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Environment and the quest motif in selected works of Canadian prairie fiction Rogers, Linda 1970

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ENVIRONMENT AND THE QUEST MOTIF IN SELECTED WORKS OF CANADIAN PRAIRIE FICTION by LINDA JANE ROGERS B.A., U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1966  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS i n the Department of ENGLISH  We accept t h i s thesis as conforming to the required standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA A p r i l , 1970  In  presenting  an  advanced  the I  Library  further  for  degree shall  agree  scholarly  by  his  of  this  written  this  thesis  in  at  University  the  make  tha  it  purposes  for  freely  permission may  representatives. thesis  partial  be  It  financial  for  of  gain  ENGLISH  The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h V a n c o u v e r 8, Canada  of  Columbia,  British  Columbia  for  extensive by  the  understood  permission.  Department  of  available  granted  is  fulfilment  shall  Head  be  requirements  reference copying  that  not  the  of  agree  and  of my  I  this  or  allowed  without  that  study. thesis  Department  copying  for  or  publication my  ABSTRACT  Time and place are the media through which the eternal i s manifested f o r the comprehension of f a l l i b l e man. I t i s the response to environment which has determined and shaped the human a t t i t u d e toward ultimate mysteries.  The patterns of  nature are t r a n s l a t e d by the a r t i s t and philosopher i n t o the r i t u a l behaviour of man.  The challenge of adversity and the  joy of the morning or the new season are motivation for the r e s t l e s s desire to overcome the imperfections of human and geographical landscape. The Canadian p r a i r i e , v i r g i n and elemental, as o l d as the world and as new as the twentieth century, determines a p a r t i c u l a r kind of response which i s both immediate and u n i v e r s a l . I t provides the t r a d i t i o n a l challenge of the desert with the inherent p o s s i b i l i t y of a Promised Land f o r the regenerate. The w r i t e r s who have t r a n s l a t e d the p r a i r i e experience i n t o wordst have tended to fuse t r a d i t i o n a l with personal mythology, e l e v a t i n g the moment i n mutable time to time c e t e r n a l .  The p r a i r i e , for  them, i s at once the desert of the Old Testament and the modern wasteland. the  The response, although archetypal, has relevance f o r  individual. The quest motif, which i s an aspect of the romantic  t r a d i t i o n of a l l c u l t u r e s , i s c e n t r a l to p r a i r i e f i c t i o n .  The  optimism of the journey toward the l i g h t i s f e l t even i n moments of darkness, during drought or a dust storm.  There i s a pre-  v a i l i n g sense, i n the Canadian p r a i r i e novel, that man, through  regenerate behaviour, w i l l overcome.  As he wanders through  physical and metaphysical landscape of the p r a i r i e , the  the  individual  learns to know God and to know himself. As environment takes on t r a d i t i o n a l aspects of Godhead, the f i c t i o n a l characters f i n d t h e i r analogues i n the B i b l e i n t r a d i t i o n a l mythological f i g u r e s . man,  and  The s i c k k i n g , the f i s h e r -  the god, the messiah and the p r a i r i e farmer become fused  i n the symbolic struggle f o r i d e n t i t y .  The names of the o r i g i n a l  pioneers i n the Old Testament are given new v i t a l i t y by the p a r t i c u l a r l y contemporary dilemmas of t h e i r modern namesakes. In the major f i c t i o n of the Canadian p r a i r i e , the quest takes on many aspects.  Sometimes i t i s a d i r e c t  search  for transcendental r e a l i t y , as i n Who Has Seen the Wind by  W.O.  M i t c h e l l , and-sometimes i t i s an e f f o r t to f i n d heaven on earthy outside of the s p i r i t u a l context, as i n Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel.  Mitchell's  journey a f t e r the meaning of God i n  Who Has Seen the Wind i s p r i m a r i l y the d i r e c t route.  simplistic.  He b e l i e v e s i n  R e a l i t y i s a means and not an impediment  to supernatural r e v e l a t i o n .  For S i n c l a i r Ross, whose characters  i n As For Me and My House are obsessed with transcendental r e a l i t y , the quest i s not so simple.  Psychological r e a l i t i e s d i s t o r t  d i v i n e ecstasy i n t o grotesques.  The Promised Land i s circumscribed  with i r o n y . Margaret Laurence, who has r e j e c t e d the v e r t i c a l quest a f t e r God, i s concerned with the voyage toward s e l f knowledge. Her paths lead into the s e l f . for h i s own s a l v a t i o n .  The i n d i v i d u a l i s responsible  A t r a g i c example of i r r e s p o n s i b i l i t y  r e l a t e d to the h o r i z o n t a l quest motif i s that of Abraham i n Adele Wiseman's novel The S a c r i f i c e . The questor i s not always s u c c e s s f u l , but the knowledge he gains contains the promise of s a l v a t i o n .  That promise i s  often r e a l i z e d i n the messianic motif which i s a c o r o l l a r y of the quest.  Outsiders with the power to h e a l , l i k e Gwendolyn MacEwen'  magician and George E l l i o t t ' s kissing:,man,have the t r a d i t i o n a l J  properties of the saviour.  Their love embodies the promise of  spring and the new season. The major and minor f i c t i o n of the p r a i r i e share a common vocabulary of optimism which i s inherent i n the quest l i t e r a t u r e of every t r a d i t i o n .  Landscape i s the objective  c o r r e l a t i v e through which man learns by a s s o c i a t i o n about God and about himself.  His struggle to comprehend p a r t i c u l a r  environmental mysteries i s analagous to the u n i v e r s a l quest a f t e r truth.  Supervisor  TABLE  OF  CONTENTS  Page  INTRODUCTION  Chapter  •  I WHO H A S  Chapter  FOR  Chapter  22  ME A N D  MY H O U S E  36  STONE  ANGEL  57  IV A  Chapter  T H E WIND  III THE  Chapter  SEEN  II AS  Chapter  1  JEST  OF GOD  72  THE  SACRIFICE  81  THE  MESSIANIC  V  VI  MOTIF  93  CONCLUSION  104  BIBLIOGRAPHY  117  INTRODUCTION  The Canadian p r a i r i e , i n s p i t e of i t s s u p e r f i c i a l s i m i l a r i t y to the metaphorical wasteland, i s the f e r t i l e s o i l which has nourished some of the f i n e s t f i c t i o n w r i t t e n to date i n t h i s country. The vast r o l l i n g land s t r e t c h i n g from the f o o t h i l l s of the Rocky Mountains to the western border of Ontario i s timeless, o f f e r i n g a r i c h symbolic medium t o the a r t i s t , who responds both to the immediacy and the u n i v e r s a l i t y of i t s challenge.  The p r a i r i e o f f e r s simultaneously  many layers of h i s t o r y and r e a l i t y .  I t i s at once the desert of  Genesis and the wasteland of the twentieth century nightmare, the regenerative promise of the ascendent cycle and the grim reminder of the i n e v i t a b l e decadence of past, present and future; i t i s anywhere and everywhere, a. place where man can use h i s p h y s i c a l and moral strength to overcome a harsh environment which oppresses the body and the abstract hazards which engage the s p i r i t i n a struggle which i s common to every man.  The p r a i r i e i s s p e c i a l i n that the rhythm  of i t s l i f e has the capacity to engage the physical and metaphysical energies of i t s i n h a b i t a n t s .  