At the beginning of “The Custom” by Charlie Patsauq, we learn that an old man is waiting for his sons to decide if he will be left behind when the village moves. The move is motivated by famine – a lack of food in the area means that the village must search for new hunting grounds.
The old man is presented as a burden – he is not only a drain on the few resources available to the community, but he would also be a physical burden in their travel, especially since fewer dogs in the community means a diminished ability to travel fast.
To ensure their own survival, the Inuit created a custom – disposing of those who are no longer productive in the community. In the story, the survival of the village is helped by the old man’s death.
In the story, survival is closely linked to death. The death of the community is feared, but the death of an individual is welcomed and accepted because it helps to save others.
Duty and sacrifice
The theme of duty and sacrifice is explored through the old man and his sons.
The first sacrifice is the old man’s – he understands that he must giv...