The Custom

This study guide will help you analyse the short story “The Custom” by Charlie Patsauq which can be found in the textbook Targets, pp. 217-218. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Custom” (1974)
Author: Charlie Patsauq
Genre: Short story

Charlie Patsauq is an Inuit from Canada. He wrote the short story “The Custom” while in high school.


You can read a short excerpt from our study guide below:


The title of the short story “The Custom” by Charlie Patsauq is straightforward, indicating that the story will deal with a custom, or a traditional way of doing something.

The story focuses on an Inuit family – an old man (the father) and his two sons. The old man is waiting for his sons to decide whether or not he will be left behind when their village moves on in search for food.

The title of the story is explained in a straightforward manner - in Inuit culture (the author uses the term “Eskimo” (p. 217, l.3), but this is seen today as an inaccurate and even derogatory term), it was customary in times of famine to leave old people behind when they could no longer contribute to the community: “He knew there were many reasons for him to be abandoned when the village moved as was the custom when old people became useless” (p. 217, ll. 6-8). 

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The Custom

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