When one is surrounded by constant incredulity from the people in their life it can lead to a lack of conviction and self-doubt. In the novel Monkey Beach, Eden Robinson develops the theme of loss of native culture through the struggles Lisamarie faces with the normalcy of her spiritual gifts because of colonialism from residential schools on Haisla culture. This is evident through her family seeing her gifts as an illness, her reluctance to share for fear of being stigmatized, and her continual self-doubt of her gifts which endangers herself and others.
First, Lisa is surrounded by individuals that see her spirituality as a mental illness because of colonialism and assimilation of residential schools on Haisla culture. The first individual that takes her spirituality wrongly is her mother. Lisa tries to tell her mother about her experience with the crows, “‘Did you hear the crows earlier?’ I say. When she doesn’t answer, I find myself babbling. ‘They were talking to me. They said la’es. It’s probably-’ ‘Clearly a sign, Lisa,’ my mother has come up behind me and grips my shoulders, ‘that you need Prozac’” (Robinson 3).
Lisa’s mother took this lightly, she saw her daughter’s experience as nothing but a mental illness. This made Lisa feel abnormal and confused as to why she was having this experience because her mother was clearly denying it. This is due to colonialism from residential schools, the loss of Haisla culture, and being assimilated into western culture makes her mother deny the spirituality aspect and interpret it as a mental illness.
Secondly, Lisa’s parents take her to the hospital because she was sleepwalking and talking about seeing ghosts. They think something is wrong with her. They think she has a mental illness and fail to realize her spirituality. “In cautious, practised calm, they told me I had an appointment at the hospital. Everything I told the shrink, they assured me, would be in complete confidence” (272).
At the hospital, Lisa lied to the therapist about her experiences. Instead of telling her what was actually going on, she told her what she wanted to hear because she knew what she was experiencing was not normal. The therapist said, “I think this was a very good session. I’m sure with a little work, you’ll be back to normal in no time”(274).
The difference in views is quite evident in what the therapist had just said. The therapist had implied a western view that robs Lisa of her spirituality, making her seem mental and robs her of her identity. In contrast, the Haisla view would be that all individuals have great potential for power. Colonialism is evident here because of the loss of Haisla culture due to western supremacy. Therefore, the individuals in Lisa’s life are blind to the realization of her spiritual power due to being assimilated into the western culture because of colonialism from residential schools. They lack knowledge of culture, so they cannot help in guiding Lisa through her spirituality but instead mistake it as a mental illness.
Secondly, due to the colonialism and assimilation of residential schools, Lisa is reluctant to share her gifts with others for fear of being stigmatized. To start Lisa does not feel comfortable sharing her experiences because she feels like what she is experiencing is not normal. “I was getting ready for school that night, Mom asked me what I did and I told her about everything except Ma-ma-oo and the Octopus Beds. I was uncomfortable sharing it with her. It felt like it was something private” (80). Lisa feels as if her spirituality is not something she is comfortable sharing with her mom.
She feels like she is going to be judged or taken the wrong way if she told her about talking to Baba-oo’s spirit at the beach. This reinforces Lisamarie’s understanding of how her mother negatively views her gifts as an illness which is due to the loss of culture from being assimilated into western culture due to the impact of residential schools. Furthermore, Lisa is finding herself in a confused state of mind when dealing with her spirituality. “Childhood ends and you grow up and all your imaginary friends disappear.” (132).
Lisa is very confused as to why she is still having these experiences. Usually, as kids grow older and start to mature they lose their tendencies of having certain experiences. In Lisa’s case, she continues to have them; she continues to see the little man, she is not sure what this means. She feels stigmatized as she feels she does fit into the norm like every other kid. Therefore, due to the colonialism and assimilation of residential schools, Lisa is reluctant to share her gifts with others because she feels like she does not fit the assimilated westernized norm this is due to evident colonialism from residential schools.
Lastly, Lisa finds herself continuously in situations where she is doubting her spirituality; this is due to being raised in a family where they do not practise a lot of their culture due to being assimilated into the western culture. At first, Lisa is hesitant to believe in her spirituality “Doubt began to set in: it had happened so fast and had been so brief, I wondered if I’d just imagined the whole thing.”(14).
Lisa is confused and doubting her visions she feels as if she is just imagining the whole thing. This is from the loss of culture in her lifestyle; spirituality was not talked about. Lisa was never exposed to such knowledge it felt very abnormal so her first instinct was self-doubt. Next, Lisa finds herself in another situation of self-doubt when dealing with her spirituality. ‘Bring us meat the first voice whispered. And we’ll hurt him, It’s your overactive imagination. I told myself. No ones in the trees. You are alone” (262).
Lisa is doubting her spirituality yet again she knows that what she is experiencing is not normal. he feels isolated and alone as she does know what to do or who to talk to because of the fear of denial from individuals due to assimilation and loss of culture. In closing, Lisa constantly doubts herself.
In conclusion, in the novel Monkey Beach, Eden Robinson develops the theme of loss of native culture through the struggles Lisamarie faces with the normalcy of her spiritual gifts due to the effect of colonialism from residential schools on Haisla culture. This is seen through her family seeing her gifts as an illness, her reluctance to share for fear of being stigmatized and the continual self-doubt of her gifts which endangers herself and others. Overall, it is important for one to explore and embrace their self-identity and not rely on predominant ideologies made in place by influences in their life.