The Strength and Will: In Search of April Raintree
Throughout April’s life, she experiences events that touch on matters of dishonesty, sexual assault, child abuse, self-approval, racism, separation and relationships. This adversity causes affliction; and through this affliction, does April not only break down and fall apart, but also adapt, overcome, and recuperate through time; building herself as a character. Resiliency is not only present in the novel but is the backbone of the character development and search of April Raintree.
In Search of April Raintree is about the life story about two sisters, dealing with tragic and devastating events that slowly separate their connection and bond as family. These events break them down as people but bring them back stronger as characters, guiding them towards an identity. At the beginning of the book, April foreshadows the tragic events she is about to talk about in her life story. “Memories. Some memories are elusive, fleeting, like a butterfly that touches down and is free until it is caught. Others are haunting. You’d rather forget them, but they won’t be forgotten. And some are always there. No matter where you are, they are there, too. I always felt most of my memories were better avoided, but now I think it’s best to go back in life before I go forward.” (Mosionier 9). The following events deal with aspects of her family, relationships, and identity. For her to grow from her adversities, she goes back into life, confronting and revisiting her past to move forward and become stronger mentally. “In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.” (Albert Bandura).
To find where resiliency is present in the novel, we must explore the adversities April has dealt with. The first event that guides April into a spiral of anguish is the separation between April and her parents. “We have to take you and Cheryl with us. Maybe if your Mommy and Daddy get well enough, you can come live with them again.” – Mrs. Grey (Mosionier 15). Before April would leave, she relentlessly clung to her mother as tears ran down her face, trying to stay with her mother. This is April’s first experience of hopelessness, as anything she attempted wouldn’t allow her to stay. This theme of despair is found frequently throughout the novel. When April lived with the DeRosiers, she felt no hope of ever being saved. This is one of the many times April builds a new instinct, a new sort of resiliency and power in taking action. April knew that she must take action to ever escape the abusive household. She learns that when adversities are present, she is compelled to take action. A story April wrote motivated Mrs. Wartzman to call social services and if social services weren’t going to save her, she was going to run away during the summer. While living with the DeRosiers, April adapts and learns to restrain her emotions. This has effectively protected her from the DeRosiers but also makes it difficult for others like Cheryl to understand what she’s feeling. “April, how come you didn’t seem very glad to see me?” “I was Cheryl, really. It’s just that I’m used to keeping the way I feel inside of me… It just seems it’s safer not to show your feelings.” (Mosionier 89). Resiliency changes the sister Cheryl loves but protects April from the people that have hurt her.
The second half of the novel starts slow but quickly turns into a dark and grim time for April. Jerry Mcallister was April’s boyfriend until she discovers he’s married. Her first marriage quickly ends in a divorce after April finds out her husband Bob had an affair. Like another layer of protection, April becomes extremely careful with the men she interacts with. This pattern of changing and adapting is shown repeatedly. However, the next devastating event kills the soul of April Raintree. April gets a phone call from the Health and Sciences Centre, informing her that Cheryl is in the Hospital. After talking to Cheryl about what happened, April is asked to pick up Cheryl’s belongings. She arrives at the front fence, is approached by a group of men who grab her and ruthlessly rape her. This rape mentally destroys and traumatizes her. “I had to get rid of that awful smell on me. I could smell it as if they were in the same room as me. Their dirty, stinking bodies. I had to get rid of that feeling, too.” (Mosionier 149) This ritual bath repeatedly. The dirty stinking bodies are the images, the trauma, the soul-crushing thoughts she can’t get out of her head. But even in an event like this, resiliency is still present. Roger and April had a heated discussion about the rape and how April could recover from it. Although she was first upset about what he said, she found some truth to what he was trying to convey. “From what I understand, you’re keeping what you feel inside of you alive. You’re not even trying to let go. Now that the trial is over, let it go, April. Let time do its healing. The big tragedy now is not that you’ve been raped. It’s that you refuse to let yourself heal.”
Resiliency, the ability to recover quickly and successfully adapt to
adversity is clearly present in the novel. The separation, abusive foster, homes, backstabbing relationships, and rape have all knocked April down. But she rises back up, adapting to the adversities and misfortune in her life. There are plenty of times in the novel where it was very difficult not to end it all for herself. Hopeless times with nothing to live for, yet she still pushes. It’s not quite clear why she kept going, but I believe it was to prove something to herself, to forbid herself from ever becoming what her parents were. “The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun.; It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.” (Napoleon Hill).
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