In the short story Borders by Thomas King, Mel, the man who
works at the Duty-Free store, states that the mother is “an inspiration to us
all”. This depiction of the mother as an inspiration is accurate considering
that throughout the story, she sets an example of how one can stand by their
identity. The mother does not compromise on her principles. Through her
strength and perseverance, she is able to defend her identity as well as obtain
justice at the border.
At first, the mother demonstrates to her son the need to
be contented in his own country and not get so easily pleased by invitations to
visit America. “Most of the postcards said we should come down and see the
city, but whenever I mentioned this, my mother would stiffen up” (King 133).
That she later agrees to visit her daughter illustrates that she is not
entirely objected to the idea of visiting her. Rather, she is sending a message
to her son that home is their priority. Even as they get ready to travel beyond
the border, the mother wants them to maintain their identity “I had to dress
up, too, for my mother did not want us crossing the border looking like
Americans” (Kings 133). At this point, the son realizes that his mother greatly
values their identity and is therefore, compelled to dress up accordingly.
The mother also vehemently defends her identity at the
border. As they attempt to cross the border, she is asked to reveal her citizenship
and she says Blackfoot. This answer is unacceptable to the immigration officer
since she has to be either American or Canadian. The son thinks that her mother
ought to just say she is Canadian and get it over with “It would have been
easier if my mother had just said “Canadian” and been done with it..”
(King 135). The mother is determined to stick to her identity and is not willing
to be profiled on the basis of borders. Even when the guards insist that she
chose either side of the border, the mother sticks to the “Blackfoot
side,” (King 136).
The mother demonstrates her perseverance by consistently
returning to the border even after being turned away repeatedly. Her son is now
aware of her mother’s principles and can even predict her response “I knew
exactly what my mother was going to say, and I could have told them if they had
asked me” (King 136). Although he understands his mother’s principled nature,
the son ends up saying they are Canadian. However, he is considered a minor and as a
result, the immigration officers cannot listen to him. Even after being told
that they would not be allowed to cross the border unless they reveal
citizenship, the mother didn’t compromise her principles and so they “got back
in the car and drove to the Canadian border” (King 137)
The mother also exemplifies strength throughout their
ordeal at the border. Despite the fruitless efforts the mother makes to cross
the border, she remains focused on crossing the border. At some point, her son
thinks that her mother has given up on the journey. But to his surprise, she
heads for the American border “I thought we were going home, but she turned the
car around and drove back towards the American border” (King 140). The boy is
very much pleased by her mother’s strength in pursuing what she thinks is right.
He refers to this determination as pride and considers it good as well as desires
to have it sometime “pride is a good thing to have, you know. Laetitia had a
lot of pride, and so did my mother. I figured that someday, I’d have it, too”
(Kings, 140). Even after wandering
around the duty free store, going through the rejection routine at the American
and Canadian border, and sleeping uncomfortably in the car, the mother’s
determination does not subside “The second night in the car was not as much fun
as the first, but my mother seemed in good spirits…” (King 141).
The mother is eventually able to get justice at the
border after standing her ground. She visits her daughter at the Salt Lake City
and other places as well. It is on their way back home that they encounter Mel
again. Mel had earlier told them that “justice is a damn hard thing to get, but
that we shouldn’t give up” (King 143). Therefore, when Mel saw that they had
succeeded in traveling through the border, he felt that the mother was an
inspiration to them all since she neither compromises on her principles nor gives
up on finding justice. Additionally, the mother had inspired the children to
stand by their identity as well as be proud of where they come from. Her
children later realize that their home and identity is what is best for them. After
having all the fun he had wished for at the Salt Lake City, the boy feels bored
and is happy to return home “After a week or so, I got bored and wasn’t all sad
when my mother said we should be heading back home” (King 144). In the same
way, after a discussion with her mother “Laetitia said she was thinking about
moving back” (Kings, 144).
In conclusion, the mother portrays herself as a strong
and uncompromising person when defending her identity and seeking justice. She
appropriately and successfully demonstrates to her children, along with others
like Mel, the need to stick to one’s identity and not be defined by borders.
Therefore, she is an inspiration to individuals desiring to maintain their
identity or pursue justice.