Saul experiences many instances of abuse which impact his ability to think throughout the story. The intense novel, Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, exhibits multiple instances of abuse. Cultural, mental, and physical abuse are amongst the most prevalent and significant of abuses impacting Saul and his peers. As a result of the constant abuse Saul experiences throughout the novel, he becomes accustomed to trauma and suffers long-lasting psychological damage.
Cultural abuse is the most prominent of the abuses Saul experiences, and through various events, cultural abuse on Saul results in long-lasting psychological damage. Evidence of this is found after the cultural abuse he experiences at the cafe. After the cultural abuse Saul and his peers experience at the cafe, Saul starts to notice the small things which make the Indigenous inferior to the white opponents. He understands this and says, “All the hurt. All the shame. All the rage. The white people thought it was their world”. (Wagamese 136) Saul’s view on the cultural abuse that the white society committed shows emotion and how it results in long-lasting mental and psychological damage. It is common practice in Saul’s society to discriminate and abuse Indigenous people, and so the reader can understand why Saul becomes accustomed to trauma. As a result of his becoming accustomed to trauma in his youth, he learns to expect it during his adult life, for he feels that he is inferior and therefore suffers long-lasting psychological damage as a result of cultural abuse.
During Saul’s childhood, he is subject to the mental abuse that tens of thousands of Indigenous children endure through residential schools and watched as his peers, unable to live in such conditions, took their lives in order to escape them. He feels so alone, unable to trust that he too, will descend to such means, that he says the following, “So I retreated. That’s how I survived. Alone”. (Wagamese 55) This exposes the reader to Saul’s actions as a result of the mental abuse. Saul justifies that he was forced to retreat and stay alone as a result of the mental abuse and the reader can understand why Saul becomes accustomed to trauma. Thus, the reader can see that Saul suffers long-lasting psychological damage due to the mental abuse prevalent in society as it directly links to his future decisions when he begins drinking and living alone. This shows long-lasting psychological damage on Saul as he states that he uses drinking as a way to survive through his loneliness which is a result of the constant mental abuse he experiences.
Physical abuse is another form of abuse Saul encounters and is one of the key reasons Saul suffers from long-lasting psychological damage. A powerful example of Saul experiencing psychological damage due to physical abuse is seen through the following passage, “The truth of the abuse and the rape of my innocence were closer to the surface, and I used anger and rage and physical violence to block myself off from it”. (Wagamese 200) Here the reader sees that as Saul matures throughout the story, he comes to understand the physical abuse present in society. In this shocking passage, it’s revealed that Father Leboutillier had sexually assaulted Saul during his time at the residential school and it becomes clear why Saul becomes accustomed to trauma. This statement also reveals how Saul has been accustomed to trauma as a result of the physical abuse and plays hockey to repress the truth from him for years. As a result of the trauma, Saul suffers from long-lasting psychological damage and goes through years of loneliness, isolation, and self-loathing.
Saul encounters multiple instances of cultural, mental, and physical abuse within the novel. As a result of the constant abuse Saul experiences throughout the novel, he becomes accustomed to trauma and suffers long-lasting psychological damage. Through multiple instances of abuse, trauma is something which causes psychological damage to one degree or another, and Indian Horse develops this theme further by presenting it on Saul in multiple ways throughout the story and showing the direct result of it.