The rhythm of p r a i r i e r e a l i t y can be  f e l t and t r a n s l a t e d i n t o symbolic terms. The quest f o r p e r f e c t i o n which drove the Canadian pioneer to undertake the romantic journey to a new land motivates a continuing awareness of the need to persevere, sometimes i n the face of overwhelming a d v e r s i t y , i n the struggle t o overcome the imperfections of man and landscape. Because of the sense of i s o l a t i o n , mental or p h y s i c a l ,  -2-  inherent i n the p r a i r i e , which i t s e l f commands so much of man's energy just i n the struggle to stay a l i v e , the response to i t s challenge i s peculiarly protestant, i n the sense than c o l l e c t i v e .  that i s individual rather  Each man, through his own regenerate behaviour, must  earn the prerogative of mental and physical l i b e r t y .  He i s upheld  by his own right reason, for the tight s o c i a l network of a large urban integrated society i s denied to him.  For this reason, and others,  some especially b r i l l i a n t l i t e r a r y characters populate the p r a i r i e landscape.  I t takes a special almost superhuman e f f o r t to cry out and  be heard i n the wilderness, to be seen as a spot of colour amid the overwhelming greyness of a p a r t i c u l a r l y b i t t e r  environment.  Empty land. Empty sky. A>?stranger to the p r a i r i e s feels uneasily that he i s driving straight into i n f i n i t y . The land i s without character. I t excites neither hatred nor love. There i s nothing here to respond to. Not the austere s i n i s t e r loneliness of a true desert nor the friendly security of a conventional pastoral landscape... Many prosperous farm homes are v i s i b l e from the highway, crouched secure behind squat caragona hedges and towering evergreen windbreaks. But the deserted farmsteads make the greater impact, they offend the eye and depress the soul. The weatherblackened, two-storey houses with vacant, eye-like windows are reminiscent to a reader of Edgar A l l e n Poe of the gloom-ridden House of Usher. And, one suspects, many a farm wife of a past generation must have f e l t a great sense of kinship with the tragic Lady Madeline: the kinship of being buried a l i v e . Even i n f a i l u r e , these people are a sharp though grim reminder of the ambivalence of the human struggle.  We are a l l bound to die, despite  the b r i e f technicolour glory of a minor v i c t o r y , and the landscape,  ^•Edward McCourt, The Road Across Canada, p. 136. McCourt' s description, although i t records the bleakness of the p r a i r i e landscape does not take into account the positive response of i t s s e t t l e r s , the potential which has inspired s e t t l e r and f i c t i o n writer a l i k e .  -3-  which i s seen as an extension of the metaphysical world, w i l l u l t i m a t e l y triumph. L e f t alone with the elements that a l t e r n a t e l y blessed and cursed h i s ancestors, the inhabitant of the Canadian p r a i r i e often responds i n accordance with the t r a d i t i o n s of the old world he has supposedly  l e f t behind.  E i t h e r the environment d i c t a t e s i t s own immutable  archetypal patterns or the man  superimposes h i s own knowledge of the  past on the present to f a c i l i t a t e some kind of mental order. important to understand what we perceive and understanding l i m i t e d to what we know.  i s often  Whatever the reasons, the past i s the conven-  t i o n a l medium for i n t e r p r e t i n g the present.  Whether or not  t h i s i s the appropriate route to t r u t h i s i r r e l e v a n t . responsible for the conditioned response, man or Qod s t i l l happens.  It is  Whoever i s (nature), i t  The p r a i r i e w r i t e r , even when he i s c y n i c a l about f a i t h and  s o c i a l t r a d i t i o n s , as i s Margaret Laurence, i s chained to the observance of the present through the mask of past.  Even i n the new land, we are  bound to the language and symbols of our h e r i t a g e .  This i s the problem  faced by the characters i n most of thetnovels} studied and by the a r t i s t s themselves.  Hagar Shipley i n The Stone Angel i s tortured by  her d e s i r e to e x i s t w i t h i n and outside of time; Abraham i n Adele Wiseman's The S a c r i f i c e i s p a t h e t i c a l l y locked i n a notion of himself that i s e n t i r e l y determined by a d i s t o r t e d view of h i s t o r y . The promise of the future and the new land i s constantly underscored of the past.  by the f a i l u r e s  Hope and despair are juxtaposed.in the seasonal cycles  of the p r a i r i e i t s e l f and i n the a s s o c i a t i o n with the symbolic vocabulary i t evokes. J e s s i e Weston, i n From R i t u a l to Romance, a r t i c u l a t e s the development of the quest motif from the vegetative c y c l e i n which  man  -4-  i s i n v o l u n t a r i l y involved.  The t r a d i t i o n s she describes, which p e r s i s t  i n a l l r e l i g i o n s and a l l l i t e r a t u r e s , are learned from generation to generation through c u l t u r a l i n h e r i t a n c e and through communion with the earth. The f r a i l story i s not du fond en comble the product! of imagination, l i t e r a r y or popular. At i t s root l i e s the record, more or l e s s d i s t o r t e d , of an ancient r i t u a l , having for i t s ultimate object the i n i t i a t i o n i . i n t o the secret of the sources of l i f e , p h y s i c a l and spiritual.^ The notions of the Wasted Land and the F i s h e r King (messiah) which Weston and S i r James Frazer contend are inherent i n a l l r e l i g i o n s are fundamental to the symbolic vocabulary of Ezra Pound and T.S. who applied the t r a d i t i o n a l response to the s p i r i t u a l twentieth century desert.  vacuum of the  Although E l i o t borrows the r u r a l imagery of  E z e k i e l and E c c l e s i a s t e s , h i s wasteland primarily i n t e l l e c t u a l .  Eliot,  i s p r i m a r i l y urban, h i s response  The w r i t e r s of the Canadian p r a i r i e ,  who  learned from the devastating experience of a h o r r i b l e depression i n the t h i r t i e s that the Old King must be dying i f not dead, r e l i e d not on v i c a r i o u s experience but on d i r e c t experience with landscape f o r a r t i s t i c motivation.  * * * R e l i g i o n has i t s anthropological o r i g i n s i n the r i t u a l of nature and nature has decreed that the response to the unfettered p r a i r i e be p a r t i c u l a r l y r e l i g i o u s .  The human l i f e c y c l e , so  i n the structure of the p r a i r i e novel, corresponds to the l i f e death of the earth.  J e s s i e Weston, i n c o r r e l a t i n g the data  important and  compiled  by S i r James Frazer and examining i t s f u n c t i o n i n l i t e r a r y m o t i f s ,  J e s s i e Weston, From R i t u a l to Romance, p.  203.  -5-  explains the development of n a t u r a l patterns i n t o r i t u a l j The ultimate, and what we may i n general sense term the c l a s s i c a l , form i n which t h i s sense of the community of the L i f e p r i n c i p l e found expression was that which endowed l i k e v i v i f y i n g force of Nature with a d i s t i n c t p e r s o n a l i t y d i v i n e , or semi-divine, whose experiences, i n v i r t u e of h i s close kindship with humanity, might be expressed i n terms of ordinary life. At t h i s stage the progress of the seasons, the b i r t h of vegetation i n spring, or i t s r e v i v a l a f t e r the autumn r a i n s , i t s g l o r i o u s f r u i t i o n i n early summer, i t s decline and death under the m a l i f i c e n t influence e i t h e r of the scorching sun, or the b i t t e r winter c o l d , symbolically represented the corresponding stages i n the l i f e of t h i s anthropomorphically conceived Being, whose annual progress from b i r t h to death, from death to a renewed l i f e , was celebrated with a solemn r i t u a l of corresponding a l t e r n a t i o n s of r e j o i c i n g and lamentation.3 The conventional archetypes of p r a i r i e l i t e r a t u r e belong to the l i t u r g y of men of every denomination.  