Many stories written by Thomas King have a strong sense of sarcasm and satire worked into the story. This is clearly evidenced in Totem where Thomas King subtly pokes fun at the way the Canadian Government treated Aboriginal people. To understand the deeper meaning of the story, the reader must have a basic knowledge of Canadian history. The way the Canadian Government and European settlers treated the Aboriginal people is often viewed as one of the most horrific and unjust acts in Canadian if not the entire world’s history.
The story begins with an impatient, Beebe Hill, waiting at the reception desk to file a formal complaint: “she thought other people… Were too polite to complain about the noises the totem pole in the far corner of the room was making’ (119). Ms. Hill represents the population of the European settlers moving into the land and finding Aboriginal people living there.
Walter, the head of the museum decides to kick for a quick, easy and emperors fix; his plan is to chop the totem pole down with a chainsaw and move it down to the basement.
However to the surprise of Walter and his workers, ‘”There is a totem pole in the corner, and it’s grunting. ” (121 Another totem pole appeared and it was making even more noise. Walter continued with his easy fix of cutting the totem poles down until he did not have any more room in the basement to store them.
Thomas King is cleverly sing satire here to point out how ridiculous of a solution, moving Aboriginals to somewhere where we won’t run into them truly is. In the end both Walter and the Canadian Government “remained mildly annoyed” (122) but decided to live with the problem. King’s incorporation of symbolism amongst the characters, each representing their own piece of Canadian history, allows the satire to reveal just how absurd the Canadian Government’s treatment of the Aboriginals truly was.