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Never Losing Sight
In Jennifer Donnelly’s novel, A Northern Light, Mattie Gokey grows in her journey toward adulthood in that she gains more courage to become more independent due to the fearlessness of her best friend, Weaver Smith. Set in 1906, the novel shows sixteen-year old Mattie struggling to uphold a promise she made to her dying mother to stay on the farm in upstate New York and take care of her family. A talented writer, Mattie eventually decides to put herself first and attend Barnard College. Weaver Smith, an African-American, has experienced injustice since he was a young boy. He is driven to bring justice into the world, even when he is standing at the bottom of the social pyramid. His determination encourages Mattie to become more independent.
One example of his determination is when Mattie is picking fiddleheads while Weaver is reading a book. She recalls a few moments of when Weaver “never stepped off the sidewalk or doffed his hat. He’d scrap with anyone who called him nigger, and was never scared for himself,” (33). These actions show that Weaver refuses to live by what other people, especially whites, think of him and his morals. Doffing hats are used as a polite greeting and a token of respect; however, he never “doffed his hat” to a white person. This depicts that Weaver does not like to be set with limits by white people, or other people in a higher status. He would fight with people who would call him “nigger,” which is a bad term used to refer to a black person.
Again, he goes against the norm people set in their heads. He was “never” fearful of what would happen to him. Weaver believes in equality between all races, and would not hesitate to support his belief by bringing justice no matter how difficult the situation would be. His independence and courage inputs an idea into Mattie’s mind that one should not bow down to someone else’s feet. Weaver’s conviction is a source of strength for Mattie because although he has been through many hardships, he has never lost sight of his dream. Mattie takes this to heart, and continues her journey towards her own dream. She gains enough independence to leave Eagle Bay, and pursue her dream of attending Barnard. Mattie reluctantly leaves the hotel Glenmore, and meets with Weaver in the middle of the night. She tries to say goodbye, but sees the tears in his eyes that are about to cascade down Weaver’s cheeks: “‘Don’t [cry], Weaver. If you do, I’ll never make it. I’ll run right back inside and put my apron on and that will be the end of it’” (376). Mattie gathers all of her willpower to not “run right back inside” the hotel and pursue her dream of attending Barnard. She feels that she does not have enough courage if he were to cry, and it would have been harder for her to leave Eagle Bay. She tells Weaver that this “will be the end” of her dream of becoming a writer if he breaks down. Weaver’s attempts to convince Mattie to go to college and the continuous dilemma she went through of deciding to stay with Royal or attend Barnard would be thrown out the window. Through their journey together, Weaver serves as a role model for Mattie. The pressure of being a black man does not affect Weaver’s decision of going to college, so Mattie feels that she can achieve her goal, too.
His determination causes Mattie to gather her courage to attempt to become an independent woman and never lose sight of her dream.