Mischief Revealed A Novel Study on Alistair MacLeod's No Great Mischief By Alison Friedt

Essay by miata101High School, 12th grade December 2004

download word file, 3 pages 3.2

Alistair MacLeod's first novel, No Great Mischief, is a powerful, intricate piece of Canadian literature which the author more than ten years to complete. MacLeod's well-defined structure and clear writing style carefully weave together the memories of the MacDonald family through the narration of Alexander MacDonald, our protagonist.

A middle-aged Alexander examines the past of his immediate family and ancestry, dating back to 1779 when his great-great-great grandfather Calum moved his large family from the Scottish Highlands to settle in Cape Breton. There he became known, in Gaelic, as the 'Calum Ruadh', patriarch of the Cape Breton clan MacDonald.

The story is set in the mid-'80s as Alexander, an orthodontist whose occupation has given him a comfortable life in Ontario away from Cape Breton, travels every weekend down the 401 to visit his eldest brother, Calum Ruadh's namesake, now a suffering alcoholic living in a rooming house in downtown Toronto.

MacLeod's description of the highway linking the two men -- "It will be true to you if you are true to it and you will never, never, ever become lost,'' -- emphasizes the relationship of the two brothers. The highway is the modern connection between the two, whose lives went separate ways after their parents and one brother died. This tragedy occurred when Alexander and his twin sister Catriona were a mere three years of age and Calum was just sixteen.

The twins are raised by their paternal grandparents, whose delightful, warm hearted personalities and relationship add comedy and lightheartedness to the novel. In one specific part of the story, Grandma decorates her boozy, sleeping husband with Christmas ornaments after he comes home too late to put up the tree. Grandpa is a man "buoyed up by his own good spirits," and Grandma a woman who believes "you...