Monkey Beach is a psychological thriller novel with supernatural overtones. The main character in this novel is Lisa. When the story of the novel opens, Lisa’s 18-year-old brother is working on a boat, which is long overdue. Albert and Gladys who are Lisa’s parents are waiting on the telephone for news. They took a flight to be nearer to the search site. Later Lisa uses a boat to travel through water to assist with the search. This suspense rivets the reader to the novel. This essay describes Sasquatch, the history and culture of the Haisla people and highlights the significance of Sasquatch and ghosts as well as spirits on monkey beach (Bridgeman).
The Hasla name for Sasquatch is B'gwus. This is a large hairy monkey looking creature that is rumored to be living in the rain forest of the pacific coast. The monkey beach is a place where these monkeys are normally found. Their appearance is central to the plot of this novel even though they are mythical creatures whether in reality, story, dreams, or visions. Sasquatch is a monkey that has been subject to numerous research papers, debates, and discussions (Bridgeman).
In this novel, the B'gwus monkey is introduced in the seventh chapter where Lisa is recalling past events. She remembers that when they were children their father use to narrate to them stories about this monkey. Her brother wanted to take its picture since he had seen an advertisement from some tabloids offering a reward for a person who take a picture of a Sasquatch. One day when Lisa and Jimmy were on the beach, Lisa saw the monkey, but she did not notify her brother. Jimmy wanted to gain fame and fortune through selling of the photos. Jimmy’s plans reflect the attractiveness of this creature to the popular culture and the wide appeal to the public. The protagonist gives a description of the monkey as being to most as the equivalent of loss monster, which is something silly to present to the tourists. Further, its image is used to sell beer and portrayed as laid back, lounging on mountaintops and cracking open on frost (Andrews).
The parody of the role-played by Sasquatch in the Euro-Canadian cultures gives its significant in the spiritual world of the people of Hasla. To Lisa this mythical figure signifies more than a tourist attraction and towards the end of her adolescence there is the juxtaposition of opposing views and on its existence and the cultural challenges faced by the main character and how they will be overcome. On the first case, Lisa does not believe on its existence and resists attempts by Jimmy to capture the elusive monkey on a film. After reluctantly accepting to join her brother in the woods, she is faced with questions about her beliefs or disbeliefs. This is after she encounters the monkey. The protagonist remembers (Robinson). Lisa being just 9 years old was terrified and felt overwhelmed by the feelings of supernatural phenomena. Either she taught teachings from her parents about the imaginations as being unreal. In the process of her growth with the assistance of her grandmother, Lisamarie learnt to accept that the supernatural is a part of her life. Either the perception she had of the b’gwus started to change as she realized that the creature led an ambiguous existence that bordered real life and mythical one. The growing belief in her of the hybrid figure coupled with the sympathy she had for her as she learnt from Ma-ma-oo that he came to the existence after an attempt by his wife to murder him to be with his brother. Later, the wife and the lover learnt that the man survived and later came to be the b’gwus. The b’gwus would later hunt them down and kill them. This explanation gives the Sasquatch a human nature to dispel the sense of being a monster. Through ma-ma-oo's story of understanding, she learned about the Sasquatch human feelings and understood the importance of the mediation of the human and the spirit worlds. In this tale, the idea of retribution and crime is introduced to Lisa’s social context with themes that play crucial roles on the scheme by Jimmy to avenge his girlfriend’s rape by his uncle. The b’gwus supernatural agent of retribution role helped Lisa to understand her brother’s action to revenge, which eventually led to the boat accident. Sasquatch’s creation story images his brothers’ revenge feelings and hence the understanding to the ultimate motive (Robinson).
In her teenage years, Lisa got a view of the Sasquatch for the second time. After her engagement with drugs at the city of Vancouver, she returned to her village home. Some time had passed since she had first encountered the mythical figure and her personality had strongly changed on that time. She was now willing to accept, through partly the Haisla part of her as an identity and integral part of her life and embrace her original life. While driving along the road Lisa saw Sasquatch scurrying across the road. With her maturity and coming to perceive supernatural creatures as supporters and not opponents, she notes 22. This happened after her return to her home village town after a period of self-destruction and isolation in the city of Vancouver. She returned determined to change to integrate well in to the society. The Sasquatch affirmed her plans and reinforced her desires to have a changed way of life. Through it, she had a connection to the spirit world. This provided her with comfort, in addition to strength and hope, to carry on despite the deaths of beloved relatives (Howels).