C a t h o l i c , Protestant and Jew  regress h i s t o r i c a l l y to the common t r a d i t i o n of the Old Testament. The Canadian p r a i r i e has become^metaphorically, the b i b l i c a l desert. This pattern would be tedious and contrived, indeed i t sometimes i s , i f i t were not f o r the fundamental honesty of these a s s o c i a t i o n s .  The  environment seems to demand that the a r t i s t approach the abstract through the r e a l i t i e s of past and present. When h i s t o r y adds another dimension to present r e a l i t i e s , as i n The Stone Angel, the phenomenon i s j u s t i f i e d , but when i t i s contrived i n i t s domination of the reader's response to c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n and p l o t , as i n The S a c r i f i c e , where a balance i s only o c c a s i o n a l l y achieved, then i t i s not.  Lawrence's Hagar  i s unique, free of the b i b l i c a l Hagar, except by a s s o c i a t i o n . Her immediate r e a l i t y i s enhanced rather than encumbered by the analogy.  3  I b i d . , p. 3 5 .  -6Over and o v e r a g a i n , the p e r s o n a l s i t u a t i o n s of i n d i v i d u a l s c o n f r o n t i n g the c h a l l e n g e of l i f e explicit biblical universality  terms.  on the p r a i r i e a r e expressed i n  The names o f the c h a r a c t e r s r e f l e c t t h e  of t h e i r dilemma.  I n the ana'lagous b e h a v i o u r o f the  J u d i t h s , Hagars, Abrahams, Jacobs and Sarahs i s c o n t a i n e d the d u a l i t y of e x i s t e n c e .  At once, by a s s o c i a t i o n , t h e optimism of renewal i s  juxtaposed by the i r o n y o f time p a s t . l i v e the new J u d i t h .  The o l d J u d i t h i s dead,  The Idea of J u d i t h p e r s i s t s .  p o s s i b i l i t y i s always t h e r e .  long  The permanent  J u s t as the f l o w e r s of the new season  a r e triumphant over the d r i e d remainders of the year past, the new g e n e r a t i o n i s enough cause f o r c e l e b r a t i o n . The language o f the Old Testament  i s a l s o r e p e a t e d con-  s c i o u s l y and u n c o n s c i o u s l y i n the n o v e l s s t u d i e d .  I n times of s t r e s s ,  the quest f o r meaning o f t e n r e s u l t s i n the c o m f o r t a b l e and r e a s s u r i n g rhythms  of r i t u a l u t t e r a n c e .  familiar  A p a r t from the c o n s c i o u s need f o r t h e  framework of l i t u r g y ,  an almost dogmatic l i n g u i s t i c  the l a n d i t s e l f demands and c o n t r o l s response.  r e f l e c t e d i n the o r g a n i z a t i o n of words. i n the cadences of the o l d .  The order o f n a t u r e i s A new G e n e s i s i s b e i n g w r i t t e n  The mystery o f the p r a i r i e i s t r a n s l a t e d  i n t o the terms which express the m y s t e r i e s of the u n i v e r s e . One of the l i t e r a r y b e n e f i t s o f the r e l a t i v e i s o l a t i o n o f the p r a i r i e w r i t e r i s h i s freedom from the s h a l l o w i m i t a t i o n of contemporary  p r e c e d e n t s , s e t by i n n o v a t o r s i n o t h e r environments, which  has plagued Canadian w r i t e r s of the more urban east and west.  The  -7-  f r o n t i e r mentality, which permeates American p r a i r i e f i c t i o n , has had n e g l i g i b l e e f f e c t on the developing l i t e r a t u r e of the Canadian midwest.^"  S i m i l a r l y , p r a i r i e f i c t i o n has remained r e l a t i v e l y unaffected  by the s o p h i s t i c a t i o n s of San Francisco, New York, London and P a r i s . Out of the mainstream, the p r a i r i e w r i t e r i s freer as an i n d i v i d u a l ; he does not succumb to the temptation to w r i t e of the p r a i r i e w i l d e r ness i n terms of Joyce's Dublin; however he misses the impetus f o r o r i g i n a l i t y which i s provided by the l i t e r a r y c l i q u e and the example of the f i n e s t w r i t e r s of the generation who have found a contemporary mode of expression f o r contemporary problems.  C o n s i s t e n t l y , the p r a i r i e  w r i t e r has turned to the older model which i s rooted deep i n h i s heritage. The romantic pattern of Genesis and the quest f o r the Promised Land i s thematically repeated over and over again.  I t i s the degree of  success with which the immediate i s r e l a t e d to the absolute and the b e l i e v a b i l i t y of the analogy on which much p r a i r i e f i c t i o n w i l l stand or f a l l . There are as many aspects of the quest as there are facets to a diamond.  To extend the metaphor, the o v e r a l l b r i l l i a n c e of the  whole depends on the colour and b r i l l i a n c e of each facet.  The medium  i s a shared language of conventional archetypes but the message must be unique to ensure i t s v a l i d i t y . W  I t i s the q u a l i t y of the journey,  i n Lawrencian terms, on which the outcome depends.  Each of the novels  discussed i s the record of a p a r t i c u l a r journey of the soul.  Some are  more successful than others i n human and a r t i s t i c terms, but they are H.C. A l l e n i n Bush and Backwoods,a comparison of the American and A u s t r a l i a n f r o n t i e r s , describes the great American push to the west over an a r i d and u n f r i e n d l y p r a i r i e , plagued by drought and h o s t i l e Indians. Canadians seem to have viewed the p r a i r i e i t s e l f more o p t i m i s t i c a l l y and the s e t t l e r had on h i s side a t r a d i t i o n of law and order, which i s foreign to the American f r o n t i e r mentality.  -8-  bound by common objectives and the shared symbolism of a u n i v e r s a l quest against a common environmental background.  * ** W.O. M i t c h e l l ' s Who Has Seen the Wind i s the most e x p l i c i t l y metaphysical of the novels studied.  The obvious development of r e l i g i o u s  motifs analagous to a young boy's quest a f t e r the meaning of the wind, as the manifestation o f God, makes t h e n o v e l an obvious place to s t a r t i n the e x p l i c a t i o n of the r e l a t i o n s h i p between environment and the romance theme. his  The author a r t i c u l a t e s the s i g n i f i c a n c e of t h i s symbiosis i n  epigraph.  The Prefatory remarks read: Many i n t e r p r e t e r s of the B i b l e believe the wind to be symbollic of Godhead. In t h i s story I have t r i e d to present sympathetically the struggle of a boy to understand what s t i l l defeats mature and learned men -- the ultimate meaning of the cycle of l i f e . To him are revealed i n moments of f l e e t i n g v i s i o n the r e a l i t i e s of b i r t h , hunger, s a t i e t y , e t e r n i t y , death. They are moments when an i n q u i r i n g heart seeks f i n a l i t y , and the chain of darkness i s broken. This i s the story of a boy and the wind.  Here the l i f e cycles of man and the landscape are thematically l i n k e d and the s t r u c t u r a l and moral patterns of the novel are established. Who Has Seen the Wind i s a t i g h t l y structured novel i n which the epiphanies which comprise the r e v e l a t i o n s of a young boy on the p r a i r i e are developed by analogy through the l i f e c y c l e .  The c i r c l e ,  which on one hand symbolically unites man to God and on the other represents  the regenerative and degenerative phases of natural  i s at once the dominant symbol and the shape of experience.  