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A Review of Farley Mowat's 'Lost In The Barrens'

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2293 words Published: 20th Aug 2021

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Lost In The Barrens by Farley Mowat is a fictional wilderness survival novel which introduces two young teenagers, Jamie Macnair and Awasin Meewasin. At the beginning, Jamie goes up to the northern part of Canada to live with his uncle, Angus Macnair. As Jamie arrived, he quickly introduced to Awasin and becomes friends with him. He finds out that Awasin is the son of the Cree’s chief. The leader of Chipewyan (the Cree’s rival), Denikazi along with his men come for help as they were starving due to lack of deer in the north.. Awasin’s mother had suspicion that the Chipewyan were trying to deceive them, although the boys still agree to go to the Indian village to prove that they need supplies. Both Jamie and Awasin join the Chipewyan on their way back to the camp of the Chipewyan and as they arrive, Denikazi thought that the boys were going to join them in the hunt but told both the boys to return to the camp with two young Chipewyans. Denkazi warned them that… If they were to encounter Eskimos, they were to abandon the camp and go home. In this novel, both the Chipewyans and the Crees are afraid of the Eskimos. (Denikazi told the both the boys an incident where the Chipewyans went on a hunt for deer in the north and encountered Eskimos. The Eskimos got guns and fought the Chipewyans which led to the fear of the Eskimos). Jamie, Awasin and the two Chipewyan boys go back to the camp but as soon as they get back… Jamie decides to go explore and tricks Awasin to join him. They venture up with their boat to the stone house that one of the two Chipewyans boys had told them about. They try to find it but they hit a whirlpool and they barely survive it. Gathering what they could from their broken canoe, they realize they don’t have enough to survive, they cannot use their canoe and now they are stranded in the barrens. The two young Chipewyan boys notice that both Jamie and Awasin have disappeared, so they go searching for them. The two boys saw an Eskimo kayak and ran back to the camp. Jamie and Awasin decide to go all the way to where Denikazi and the other hunters, so they can join them. But one of Denikazi’s men see an Eskimo and the whole group flees, passing through Jamie and Awasin’s camp during the night.

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Later on, Jamie and Awasin soon realize that Denikazi and his men have passed by their camp already and decide that they have to get some sort of shelter and food for their survival. They soon find the stone house and figure out that it was a grave of a Viking. Soon, they go hunting for does, ground squirrels, fish and buck(that migrate). Winter arrives and they survive it by discovering a valley where there is wood for them to build shelter and create heat. There were also bucks that were not migrating and spending their winter here. One day, the weather is not as cold as any other winter and the boys decide to head back home gathering up most of their supplies onto a sled they have created. They find two dogs and the sled pulled by the two dogs they recently found. Their names were Fang and Ayuskeemos and they were huskies belonging to the Eskimos. Trouble occurs with the two boys when they get snow blindness and eventually the boys realize that they can’t make it and try to go back to their cabin. On their way back, a blizzard storm comes and they find a igloo where they crawl in. In the morning, they realize that the igloo belonged to an Eskimo as he returned. The Eskimo’s dog get into a fight with Fang and Ayuskeemo and it is broken up by Jamie and the Eskimo. Working together, Jamie and Awasin learn that the Eskimo’s name is Peetuk, the son of a white Englishman and an Eskimo woman. They become friends and visit the Eskimo’s where the three finally make it back to the Cree camp. Jamie and Awasin finally make it back home where they established their whole adventure was all about friendship, trust and survival.

Author’s Biography

War Service

Farley Mowat was part of the military during the Second World War and was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Second Battalion. He went overseas joining the Canadian Army in the United Kingdom. He served throughout the war as a commander and moved to Italy in September of 1943. He stayed in Italy in the first Canadian infantry division for most of the way, eventually promoted to captain. Later on, Mowat was discharged at the conclusion of the Second World War in 1945 as a captain. Lost of the Barrens can be reflected towards the Second World War Mowat was in. In comparison, being in war and being lost in the barrens reflect on survival. Mowat uses his writing in this case to talk about survival. Lost in the Barrens is all about survival and he puts his writing to reflect what he has gone through in the past… Except as a teenager in the wilderness.

Early Life

Farley Mowat was born in Belleville, Ontario on May 12th 1921 and he has been a writer since he was a child. He recalls composing “mostly verse” living with his family in Windsor from 1930 to 1933. He published a regular column based on observation of birds in the star Phoenix after moving to Saskatoon with his family. It seems as Fowat’s life is reflected on his writing, comparing his imagination. Lost of the Barrens is full of imagination which Jamie shows throughout the whole book. Jamie is the character that has the biggest imagination in the whole novel. He tries imagine himself in the wilderness and his curiosity kills him to the point he tricks Awasin to join him to explore what he imagines. In comparison, Mowat is similar in a way. As a child, Mowat had a huge imagination where he reflects his creative writing and his imagination into a story. He’s reflecting the imagination Jamie has with the imagination he has in his writing for Lost in the Barrens.

