Indian Horse

Indian Horse Irony

Naomi Brings Saul to Minaki (Situational Irony)

Throughout Indian Horse, Naomi represents an unbroken relationship to the past and the importance of carrying on tradition. Yet after Saul’s family leaves him alone with her at Gods Lake, she is forced to take him out of the bush, to the small town of Minaki, in the hope that they will find shelter with his family. Tragically, she dies, and Saul is taken by the government and forced into St. Jerome’s. This is a heartbreaking example of situational irony in the novel, as Naomi’s attempts to shelter Saul from his parents’ Christianity, and pass on Ojibway tradition, still end with her grandson forced into a church-led residential school.

Father Leboutilier (Situational Irony)

For most of Indian Horse, Father Leboutilier is set up as a savior figure, who rescues Saul from some of the violence of St. Jerome’s by introducing him to hockey. The reader thus expects hockey to save Saul, and for Father Leboutilier to remain as a positive figure in Saul’s past—the first step on his path to happiness. Instead, at the end of the novel, Saul realizes that Father Leboutilier was exploiting their closeness to sexually abuse him. This defies the reader’s expectations and forces us to reconsider not just the priest’s character, but his relationship to St. Jerome’s and the problems with the way he “rescues” Saul.

Playing White Tournaments (Dramatic Irony)

When the Moose begin playing against white teams, Saul is immediately put off by the newly competitive atmosphere and the hostility of the fans. His teammates, however, are totally focused on winning and proving themselves. Their single-minded focus, and lack of experience playing hockey against white teams, prevents them from seeing that their experience of the game is gradually being eroded. This is an example of dramatic irony, as the reader sees the reality of what is happening, while the players on the Moose are largely oblivious.

Banter with Virgil (Verbal Irony)

When Saul reunites with Virgil at the end of the novel, his friend jokes, “Well, you’d know. Your whole career was spent on your back” (Chapter 54). While his words seem like an insult if interpreted literally, his joking tone indicates that he’s not being serious. In fact, just a few pages later he tells Saul that to this day he’s a legendary player in Manitouwadge. His use of verbal irony, saying the opposite of what he really thinks, indicates his closeness to Saul, because they trust each other enough to joke and tease, knowing they will still understand each other.