existence,  The s e l f -  conscious c o n t r o l of r e a l i t y through r e l i g i o u s imagery i s mitigated by the disarming humanity of the young boy as he encounters the truths and f i c t i o n s of l i f e on h i s journey toward knowledge and s p i r i t u a l and physical adulthood.  -9-  The novel's a r t i s t i c success depends upon the v a l i d i t y of the analogy drawn between animate and inanimate r e a l i t i e s , time mutable and e t e r n a l .  The rhythms of the boy's l i f e are determined by the  seasonal rhythms of nature.  On the p r a i r i e , the heartbeats of n a t u r a l  r e l i g i o n can be f e l t and i n t e r p r e t e d symbolically. between man and h i s environment,which  The discord  i s the r e s u l t of c i v i l i z a t i o n  and the e f f o r t to dominate and overcome the forces of nature, can be at l e a s t temporarily forgotten on the p r a i r i e . 'f.Brian's quest u l t i m a t e l y leads him there, away from the town, where he can search f o r meaning without  . being influenced by the d i s t o r t i n g s o c i a l mores which cause  a breach i n the great c i r c l e of complete understanding, which Abraham described i n Adele Wiseman's The S a c r i f i c e . The p o l a r i t i e s of town and country which are manifested l i t e r a l l y and metaphorically i n p r a i r i e f i c t i o n are inherent i n M i t c h e l l ' s treatment of m a t e r i a l and s p i r i t u a l r e a l i t i e s .  The town  i s corrupt, Eden a f t e r the f a l l , a place of f a l s e values and f a l s e r e l i g i o n , and the country, where the truths of l i f e and death persevere, becomes a kind of Promised Land, where the regenerate can f i n d the state of grace through contact with nature.  Laurence's Hagar Shipley,  M i t c h e l l ' s Brian, and Ross's Mrs. Bentley are a l l suspicious of the town.  Their c u r i o s i t y draws them back to the unspoiled earth. This eighteenth century view may appear to be s u p e r f i c i a l l y  escapist and y e t , inherent i n the withdrawal from society which i s necessary for the penetration of the unknown, i s the promise of renewal f o r the town and the peers of the questor who returns to share h i s knowledge.-*  ^The "back to nature" movement of the romantics i s evidence of the escape i n t o landscape which, h o p e f u l l y , w i l l r e v i v e uncorrupted values i n the soul of a man who has been conditioned by a r t i f i c i a l s o c i a l values. I t i s not "escape" but "renewal" that the romantic questor i s seeking.  -10-  This o p t i m i s t i c view p e r s i s t s i n s p i t e of the physical adversity  of  landscape and the moral degeneration represented i n towns. The concern with generation, 'which i s an aspect of the seasonal considerations  which shape the l i f e and a t t i t u d e s of the  p r a i r i e inhabitant, i s indigenous to the land and to the man there.  The elaborate  who  lives  geneology of Genesis i s r e f l e c t e d i n the Canadian  p r a i r i e novel, where the questor's chief weapon against time i s his a b i l i t y to procreate.  Past and present are united through the  a b s t r a c t i o n of shared mythology and the family r e l a t i o n s h i p s which are even more important to r u r a l people than to t h e i r urban counterparts.  These r e l a t i o n s h i p s can be educational, as i n Brian O'Connal's  experiences with h i s grandmother and parents, or d e s t r u c t i v e , as i n the twisted i d e n t i t y dilemmas of the family of Abraham i n Adele Wiseman's The  Sacrifice.  Although there i s much of the book of Genesis i n Who  Has  Seen the Wind, the novel i s thematically c l o s e r to the guarded cynicism of E c c l e s i a s t e s and the prophecy of E z e k i e l .  Much h i s t o r y has passed  before E c c l e s i a s t e s and the untried f a i t h of the early chapters has been replaced by skepticism.  M i t c h e l l ' s concern with the problems  of the twentieth century wasteland are united with the u n i v e r s a l themes through h i s employment of the imagery of E c c l e s i a s t e s most popular with w r i t e r s of the " l o s t generation" p a r t i c u l a r l y E l i o t , Pound and Hemingway.  of Gertrude S t e i n ,  I t i s important to remember  that the optimism inherent i n the r e l a t i o n s h i p of the quest to b i b l i c a l themes i s often c o n t r o l l e d i n p r a i r i e f i c t i o n by the signposts of memory. No one who  has endured wars, t r a n s p l a n t a t i o n and a  p r a i r i e depression can believe that a l l i s for the best i n the best of  -11a l l p o s s i b l e worlds.  However, that i s not to say that the p o s s i b i l i t y  does not e x i s t . Brian O'Connal's quest i s p r i m a r i l y v e r t i c a l , i n that he endeavours to transcend the p r a i r i e landscape and experience the r e a l i t i e s of the metaphysical world.  His experience, although rooted  i n the s o i l , moves toward the-;sun as centre of the universe.  Because  of the symbolic nature of h i s journey, he never becomes t r u l y threedimensional.  I t i s i n S i n c l a i r Ross' novel As For Me and My House that  psychological r e a l i t i e s are most e f f e c t i v e l y p i t t e d against e l u s i v e metaphysical absolutes. In the novel whose t i t l e i s taken from the promise of Joshua ("As f o r me and my house, we w i l l serve the Lord") on the journey to the Promised Land, the psychological grotesques of unbearable r e a l i t i e s compete d a i l y with a stubborn f a i t h i n the existence of absolutes.  The environment becomes f o r the Bentleys the f i e r c e God  of the Old Testament who punishes f o r any d e v i a t i o n from the p u r i t a n i c a l quest f o r s a l v a t i o n .  Only through s u f f e r i n g are they able to expiate  the g u i l t f e l t for thwarted d e s i r e s , sexual, moral and r e l i g i o u s hypocrisy.  Joshua's promise i s both honestly f e l t and h y p o c r i t i c a l l y  adhered to as they f a l t e r In the t r i a l and contains the essence of the ambivalence of the novel. The j u x t a p o s i t i o n of hope and despair i n As for Me and My House i s e f f e c t i v e l y p e r s o n i f i e d i n the p e r s i s t e n t l y i n t r u s i v e landscape. The wind, which i s both giver and destroyer f o r Brian O'Connal, invades l i k e the i c y tentacles of an octopus the corners of the shabby house and minds of the Bentleys, whose e f f o r t to keep the f a i t h i s p a i n f u l and continuous.  Wind and dust are the only r e l i e f from the vestiges  of optimism inherent i n the progression of generations and the p e r s i s t e n t  -12-  adherence  t o the d o c t r i n e of s a l v a t i o n through  which i s focused i n the symbolic o f f e r i n g s e l f - f l a g e l l a t i o n and The  s a c r i f i c e , a notion  of J u d i t h and the p s y c h o l o g i c a l  f a l s e martyrdom of both Mr.  impulse t o b e l i e v e and  and Mrs.  Bentley.  overcome, which i s h o n e s t l y f e l t  by both p a r t n e r s i n the h e l l i s h marriage, i s c o n s t a n t l y checked the grim reminders man;  man  of p r a i r i e d e p r e s s i o n .  i s r e s p o n s i b l e f o r h i s own  I f he f a i l s ,  he w i l l  suffer.  God w i l l not p r o v i d e f o r  p h y s i c a l and  spiritual  I f he succeeds, he may  s u f f e r i n g and e x p e r i e n c e the sublime.  sustenance.  p o s s i b l y transcend  The B e n t l e y ' s quest i s v e r t i c a l ,  but the o p p o r t u n i t y f o r s a l v a t i o n i s a s m a l l c h i n k of l i g h t overwhelmingly  o p p r e s s i v e environmental  As For Me t e n s i o n s and Renaissance  painter.  out o n i t h e r a c k .  serves as a reminder  L i k e E l Greco's  i n the  greyness.  