Historical Time Period (Era)

The Cold War

The Cold War was a political conflict that existed after World War II between the communism due to the Soviet Union and the powers of the Western World, primarily the United States and its allies. Although the Soviet Union and the United States did not attack directly, they expressed their conflicts indirectly through military alliances, strategic conventional force drops, proxy wars, propaganda and nuclear arm races. The Cold War featured periods of the relative calm and of international high tension (specially) the Korean war and the Vietnam war. This time era relates to Lost in the Barrens shows the rivalry between the Chipewyan and the Crees as they were always enemies in the book as there would be always competition for food and land. It can be a comparison with Korean War that happened between both South Korea and North Korea. The Korean war happened due to communism and democracy for the dominance for each section of Korea. Mowat reflects the conflict between the Cree and the Chipewyan to the conflict that North Korea and South Korea had.

Art in the 1950s

Early 1950s Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning were enormously influential to the art industry. Although, during the late 1950s, Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko’s painting became more in focus to the next generation. Pop Art use the iconography of television, photography, comics, cinema and advertising. With its roots in dadaism, it started to take form towards the end of 1950s when some of European artists started to make the symbols and product of the world of advertising and propaganda the main subject of their artistic work. Art is reflected in Mowat’s writing comparing Jamie’s handcrafting skills to the 1950s. Mowat wanted to reflect how art was a part of the time era he was in while writing this novel, making Jamie the artistic one… being able to craft shelter for their safety.



A fiction is a type of genre where the narrator deals with events which is imaginary. There are different types of fictions, but Lost in the Barrens was written as a semi fictional novel. It is set with two teenagers whom do realistic things (surviving in the wilderness with what they have). The two, Jamie and Awasin go join a tribe to hunt but then get lost and stranded in the barrens… Although on the contrasting side… where if two teenagers were to be lost in the barren land wilderness; they would most likely not survive. Here, this is reflected on Mowat’s past with his experience with his imagination. Fiction narration is usually creative writing that is made up by the author using their imagination. Mowat uses his writing to express his imagination in comparison to a fictional novel with is usually written using one’s imagination.

Wilderness Survival

Wilderness survival is a type of genre where the narrator deals with events in the wilderness. Lost in the Barrens sets a good example of wilderness survival. The two teenagers, Jamie and Awasin get lost in the barrens, where they must strive to survive. Awasin knows the wilderness well, so he is able to hunt for food. Jamie knows how to craft object, which leads to Jamie being the person making all the shelters. Mowat’s writing is reflected in the novel to a combination of his experience in the war and the experience he had in the north of Canada with the Inuits. In comparison to Jamie and Awasin, he reflects his experience in the World War II with the imagination of what he saw in the north of Canada to write this novel.


Man vs. Nature

Man vs. Nature is a element that is a part of fictional literature. It is usually defined as a problem and nature is usually either the protagonist or antagonist. In Lost in the Barrens, nature is known as the true antagonist. Both the boys, Jamie and Awasin struggle to survive in the harsh conditions they are in. They show their true courage by hunting and surviving a grizzly bear attack. Both the boys have different variety of skills; Awasin being able to hunt, fish and make clothing. Awasin is proven to be clever by igniting a fire with what he is given. Jamie, in the other hand is the creative one. He is the one who builds the shelter (stone igloo and wooden cabin). He is able to think outside the box and with both their traits, they are successful with beating nature with their teamwork. Man vs. Nature is apart of fictional literature which is where Mowat’s creative writing comes in. Mowat uses his imagination and past experience to reflect how he feels towards a certain situation. He has also been in wars which is where he reflects his war experience with a part of this novel. Being able to survive a war is similar to surviving the wilderness with no supplies.

Intercultural Friendships

Intercultural friendships is a theme where people of different cultures and backgrounds work together and gain trust from one another. In Lost in the Barrens, Awasin and Jamie became friends when they first met but became a lot more closer when they relied on each other to survive. Near the end of the novel, when the boys were barely going to survive… Peetyuk, an Eskimo came and rescued them. Eskimos were known as a dangerous group towards the Cree and the Chipewyan. Jamie helps Awasin trust Peetyuk although the Crees have always been suspicious and afraid of the Eskimos. Mowat’s writing is reflected in the novel with his past. With the past experience he had with the Inuits up on the north. He was outraged at the Inuits where they were racist towards his skin colour. His experience is showing that trust must be put within all races for a world of freedom and acceptance.

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Personal, I really enjoyed this novel for what it was. I never expected it to be enjoyable, the novel cover and description made the novel look extremely dull and boring. I’m extremely surprised that an brown coloured person and a white coloured got along in the novel, which caught me extremely off guard. The novel had a lot of adventure, action, scenes where you could just imagine in your head and just pretended you were just there and lots of intensity. There is a lot of teamwork… Awasin being the knowledgeable one with the wilderness and Jamie having the gift of being able to craft objects, making shelter later on. Farley Mowat is an excellent author who has a lot of imagination and creativity with his writing. He relates a lot of his observations to his writing and adds in his imagination towards his novel(s). I would recommend anyone who has a huge imagination and enjoys nature and camping to read this novel. It may look extremely boring and dull, but later on… It gets REALLY (see how I emphasize on really) interesting and enjoyable. I can understand why this novel won two awards.


“1950s – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Jan. 2011. .

“Cold War International History Project’s Cold War Files.” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Jan. 2011. .

“Farley Mowat.” Eco Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Jan. 2011. .

“Mowat, Farley – The Canadian Encyclopedia.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Jan. 2011. .

Mowat, Farley. Lost in the Barrens; . [1st ed. Boston: Little, Brown, 1956. Print.]


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