Borders by Thomas King Summary

Written by: Dr. N. Kennedy
Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Borders by Thomas King Summary

This essay will provide a summary and analysis of Thomas King’s short story “Borders.” It will detail the plot, which centers on a Blackfoot mother and her son as they navigate identity and citizenship at the Canada-U.S. border. The piece will discuss the themes of identity, nationalism, and belonging, examining how King uses the border setting to highlight issues faced by Indigenous people. It will also consider the story’s narrative style and its commentary on cultural and political borders. Moreover, at PapersOwl, there are additional free essay samples connected to Canada.

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The short story “Borders” by Thomas King was a very interesting short story about a mom and her son who tried to cross the border from Canada to the United States to go visit the mom’s daughter who now lived in Salt Lake City but faced an issue. Every time the border security asked for their citizenship, the mom replied “Blackfoot.” However, the border security would not accept Blackfoot as a citizenship, only American or Canadian. The mom did not stop however, she tried entering The United States through both the Canadian and American borders but was always declined because she did not declare her citizenship as either Canadian or American.

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This all changed for the mom and son when the media got involved and interviewed the mom and son about the issues they faced in terms of crossing the border. Then, the mom and son tried one last time to cross the border. The border security asked what their citizenship was and the mom said again “Blackfoot.” However this time, the border security accepted Blackfoot as a citizenship and allowed the mom and son to proceed with their trip to visit the mom’s daughter in Salt Lake City. 

This is a very interesting story, however, what is the message Thomas King was trying to portray in the short story.

After reading any story or book that I want to analyze, I always ask myself the same questions to fully get an understanding of the story or book I read. I always ask myself who, what, when, where, why, and how. These questions help me analyze any story I read because it makes me think about what I read. In the short story “Borders,” I used these questions to help form an analysis of the story “Borders.” Aside from the who, what, when, etc, when reading a short story like “Borders,” I always know that there is a moral message that the author is trying to explain throughout the story. Especially as the story was written by Thomas King who is known to use satire and a distinct writing style to convey a message in each of his stories. 

The short story “Borders” involves many characters. Some of the more relevant characters in the story are the son, the mom, Laetitia (the daughter), and Mel (the Duty-free store manager). However, the main character in this story would be the son. The son is the main character because everything that is done, or thoughts that were had, were from the son’s perspective. This is a 3rd person narrative style of writing that Thomas King used. For example, on page 11, the son said, “When I woke up, my mother was just coming out of another office.” This is evidence that the story was written in a third-person perspective of the son. 

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In terms of finding out where and when the story took place, I had to read through the story carefully a few times to actually understand these aspects of the story. The majority of the story took place at  Coutts, one of the borders of Canada and the United States. This was evident on page 5 when the son explained, “We left the reserve in the morning and drove until we got to Coutts.” The story specifical borders by Thomas King summary took place on the Canadian side of the border because the mom and son were trying to go to Salt Lake City in the United States. However, I could not find a time period of when the story took place. All I understood from the story was the events that occurred happened over two weeks. This includes the traveling, the issues the mom and son faced at the border, and how long they visited Laetitia in Salt Lake City (Page. 15). 

One of the more thought-provoking analysis questions I ask myself would be “what.” This can include “What is the main source of conflict,” “What is the most important event,” and “What literacy devices were used?” 

The main source of conflict was how the mom and son couldn’t cross the border to the United States because Blackfoot did not legally classify as a citizenship. The most important event that led to the resolution of this conflict was the media/press interviewing the mom and son. This was very important because when the mom and son tried one last time to cross the border, the media made this issue that Blackfoot did not classify as a citizenship such a big deal that if the border security was to decline them from entering the United States, this issue would become even more of a big deal and the border security did not want that to happen. The pressure from the media was the only reason the mom and son got through the border. If it wasn’t for the pressure from the media, the border security guard would have rejected them again. Therefore the media interviewing the mom and son was the most important event in the story because it led to the resolution of the “conflict.”

Thomas King is a writer that specifies his writing about North America’s first nations. He is American-Canadian nationality who focuses on some of the struggles of Canadian and American Indigenous communities. He uses satire as his main writing style. Satire is a way of writing that can be used in many different scenarios. It can be used to expose a flaw and critique society, or even politics.

Thomas King used Satire in the short story “Borders” to convey a message. The message Thomas King was trying to convey is that people should be able to claim citizenship to what they identify their citizenship as, not what is legally their citizenship. For example, when the border security asked the mom what her citizenship was, she said “Blackfoot.” However, this was not a legal citizenship even though the mom and the son classify as Blackfoot. This message was also explained when the mom never accepted to claim identity as Canadian or American. This shows that she was determined and wanted the right to identify her and her son’s citizenship as Blackfoot. I think that this message is more directed towards Indigenous people because one of the issues they faced was the government trying to assimilate their identity and culture.

I found many uses of literary devices in the short story “Borders,” However only a few actually help convey the message Thomas King wanted to convey. For example, irony and parallel plot was used to help convey the author’s message. 

The whole plot to the short story “Borders” was very Ironic. The security guards were so consistent on not letting the mom and son go through because they claimed citizenship as Blackfoot. However, in the end, the security guards let them go after declaring citizenship as Blackfoot after the numerous times the guards denied them. This is very ironic because the guards didn’t want to let the mom and son go through the border after multiple attempts but the guards ended up letting them through the border in the end.

Parallel plot was also shown through several flashbacks which helped the author convey his message. For example, in one part of the story, the mother and son were forced to sleep in their car because they had nowhere else to go and the border wouldn’t let them through. Right after it flashbacked to when his mom and sister were fighting and the family had to drive the sister to the border because the sister wanted to get away from home. The flashbacks actually led up until the point where the mom and son were reunited with the mom’s daughter. Therefore the author used parallel plot to cut between different times to help the reader understand a little bit more about the story and the background information of the story, while also helping convey the authors message.

Works Cited In conclusion, I think the short story “Borders” was a very interesting story with a very specific message. The message Thomas Kings was trying to convey is that Indigenous people should be given the right to identify however they wish to be identified as. It’s not right that the government is forcing them to classify as either Canadian or American. The example that was given in the story was the mom and son who identified as Blackfoot but were forced do claim citizenship as either Canadian or American. I think that the author did a very good job at using satire to convey his message, and other literary devices to accompany his use of satire. Although Thomas King’s message as very specific and direct towards Indigenous people, he did a very good job using literary devices and satire to explain his message, which allowed the reader to actually understand the story. 

Corporate Systems Division / Solutions Directorate / Information, Science & Technology Branch / Canada Border Services Agency. “Directory of CBSA Offices and Services, COUTTS.” List of Countries and Applicable Tariff Treatments, 9 Dec. 2016,

King, Thomas. Borders. King, 1993.

“Where Is Salt Lake City, UT?” World Atlas – Maps, Geography, Travel, WorldAtlas, 2 Oct. 2015,

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Borders By Thomas King Summary. (2021, Apr 29). Retrieved from