and My House i s a mannerist work of  the dog E l Greco  by  figures,  surrealistic  of the agony of the  the B e n t l e y s are s t r e t c h e d  B e l i e f i s constantly associated with pain.  T h e broken c i r c l e , poignant e x p r e s s i o n of the breakdown of communication between man and God i s one of the more important s t y l i s t i c f e a t u r e s i n Ross's As For Me and My House, A d e l e Wiseman's The S a c r i f i c e , and M i t c h e l l ' s Who Has Seen the Wind as i t i s i n M i l t o n ' s " L y c i d a s " and Shakespeare's King L e a r and a t y p i c a l mannerist g e s t a l t . In As For Me and My House, mannerist c o n t r a p o s t o i s m a n i f e s t e d i n the a g o n i z i n g p o l a r i t i e s of C h r i s t i a n i d e a l i s m and g r i m p s y c h o l o g i c a l reality. The e f f i c a c i o u s t e c h n i c a l s u r f a c e of the mannerist s t y l e , which s e r v e s t o c o n t r o l the s u b j e c t i v i t y of c o n f l i c t , i s r e f l e c t e d i n Ross's c a r e f u l c o n t r o l of language i n the n o v e l . In h i s e x c e l l e n t s e c t i o n , i n Four Stages of Renaissance S t y l e , d e v e l o p i n g the thematic analogies, " b e t w e e n mannerist p a i n t i n g , a r c h i t e c t u r e and l i t e r a t u r e , W y l i e Sypher d e s c r i b e s the c o n d i t i o n s which m o t i v a t e d t h i s p a r t i c u l a r response, " I t seems to be a response to the temper o f Europe between 1520 and 1620, one of tormenting doubt and r i g o r o u s obedience t o a r d e n t l y f e l t but i n c o h e r e n t dogmatic p r i n c i p l e s . Mannerism i s f u l l of c o n t r a d i c t i o n s : r i g i d f o r m a l i t y and obvious ' d i s t u r b a n c e ' , bareness and o v e r e l e g a n c e , m y s t i c i s m and pornography, E l Greco and P a r m i g i a n i n o . " (p. 127). 6  -13-  Superficially, and h e l l  the n o v e l moves through the seasons of w i n t e r  i n t o s p r i n g and the promise of renewal c o n t a i n e d i n the b i r t h  of J u d i t h ' s baby.  Ross  1  use of the c y c l i c  s u b t l e and h o r r i b l y i r o n i c . life.  Death  p a t t e r n of M i t c h e l l i s more  i s s a t a n i c a l l y r e p r e s e n t e d i n new  R e g e n e r a t i o n i s never automatic and can only be  earned.  There i s more of the d e s e r t i n the Promised Land o f Ross' prairie.  However, the magnetic a t t r a c t i o n which draws the f i n e r  i n s t i n c t s of H o r i z o n ' s i n h a b i t a n t s away from the town t o the c o u n t r y is  the same immutable  i n the l a n d i t s e l f , f l o o d , exceeds  faith  force that p e r s i s t s i n p r a i r i e l i t e r a t u r e .  Faith  i n s p i t e of the c r u e l a l t e r n a t i o n of drought i n human n a t u r e .  I t i s only through a  harmonious  r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h the e a r t h that the i d e a l can be e x p e r i e n c e d . B e n t l e y s e r r i n t h e i r assumption only r o u t e to the s p i r i t .  and  The  t h a t r e n u n c i a t i o n of the f l e s h i s the  When they waver, the g u i l t r e s u l t i n g  from  c a r n a l s i n not o n l y prevents t h e i r knowledge of the i d e a l , but a l s o the p o s s i b i l i t y of approaching a c o n d i t i o n of grace through the r e a l . L i k e Margaret Laurence's Hagar, the B e n t l e y ' s m i s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f p u r i t a n i c a l v a l u e s e l i m i n a t e s the p o s s i b i l i t y  of a heaven  on e a r t h .  Even t h e i r r e l i g i o n becomes an a s p e c t o f s i n f o r the B e n t l e y s . T h e i r i d e a l i s m w i l l not a l l o w them t o a c c e p t the l e g i t i m a t e phenomenon of doubt, and, when they f i n d  t h e i r f a i t h wavering, they are unable  to p r o g r e s s t o the a l t e r n a t e p o s s i b i l i t y .  They attempt  d o g m a t i c a l l y t o a pragmatic landscape and t h e i r  t o respond  tragedy i s r e a l l y a i»>  f a i l u r e to l e a r n the l e s s o n s o f n a t u r e and adapt.  The d e c i s i o n to  escape a c r o s s the p r a i r i e t o another s i t u a t i o n , which w i l l p r o b a b l y become j u s t another p o i n t on the l o c u s of d e s p a i r , i n s t e a d of f a c i n g the ... r e a l i s s u e s which w i l l  f o l l o w them wherever  they go, i s the  -14-  ultimate f a i l u r e .  L i k e Hagar Shipley, the Bentleys must l e a r n that  the r e a l wilderness i s personal and cannot be escaped.  While S i n c l a i r Ross has e f f e c t i v e l y recorded the e f f e c t of environment on character, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n As for Me and My House and his  poignant short s't'bry" "The Painted Door", Margaret Laurence i s  more concerned with the point of view which a f f e c t s perception of landscape. God,  In her two " p r a i r i e " novels. The Stone Angel and A Jest of  the world i s seen through the medium of the concave and convex  p e r s o n a l i t i e s of Rachel Cameron and Hagar Shipley.  That i s not to  say the environment lacks a r e a l i t y of i t s own; Mrs. Laurence's d e s c r i p t i o n i s p a r t i c u l a r l y v i v i d , but i s d i s t o r t e d i n the s e l f centred mirror v i s i o n of the major characters. This point of view has a e s t h e t i c and moral i m p l i c a t i o n s , for Margaret Laurence's i s a man-centred universe.  She i s c y n i c a l about  the d i v i n e p o s s i b i l i t i e s of the n a t u r a l or supernatural worlds.  She  i s not concerned with the system of absolutes which i n s p i r e the romanticism of other p r a i r i e w r i t e r s but with the purely human p o s s i b i l i t y of personal f u l f i l l m e n t .  Her mysteries e x i s t w i t h i n not  without the mind and her characters are generally c y n i c a l about notions of a great designer.  Natural d e s c r i p t i o n i n the novels i s r e a l and  f u l l of awe, but there i s nothing of the f e e l i n g of d i v i n i t y behind the various aspects of landscape. Despite the overwhelming concern with mutable l i f e , which leads Hagar and Rachel to r e j e c t the o p t i m i s t i c a t t i t u d e toward death p a r t i c u l a r l y manifested by W. 0. M i t c h e l l i n Who Has Seen the  -15-  Wind, Margaret Laurence's characters are trapped by the p u r i t a n i c a l frame of reference which seems indigenous to the p r a i r i e . ^  Although  Hagar and Rachel r e j e c t organized r e l i g i o n e a r l y i n t h e i r l i v e s and repudiate the town, which i s the focus of t h e i r f l a g e l l a t i o n and s u f f e r i n g , by escaping to the coast, they consciously or unconsciously attempt to l i v e w i t h i n the p u r i t a n e t h i c .  Hard work and s e l f  s a c r i f i c e , even though i t i s e g o t i s t i c a l l y motivated, are inherent in their l i f e styles. S t i l l , human r e l a t i o n s h i p s have ascendency over the compulsion f o r communion with God which a l t e r n a t e l y i n s p i r e s and f r u s t r a t e s some of the other characters i n p r a i r i e f i c t i o n .  B i b l i c a l  • and  sacramental patterns i n both novels f u n c t i o n i r o n i c a l l y i n that they are r e l i e d upon as the framework for s e l f r e a l i z a t i o n despite the i n d i v i d u a l ' s e f f o r t to break free from the r i t u a l demands of society and the  inevitable  progression of the l i f e c y c l e . Although Laurence's  Hagar, Wiseman's Abraham and M i t c h e l l ' s B r i a n O'Connal are obsessed by separate goals, they are i r r e v o c a b l y bound by a common language of archetypes. Hagar, described as an "Egyptian", i s d e l i b e r a t e l y preC h r i s t i a n and her world i s constantly described i n the terms of the desert, a barr.enwilderness that i s , i n f a c t , an extension of her own i n a b i l i t y to " r e j o i c e " and communicate.  