The use of Sasquatch as a figure whose powers reside on mimicked human beings, Robinson stresses the fact that characters are constantly faced with distorted reflections about their own fears and desires. This supports the claim that Lisa is spiritual, emotional, and psychological developments were hugely affected by her encounters with supernatural figures and more importantly due to the ability by these spirits to image them on her behavior. Mick nicknaming his niece monster also illustrates this. Mick while kissing her forehead said, “You are my favorite monster in the whole wide world” (Robinson). Through her recognition as a monster, Lisa establishes links with Haisla’s heritage by comprehension of the original myth’s and thus a crucial breakthrough to her quest on discovery of her identity.
Ghosts and Spirits
Lisa begins her encounters with the spirit world as a toddler. She describes as encountering tree spirit as a dark little man with bright red hair. Being unsure on how to interpret the encounter, she uncovers the little man’s appearances and understands that the little man harbors misfortune and even to an extent death. Through ma-ma-oo, the young girl is informed of the tree spirits and their significance. This is done during a trip to the woods.
Tree spirits origins are recounted in details by Ma-ma-oo while Lisa absorbs all this information. The words of her grandmother make her feel comforted, even though they do not offer an explanation as to the appearance of the little man. The appearance of the little man was prior to fatal incidents, which she detests. This happens because of her inability to predict the actual happenings of such events. This makes her to be filled with guilt. Therefore, her encounters with the spirit world are more traumatic and signify the start of death. In the book, the appearance of the little man is prior to the death of Uncle Mick and the heart attack of her grandmother and her rape. This leads to her anger and contempt, because of her inability to prevent these events from happening (Castricano).
She is filled with anger at the little man’s appearance, however, several years later after their first encounter she discovers the spirits true purpose (Robinson). Thus, the little man’s appearances are treated with double meanings and are not necessarily meant to harm her. He, however, intends to offer comfort to the young girl who feels distanced from her estranged family and surroundings’ and facing serious identity crisis. He offers emotional support to the young girl, but due to her anger on her, she refuses the helping hand. Throughout her childhood and adolescent, the little man acts as a companion and even if his intentions were not clear to the young girl, she copes with his presence as time moves (Robinson).
Her spiritual development is similarly influenced by the appearance of ghosts and the communication they have with her. Her ability to perceive spirits in humans or near humans is manifested at an early age. One day on a trip down Kemano River, she observes the landscape from a boat when it changes abruptly. She is not extremely confident with herself at this early age of her growth and, therefore, cannot trust her own observation. Because of this, she repeatedly has a phase of anxiety and her psychological state is not that stable. Further, due to this experience she questions her own sanity, self-esteem, and even self-respect, which have reached low points among her beloved relatives to the point that Uncle Mick doubts the truth of her niece ability to see ghosts (Robinson, Monkey Beach).
In a point of desperation, the protagonist turns to her grandmother Ma-ma-oo for comfort and understanding. Since the old woman is the only person that would willfully provide what she is seeking. The strong bond between the two is significant, and the death of the grandmother through a fire tragedy is highly traumatizing to the young girl. She blames herself for the death of her grandmother, and she usually has premonitions but cannot prevent the deadly flames from consuming her grandmother. Ghosts provide signals of the impending death of her grandmother, and this fact is known to Ma-ma-oo as highlighted on this statement:
Despite the sad and gloomy atmospheres provided by the ghosts’ appearance, these times are necessary to Lisa, because she is able to accept her supernatural capabilities. The fact that her grandmother is also able to see ghosts gives Lisa knowledge of her spiritual skills and takes it so rather than a physiological disorder. During her last moments, Ma-ma-oo assists Lisa in accepting her spiritual gift and consequently, her Haisla heritage and identity.
The life saving encounter with the ghost of her cousin’s ghost strengthens her urge to appreciate listening to spirits and following their advice albeit being labeled as psychologically unstable by other people. If it was not the encounter with the ghost of her cousin Tab while sojourning at the Vancouver city maybe she could have continued eking her living there as she confesses in the book. She says that due to the “generous intervention”, she admitted to her mistakes and decide to go back home. She has thought that her cousin was alive, but realized that she was dead and that she was talking to her cousin. The appearance of her cousin deeply troubles the protagonist and that is when she resolves to go back home and join her family and reintegrate to the society (Robinson, Monkey Beach).
After finding her roots in Haisla heritage and culture, Lisa thinks of the inter relationships of the past and present. She speaks to the ghosts, which offer her advice. Mythical figures such as the Sasquatch provide comfort to Lisa as they have done so to the people of Haisla for the last years. The Haisla culture of the spirit world offers Lisa a way of learning how to live.