Julie of the Wolves
by Jean Craighead George
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
At times Thoughtful and Practical, At times Earnest and Idealistic.
Miyax is a thinker. When she tackles a problem, we can literally see the wheels turning in her brain, and the tone in the novel helps reinforce this quality. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
After her first day observing the wolves, as she's getting ready for bed, the narrator tells us, "In this cozy micro-world she forgot her hunger and recalled what she already knew about wolves so that she could put it together with what she had observed" (1.91). Here we see Miyax making connections, putting two-and-two together in her head.
She reflects on her day, and on her previous knowledge, in order to come up with a good plan of action. Words like "recalled," "put it together" and "observed" help us understand that our Miyax is a bit of a scientist. She gathers data and then makes a decision. When you think about it, for a young girl, it's actually quite impressive.
We see this quality again, a bit later, when she's faces yet another day without food from the wolves: "Miyax knew when to stop dreaming and be practical" (1.97). And in many other places in the novel, we see this thoughtful, practical voice take over. The tone helps make one thing perfectly clear to us readers: when it comes to surviving, our girl knows how to get it done.
But for all Miyax's practicality, she's also quite the dreamer. She has idealized the world around her, which we see time and again in passages like this one: "She thought of Amaroq and tears welled in her eyes but did not fall, for she was also thinking about Kapugen. She must find him. He would save the wolves just as he had saved the people of Kangik" (3.217).
In this moment, Kapugen represents all that is good to Miyax, and the repeated use of the word "would" shows just how much she believes in her father. She's confident that he'll be exactly the man she expects him to be. Of course, her only basis for this belief is her experience with the man she knew at the seal camp. But many years have passed since then, and Kapugen may well have changed.
Miyax can't even imagine that; she's too busy imagining a perfect life with Kapugen, in which "they would live as they were meant to live – with the cold and the birds and the beasts" (3.229). It's hard to fault Miyax too much for this hopeful idealism, though. She's such a loving, passionate character, and we totally understand where she's coming from. After all, when she was a child, Kapugen was a traditional Eskimo, and he would have helped her save the wolves.
Unfortunately, all this idealism comes crashing down in the course of a few pages, as Miyax discovers her father is no longer the man she thought he was. He's a modern version, complete with a radio, stove, and an airplane from which he shoots wolves. This awakening brings back the more practical, matter-of-fact side of our heroine:
The hour of the wolf and the Eskimo is over.
Julie pointed her boots toward Kapugen. (3.263-264)
Honestly though, while we admire Julie for facing facts, this moment is mostly sad. She's lost something important to her – the traditional Eskimo life. Will we ever see the idealistic Miyax again? Or is will she be practical Julie forever?