She has no love for the  land, as does her husband Bram Shipley whose dynastic urge i s at once  'Although she does not deal with the w r i t i n g s of Margaret Laurence, Margaret Cameron i n her M.A. t h e s i s , "Puritanism i n the Canadian P r a i r i e Novel," describes the p u r i t a n i c a l response to the p r a i r i e landscape and i t s s i g n i f i c a n t function i n the development of p r a i r i e f i c t i o n .  -16-  understandable and p a t h e t i c , f o r i t i s a mirror held up to the d e s o l a t i o n of her own soul.  Her greatest mistake r e s t s i n the  assumption that the negative q u a l i t i e s of her character can be l e f t behind i n the environment onto which she has e g o t i s t i c a l l y transposed them. The journey motif, which so often i s s y m b o l i c a l l y represented by the t r a i n which unites the p r a i r i e people with the outside world, i s p o l a r i z e d i n the opposites of escape and commitment i n The Stone Angel and A Jest of God. U l t i m a t e l y , the quest for s e l f - r e a l i z a t i o n , a s o l u t i o n to the problem of i d e n t i t y , must r e s u l t i n communion, but the complicated processes by which the c o n f l i c t s are resolved often involve the f a l s e journey which i s a r e t r e a t i n t o the world of i l l u s i o n which obscures the t r u t h about themselves.  For Rachel, i n  A Jest of Godj.the f a l s e journey i s inherent i n her d e c i s i o n to leave Manawaka and i n her daydreams which eliminate the p o s s i b i l i t y of coming to grips with h e r s e l f i n terms of the r e a l world.  Analagous  to Rachel's r e t r e a t s are Hagar's aggressive forays i n t o the i l l u s o r y world of self-misconception. I n order f o r both women t o f i n d t h e i r way out of the wilderness, they must journey i n opposite d i r e c t i o n s . Hagar has to l e a r n to examine her own weaknesses, to accept the d i s p a r i t y between her s e l f image and r e a l i t y , and Rachel must e x t e r n a l i z e the s e l f which has hidden too long beneath a s h e l l of p i t y and s e l f doubt. The quest takes many i n t e r e s t i n g d i r e c t i o n s .  I n order to  know themselves, i s o l a t e d beings i n the vast unprotected land must r e c o n c i l e notions r e a l and i d e a l through human e f f o r t .  I n the  novels of Margaret Laurence, that e f f o r t i s expressed i n human terms.  -18She does not hope to e x p l a i n the n a t u r a l i n terms of the supernatural but must deal with e m p i r i c a l data as she perceives i t .  Thereilis  more to be learned from human than from d i v i n e r e v e l a t i o n .  It is a  lesson the Bentleys might have learned.  The most profound f a i l u r e to adapt to environment i s that of Abraham i n Adele Wiseman's novel The S a c r i f i c e , w r i t t e n i n 1956. T r a g i c a l l y , the Russian immigrant, bearing the weighty legacy of h i s name, i s t o t a l l y i n s e n s i t i v e to the d i a l e c t i c demands a r t i c u l a t e d by h i s own creed.  He responds, according to h i s own emotional  and  i n t e l l e c t u a l construct, to the jungle of the c i t y as though i t were the b i b l i c a l wilderness.  The old man,  dangerously  balancing on the  edge of a madness created by h i s obsession with h i s t o r i c a l time, f a i l s d r a m a t i c a l l y i n h i s dynastic ambitions.  The code "to grow,  to discover, to b u i l d " becomes a paradox as Abraham, the questor who ignores the demands of landscape, marks time, l i k e  theidreamer  i n h i s dream, never moving beyond the s t a t i c c o n d i t i o n of p a r a l y s i s . Abraham i s the archetypal Wandering Jew and h i s dilemma i s that of jews everywhere,>eshould on responding  he persevere i n h i s i n s i s t e n c e  t r a d i t i o n a l l y to new s i t u a t i o n s or should he adapt to  the contemporary landscape.  Unfortunately for h i s v i c t i m s , Miss  Wiseman's b l i n d and f o o l i s h Lear dogmatically fashions h i s quest a f t e r the symbolic mode of Jewish t r a d i t i o n , f o r g e t t i n g h i s r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s as a human being.  L i k e Hagar Shipley, he refuses to communicate and  becomes a grotesque, defeated by h i s own good i n t e n t i o n s . Miss Wiseman's i s the most e x p l i c i t use of b i b l i c a l analogue to date i n p r a i r i e f i c t i o n .  The book revolves t h e m a t i c a l l y and  -19-  a e s t h e t i c a l l y around the problem of r e c o n c i l i n g symbol and r e a l i t y , time h i s t o r i c a l and immediate.  Just as Abraham f a i l s as an i n d i v i d u a l ,  the novel o c c a s i o n a l l y f a i l s to transcend the contrivances of an analagous p l o t .  The r i t u a l i n t o which Abraham has fashioned h i s  l i f e i s only c r e d i b l e when i t completes the c i r c l e between man and God, as i n the scene where Laiah i s murdered i n accordance with the rhythms of sexual and r e l i g i o u s passion, even though Abraham f a i l s himself to do that. The c i t y , out of touch with the elements except where the cold invades during the winters of discontent, complicates the fundamental harmony between the p r a i r i e environment and the romantic motifs o r i g i n a l l y i n s p i r e d by a s i m i l a r landscape.  Unlike the  Bentleys, B r i a n O'Connal, or Rachel Cameron, Abraham and h i s family are unable to escape the l a b y r i n t h of urban l i f e and  achieve  the symbolic p o t e n t i a l of t h e i r names i n communion with the p r a i r i e . The s a c r i f i c i a l theme, which permeates a l l l i t e r a t u r e of progress and i s fundamental to the seasonal preoccupations  of  p r a i r i e w r i t e r s , i s the instrument of harmony and discord i n Adele Wiseman's novel.  O p t i m i s t i c a l l y , renewal, or more s p e c i f i c a l l y the  p o s s i b i l i t y of p e r f e c t i o n f o r Moses, the grandson, i s inherent i n Abraham's misguided s a c r i f i c e of h i s son and the f a l s e earth mother Laiah.  On the other hand, the murders, one conscious and  unconscious,  other  are immoral and degenerate, contrary to the laws of  nature and s o c i e t y . Although Isaac's s e l f s a c r i f i c e i s voluntary, i t i s a conditioned response to the awesome demands of the father. At the point of r i t u a l death, the p o l a r i t i e s of hope and despair are i n e x t r i c a b l y wedded.  Abraham's assumption of the r o l e of s a c r i f i c i a l  -20-  p r i e s t i s u l t i m a t e l y immoral because i t i s out of the context of h i s s o c i a l environment.  What i s heroic i n the b i b l i c a l Abraham  i s pathetic i n the old immigrant. Another motif introduced i n The S a c r i f i c e , which i s common to much quest l i t e r a t u r e , i s d i v i n e i n t e r v e n t i o n , r e a l or imaginary, i n the person of the messiah.  The struggle to overcome h i s natural  condition i s so overwhelming at times he a r t i c u l a t e s the need f o r an agent of s a l v a t i o n , an intermediary who can i n t e r p r e t the w i l l of God and elevate man to a higher p o s i t i o n i n the hierarchy of heaven and earth.  I n h i s madness, Abraham thrusts the messianic r o l e on the  s i c k l y shoulders of h i s only remaining son. tragic.  H i s expectations are  Elsewhere i n p r a i r i e l i t e r a t u r e , the C h r i s t - l i k e function i s  l i m i t e d to the i n d i v i d u a l who has the capacity to make the message of love and compssion f e l t i n the l i v e s of the people.  