The old man

In Charlie Patsauq's story, “The Custom”, the character of the old man is Inuit (p. 217, l. 4), and he lives in an Inuit village with his two sons, in a time of famine (p. 217, ll. 3-4).

The story does not contain any direct references to the old man’s outer characterisation, except for the fact that he is old. We are told that he is considered “useless” (p. 217, l. 1) and “a burden” (p. 217, l. 2), and that he sits inside the igloo (p. 217, l. 15) while the others prepare to leave. These details suggest that he is too old to be independent and help the village in any way.

The old man does not have a name. The story deals with the Inuit custom of disposing of its elders in harsh times, to ensure the survival of the community, and the lack of names underlines the fact that the community itself – and, implicitly, its customs - was more important than an elder’s individual existence.

Inner characterisation

The old man’s inner characterisation is constructed through the narrator’s words and through his language and actions.

At the beginning of the story, the narrator tells us that the old man knew that his sons were about to decide whether to leave him behind or not. He also knew that “there were many reasons for him to be abandoned (…) as was the custo...

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