Guy Vanderhaeghe’s The Last Crossing is a Western of subtly crossed borders. Vanderhaeghe elicits a sense of blurred lines between opposites, giving the illusion that boundaries are not so statically fixed. The historical figure Jerry Potts illustrates that the division between Indigenous and white is not so easily distinguished by ways of appearances, languages, and relations. The lines of health and illness intertwine as the reader follows Addington’s syphilis, Custis’ mystery ailment, and the Indigenous peoples’ struggle with smallpox. Justice, punishment, and the law become subjective in the novel with regards to Madge’s death, Addington’s military massacre, and Indigenous resistance against unfair treatment. Distinctions between…show more content… His abilities with languages lead to his “[making] a living as an interpreter and guide” (105). In The Last Crossing Potts is used as a guide primarily, but his gift with languages bridges the gap between whites and Indigenous, as he is able to speak English to the Gaunt brothers. Without the understanding of language, the relationship between the Metis man and the English brothers would never have been established. PROOF COMMENT
Names create an identity, and Vanderhaeghe uses this convention to further confuse the division between Indigenous and white. Jerry Potts is also referred to as Ky-yo-kosi and Bear Child throughout the novel, mirroring his own inner conflict of being unsure of what he really is. He wants to be “a Blackfoot, a Real Person” (Vanderhaeghe 106) but he is most commonly called by his white name, reminding the reader of his positions on both sides. Another instance for confusion is when a Metis brother is referred to with his white and Indigenous name together in a sentence. “Unborn Calf…McKay’s pony” (330).
Health and illness do not have concrete characteristics in The Last Crossing. Addington’s battle against syphilis, Custis’ near-fatal ailment, and the Indigenouss’ constant fight with smallpox show that appearances are deceiving. Addington is battling with syphilis throughout the book and his health fluctuates between well and unwell. Addington’s health picks up from being “liverish and out of sorts, complexion poor, teeth