George  E l l i o t t ' s The K i s s i n g Man i s populated with such characters.  The  semi-divine questor i s a l s o c e n t r a l to the A u s t r a l i a n w r i t e r Randolph Stow's novel Tourmaline, which i s b r i e f l y discussed to i l l u s t r a t e a s i m i l a r response to a landscape s i m i l a r to the Canadian p r a i r i e . The fundamental puritanism of Canadian p r a i r i e f i c t i o n i s c o n t r o l l e d by an environment that j u s t i f i e s the protestant notion of p e r f e c t i o n through s u f f e r i n g .  L i f e i s b r u t a l and death i s p a i n f u l ,  but the': promise.of renewal' is.inher.ent i n every winter and every sacrifice. Thou hastiturned f o r me my mourning i n t o dancing. Thou has put o f f my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. (Psalm XXX,II) P r a i r i e w r i t e r s , combining an i n t e l l e c t u a l response to the modern wasteland, a p h y s i c a l and metaphysical response to the p r a i r i e , and an emotional response to the p e r s i s t a n t memory of t r a d i t i o n a l  -21-  mythology, have, despite t h e i r i s o l a t i o n , reacted i n a very way  to the p o s s i b i l i t i e s of a Promised Land, personal and  i n the Canadian mid-west.  social,  The quest motif i s inherent i n the  of growing, discovering and b u i l d i n g , i r o n i c a l l y a r t i c u l a t e d unsuccessful  traveller.  similar  processes by an  CHAPTER I Who Has Seen the Wind  C h r i s t i n a R o s s e t t i ' s poem, which provides the t i t l e f o r the novel Who Has Seen the Wind, a l s o a r t i c u l a t e s i t s c e n t r a l problem; man's e f f o r t to comprehend the mysteries of a vast and uncompromising universe. the  The wind, Old Testament symbol of Godhead, becomes i n  novel a metaphor for the ultimate mysteries which c o n t r o l the  destiny of a young boy and the people and things around him.  W.O.  M i t c h e l l has adapted the t r a d i t i o n a l quest motif to a boy's s t r i v i n g a f t e r the meaning of the wind.  The boy learns e a r l y that he, l i k e a  k i t e , i s caught up i n i t s omnipotent force.  The epic journey of  B r i a n Sean MacMurray O'Connal.is one toward s e l f knowledge. journey of the soul has i t s o r i g i n a l impetus i n r e a l i t y .  His  Brian's  maturing process i s analagous to the development of the novel, which grows from the p a r t i c u l a r to the absolute.  M i t c h e l l has presented  the  problems confronting man i n microcosm, through a young boy on  the  p r a i r i e , but, as Brian struggles to r e l a t e h i s own personal  mythology to the Ideas behind the l i f e force, i t appears that he is indeed at the centre-of the universe. the  I t i s i n the v a l i d i t y of  immediate experience that the novel 'and the boy approach t r u t h . B r i a n , l i k e Stephen Dedalus, i s a stone i n the pool.  As  he breaks the smooth surface of the unknown, each r e v e l a t i o n , which comes i n the form of an epiphany, motivates a larger c i r c l e of awareness.  The boy grows outward from each experience. L i k e  -23-  Stephen, Brian learns the p a i n f u l process of transcending time and place i n the e f f o r t t t o know and understand. The c i r c l e , chief a e s t h e t i c and s t r u c t u r a l device i n the novel, permeates the conscious and unconscious mind as the boy and the novel progress through a l i f e cycle which, although i t s arc embraces a season i n h e l l , i s e s s e n t i a l l y p o s i t i v e .  There i s , i n  B r i a n and i n M i t c h e l l , an enthusiasm, which i n S i n c l a i r Ross's novel As For Me and My House i s c r u e l l y ambiguous.  In Who  Has  Seen the Wind, the emotional and i n t e l l e c t u a l emphasis i s on the ascendent phase. For everything there i s a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to d i e ; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what i s planted; a time to k i l l and a time to h e a l ; a time to break down and a time to b u i l d up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; (Ecclesiastes, 3 : 1 ) Mutable time and the wind, time immutable, are corresponding parts of the great c i r c l e .  The rhythms of the book, which o r i g i n a t e  i n r e a l i t y , ^ p r o g r e s s d i a l e c t i c a l l y i n accordance with the patterns of the universe: The sun r i s e s and the sun goes down, And hastens to the place where i t r i s e s . The wind blows to the south, And goes round to the north; Round and round goes the wind, And on i t s ' c i r c u i t the wind returns. (Ecclesiastes, 1 : 5 ) The skepticism of the twentieth century has l e d many l i t e r a r y a r t i s t s to the b i b l i c a l warnings of the books of E c c l e s i a s t e s and E z e k i e l , which are the source of much of the wasteland imagery that permeates the poetry of Pound and E l i o t and the novels of Hemingway,  -24-  p a r t i c u l a r l y The Sun Also Rises.  However, inherent i n the wasteland  c o n d i t i o n , i s the promise of regeneration. dead i s the promise of new l i f e .  I n the dry bones of the  The s p i r i t of God blows upon them  "and the breath came i n t o them, and they l i v e d and stood upon t h e i r feet" ( E z e k i e l  37:10)  M i t c h e l l avoids the a r t i s t i c dangers inherent  i n the r e p e t i t i o n of these motifs through h i s o r i g i n a l treatment of reality.  Through h i s honesty i n recording the e m p i r i c a l data of  characters and landscape and an obvious d e l i g h t i n human nature and natural environment, he breathes l i f e i n t o h i s characters and avoids the stereotype.  U n l i k e E l i o t , who envisioned the p o s s i b i l i t y of  s a l v a t i o n through organized r e l i g i o n , which Brian soon learns i s clouded by hypocrisy, b i g o t r y and narrow p r o v i n c i a l i s m , M i t c h e l l concentrates on the protestant notion of i n d i v i d u a l i t y .  Theboy  learns, through h i s own regenerate behaviour, the u n i v e r s a l premises of a n a t u r a l r e l i g i o n .  By the end of the novel, he knows h i s quest  w i l l lead him not to the church but to the p r a i r i e , which, despite apparent s i m i l a r i t y to the wasteland, becomes a kind of Promised Land. From one season t o another, from b i r t h to death, the wind c a r r i e s i t s message to the boy who i s looking for God. I t i s an ambiguous wind, l i k e the wind of the Old Testament -- sometimes benign, sometimes f i e r c e and vengeful. away.  The vast unprotected  f i c k l e n e s s of the wind. to feed them.  The wind gives and the wind takes '  p r a i r i e i s p a r t i c u l a r l y subject to the  I t can b r i n g death to the crops or r a i n  P a t i e n t l y , the p r a i r i e waits " f o r the u n f a i l i n g  v i s i t a t i o n of the wind, gentle at f i r s t , barely s t r o k i n g the long grasses and given them l i f e ; l a t e r , a long hot gusting  that would  -25-  l i f t the black t o p s o i l and p i l e i t i n barrow p i t s along the roads,  Q or i n deep banks against the fences." B r i a n i s s e n s i t i v e to the changing moods of the wind.  