In the play, “Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth” by Drew Hayden Taylor, the story of two sisters, Barb and Janice is told. They had not met each other for the first time until Janice had turned 35 and had returned for her first visit. The two are basically strangers and their relationship consists of nothing but anger. The development in their relationship seems to be impossible with the two who are unable to understand each other. Janice’s anger towards her own life and Barb’s anger towards Janice blinds them from understanding and accepting each other.
Janice continuously struggles to find her identity and her frustration turns to anger. Barb is angered by Janice’s leaving from Otter Lake, and her indifferent attitude. Janice is too angry about the scoop-up to understand what Barb expects of her. And Barb is too angry at Janice to understand that Janice also has scars of her own. Janice possesses anger towards herself and she struggles to find her identity, this interferes with her having an open relationship with Barb. Janice was taken away at a young age by the CAS and was grown in to a ‘white’ adopted family.
She grew up with the false belief that her birth parents were unable to maintain a proper home for her. On her first visit back to Otter Lake, she realises that this was not true. After a very short reunion, she could no longer stay and returns to Toronto with overwhelming emotional stress and confusion. Until this visit, Janice had a very clear idea of who she was but now struggles to find her identity. Janice cannot help but think of the past and is angered by her wrong perceptions of Anne, her birth mother.
Janice explains to Barb about her situation after running out on Otter Lake: “I know I walked out of here, and I have to live with that fact. You don’t think I realise that she’s gone and that I’ll never know who she was and what could have happened between us? ” (101). Janice regrets walking out on Otter Lake and it shows that she is also angry with herself for not getting to know Anne. She feels guilty for leaving her family that had been waiting for thirty-five years. Mixed emotions of guilt and regret are causing Janice to be angry at herself.
Janice’s anger is also holding her back from opening up to Barb. Because Janice can identify her mistakes well, she is afraid to open up and hides her true self from her. If Janice were to open up to Barb, she might expose the truth. However, Janice is afraid of the truth. This truth might be different from what she is familiar with and Janice does not want to go through the emotional stress of finding her identity once again. Janice quickly corrects Barb when she tells her that she is an Indian and not ‘white’: “I know what I am.
I’ve spent most of my life trying to figure that out. I don’t need you telling me what I am and am not” (91). Janice has a hard time accepting Barb’s opinion of her. Her brief responses show her unwillingness to open up to Barb. Janice is too busy staying angry, frustrated and denying her true self that she cannot understand what Barb expects of her. Barb is another character that possesses anger, her anger towards Janice’s indifference and unwillingness makes it difficult for her to accept Janice. Barb is disappointed in Janice for leaving Otter Lake and disappointing Anne.
When Janice refuses to say goodbye to her dead mother, Barb is once again angered by her behaviour. As her patience towards Janice decreases, Barb expresses her anger in ways that will hurt Janice. Barb says to Janice in anger: “You killed her, you know? […] she loved you, and you killed her. When you left, you took her spirit, her will to live, with you” (100). Barb blames Janice for Anne’s death to hurt her and make her feel guilty, not knowing that Janice already feels guilty but does not express it.
However, Barb does not think about the challenges Janice might have endured but is angry because she is not the ‘ideal Janice’ that she had been expecting. Barb is too busy and eager wanting to express her anger towards Janice that she cannot relate to Janice’s problems and the struggles that she goes through. Barb’s lack of sympathy towards the unexpected changes in Janice’s life only results in a bigger gap in their relationship. Once Barb and Janice start talking, Barb is again angered by Janice’s quietness and her unwillingness to strengthen their relationship.
However, she does not make an effort herself to understand why. Barb says to Janice: “You told us the facts. I don’t know one damn thing about you, the person” (36). Barb is annoyed and frustrated by Janice keeping to herself, she cannot understand her. Barb wants a strong relationship with her as sisters. For Janice, the sister relationship is too difficult and would rather prefer being friends. However, Barb does not acknowledge or accept Janice’s different views but expects Janice to want the same.
Barb misunderstands the quietness of Janice and takes it personally, thinking that she wants to keep a distance from her and does not want to open up. Barb does not think of the opposite. What if Janice can’t open up? Why is it that Janice is unable to open up? Maybe if Barb had been able to take these things into consideration, she could have been able to talk to Janice through it, rather than making her feel bad through guilt. Anger does not solve any problems. Staying angry for a long period of time will only result in a deeper frustration within yourself.
Why should you stay angry for something that could be solved? There is no reason. When anger over powers all other emotion, it is impossible to have an open mind towards others. An example of this can be seen directly from the play between the characters Janice and Barb. Anger overpowers all other emotion in their lives. They cannot see past this emotion to be understanding towards each other. If they had not been so angry then their relationship could have had much better results. Janice would never have walked out on Otter Lake if she had not been so afraid to admit the truth.
If she had not been angry, she could have had a much better understanding of Barb’s expectations and would have wanted to develop a relationship with her as sisters. If Barb had not been so angry and had more sympathy towards Janice, then Barb’s expectations of her would not have been so high and she would not have been as disappointed in her. As a result of this overpowering emotion both characters in the play possess, it is difficult for them to accept each other. Anger does not allow them to see past this emotion and understand each other. Therefore, anger is blinding.