because he has to travel through the woods.
The title “The Moose and the Sparrow” is a word play which is meant to illustrate the contrast between Moose and Cecil. A moose, which is a big and proud animal, represent strength and greatness, while a sparrow, which is a tiny and fragile bird, represents both vulnerability and endurance.
The short story has three main characters; Cecil, Moose Maddon and Anderson.
Cecil is a young man, who is struggling to earn enough money for his second year at University. He seems to be quite small of growth and rather vulnerable, which might be a result of his childhood, in which he was forced to move from foster home to foster home. This has probably left a great deal of scares on him. Despite this he has a strong and determent side, which has helped him finish college and to continue his education at University.
Cecil has a gift for making things with his hands, especially with wire, and is more than willing to make things for others without payment, which shows that he is a giving and caring person. On the other hand, the weeks he has spent at the logging camp has made him easily frightened.
Moose works as a saw boss at the camp. He seems hostile towards people he sees as more successful and smarter than himself, and he can not deal with the fact that someone is better than him. He is aggressive and violent, and seems to have problems controlling his anger. The stereotype of this kind of people suggests that he is a large and muscular man. He speaks with a condescending voice towards Cecil, and his dislike shines through in his every words. Moose has an unnatural need to take his jealousy out on Cecil, for example by giving him jobs much too hard for anyone.
Mr. Anderson plays the part of the narrator in this short story, and mostly watches the conflict from the sideline. He seems to be a sympathetic and helpful person, who takes Cecil under his wing and tries to protect him the best that he can. He is portrayed as a middle-aged man who smokes the pipe; to who’s appearance few details are given. He appears to have a certain authority in the camp, either because of his position or because of the time he has spent there.
To determine the theme of the short story, it is necessary to assume that Cecil did kill Moose. The author presumably wants to make people aware of the fact that even though a person might seem weak and vulnerable from the outside; she or he can be capable of doing the most extraordinary things. No one could have foreseen or predicted that Cecil would go so far as to physically hurt Moose, because he seemed to be quite inexperienced and dependent on others. Another aspect of the short story is the reality that most people is not aware that their actions towards others might effect and harm themselves in the future, either if the offended party wants revenge, or if people around the offending party freezes them out or tries to punish them.
I, personally, liked the short story a lot and I feel that it was written in a clear and well formed way, which made it easy to understand and grasp. The language was plain and straightforward, even though it did contain some slang which could be a bit harder to understand. In addition, I think the theme or fact which the author addresses is important, because it is essential not to prejudge others and to think less of them than of any other.