He  associates i t with fear and d e s t r u c t i o n and a l t e r n a t e l y with freedom and  goodness. He l i s t e n e d to a r i s i n g wind that night as he l a y i n bed with Bobbie. The brass weather s t r i p p i n g on the doors of the house v i b r a t e d mournfully through the darkness again and again. Brian lay wide-eyed, f i l l e d with awful g u i l t and - much morse than that - with the fear of promised punishment. He f e l t a gathering Presence i n h i s room as the wind l i f t e d high, and higher s t i l l , keening and keening again, to die away and be born once more while the sad hum of the weather s t r i p p i n g lingered on i n the s i l e n c e . Fearful-avenging-was the gathering wrath about to s t r i k e down Brian Sean MacMurray O'Connal, the t e r r o r s t r i c k e n Brian O'Connal, who had l i e d about his hands. He dared not move. He dared not cry out. He dared not stay s i l e n t . Taking i t s rhythm from the w i l d wind, panic l i f t e d w i t h i n him, subsided, rose again and washed over him t i l l he trembled unmercifully and sweat started out over h i s e n t i r e body. 9  B r i a n i s himself a harp the wind plays upon. its  M i t c h e l l imitates  e f f e c t on the boy through r i t u a l language.  almost involuntary i n h i s response to the wind.  At f i r s t Brian i s His i n i t i a l  r e a c t i o n , wonder, i s replaced by comprehension as he moves beyond h i s l i m i t e d conception of R.W.  God, B.V.D., a l l bloody, to acceptance  of h i s father's d e f i n i t i o n of the abstract. On the paper he made blue with h i s crayon. And God was there. He made a yellow God, yellow for the round part, and green legs, and purple eyes and red arms, and that was God. He made another God and another, and another t i l l there were Gods a l l over the paper. He added arms and more arms, legs and more l e g s ; those were spider Gods, of course.10  8w.O. 9  M i t c h e l l Who Has Seen the Wind, p. 1.  I b i d . , p. 95.  °0p. c i t . , p. 32.  -26-  His early attempts to define God i n concrete terms are not u n l i k e the e f f o r t of Paul, i n S i n c l a i r Ross's As For Me and My House, to a r r i v e at a meaningful philosophy of l i f e through semantics.  However,  for both Paul and B r i a n , the words and symbols of c i v i l i z a t i o n are r e a l l y the masks of r e a l i t y which impede t h e i r quest f o r s e l f knowledge. Brian's Uncle Sean recognizes the wind as h i s adversary i n his  long and b i t t e r struggle with the p r a i r i e .  He i s the secular  p r i e s t who w i l l grow " l i l a c s out of the dead land."  Uncle Sean's  struggle with the wind and the barren land i s only s u p e r f i c i a l l y profane.  H i s r e f u s a l to acquiesce i s a magnificent a s s e r t i o n of  man's e f f o r t to overcome personal f a l l i b i l i t y .  I n t h i s , he i s  e s s e n t i a l l y p u r i t a n i c a l , although few of the townspeople are s e n s i t i v e to the q u a l i t y of d i v i n i t y i n h i s v o i c e . fertility  He represents the p o t e n t i a l  of the p r a i r i e , which i s untouched by the corruption of  the town.  H i s i s a p r i e s t - l i k e f u n c t i o n and B r i a n recognizes the  r i t u a l power of h i s blasphemy, and i s hypnotized by the power of h i s splendid r h e t o r i c . The uncle's denunciations are f e r v i d l y e v a n g e l i c a l . He w i l l m u l t i p l y h i s t a l e n t instead of burying i t .  He has the power to make  a paradise i n the desert. In the course of the drought years Sean had changed from a bewildered man, watching dry winds l i c k up the t o p s o i l from h i s land, to a man with a message. He was the keeper of the Lord's vineyard, l i t e r a l l y . And now as he often d i d , he launched into one of his e v a n g e l i c a l denunciations. 'Awful! She's plum awful, Gerald! Stupid!" he c r i e d . 'They never hearda- s t r i p farming a n they don't wanta hear! 'Plant yer crops! I t e l l 'em, ' i n s t r i p s across the p r e v a i l i n g winds- Eight the wind an' f i g h t the d r i f t i n ' " 1  U  I b i d . , p. 18.  -27Th e grandmother, whose death wish i s c l o s e l y associated(i with the wind, a l s o perceives i t s s p i r i t u a l function. the window that cuts o f f her communion with God.  She resents  Brian becomes her  intermediary, l i f t i n g the sash and l e t t i n g i t s mint freshness invade the  staleness of the sickroom.  The wind f o r the grandmother i s  l i f e i n death; i t ameliorates the i n e r t i a of limbo as she waits for change.  The boy i s s e n s i t i v e to the s p i r i t u a l need, which  transcends h i s mother's concern f o r the p h y s i c a l . wisdom as she nears the end of her l i f e c y c l e .  He feeds on her  The mother, on the  other hand, has every reason to fear death, which has threatened her youngest son and taken her husband. The changes which occur i n the boy's r e l a t i o n s h i p with h i s grandmother s i g n i f i c a n t l y Originally,  p a r a l l e l h i s growth toward maturity.  he perceives her only i n the physical sense; her smell,  her limp, andher belching.  As he slowly puts together the pieces  of r e a l i t y toxform a personal philosophy, he becomes aware of her as a r e a l person with a body and a soul.  " I t seems too that as he got  older h i s grandmother had come to meet him s p i r i t u a l l y i n her d e c l i n i n g 12 years; f o r a l l h i s g r a v i t y he was s t i l l a c h i l d . "  Boy and grand-  mother are both hovering on a threshold, he of l i f e temporal and she of l i f e e t e r n a l .  Their expectancy i s a medium f o r communication.  When the o l d lady d i e s , there i s a sense of r e l i e f .  I t i s right.  Unlike Brian's father, who i s cut o f f at the prime, she has completed l i f e ' s cycle.  The grandmother, i n death, becomes a part of the boy,  a l i n k between the past and the present, the r e a l and the i d e a l . 2  0p. c i t . , p. 251.  -28She i s dust, but out of that dust w i l l grow h i s manhood. Saint Sammy i s an i n t e r e s t i n g and ambiguous f i g u r e i n Brian's landscape.  His s p i r i t u a l i t y escapes s u b l i m i t y and achieves only the  grotesque.  He i s the exception to M i t c h e l l ' s equation of the wind  to regenerate characters. smells of death.  The old man i s associated with the  charnel  His quest f o r truth i s a f a i l u r e , f o r , i n the  pursuit of t r u t h , he has only broken through to the r e a l i t y of madness. There i s no hope i n madness, f o r , despite increased knowledge, there i s no capacity for synthesis.  Saint Sammy i s a f a l s e C h r i s t . H i s  adherence to the language of the B i b l e i s empty and meaningless. He i s a corrupter of words, the f o o l who has l o s t sight of the philosopher.  Unlike Uncle Sean, whose blasphemy i s f e r t i l e , Saint  Sammy s p e c i a l i z e s i n s t e r i l e r h e t o r i c .  He i s dry bones with no  life. Mistakenly, Saint Sammy explains a p r a i r i e storm as the force of h i s own vengeance. that knows no love.  However, there i s no power i n a hatred  He i s a d e s t r u c t i v e force and i t i s f o l l y i n  him to assume h i s power over the wind. "Sammy, Sammy, t h i s i s her, and I say untuh you she i s a dandyN Moreover I have t r i e d her out! I have blew over Tourigny's henhouse; I have uprooted Dan Tate's wind break, tooken the back door o f f f t h e schoolhouse, turned over the g i r l s t o i l e t , three racks, s i x grain wagons; I have blew down the power l i n e i n four places; I have wrecked the s a i l s on Magnus Peterson's windm i l l . "13 t The boys enjoy the empty r i t u a l of h i s w i t c h c r a f t , counting h i s c o l l e c t i o n of underwear l a b e l s , but they f i n a l l y recognize h i s impotence.  Op. c i t . , p. 270.  -29-  Th e character who comes c l o s e s t to an a b s t r a c t i o n i n the novel^ but who f o r some reason i s c r e d i b l e as the actual and imaginary companion of the boy Brian i s the young Ben.  The w i l d p r a i r i e boy,  who u t t e r s less than a h a l f dozen l i n e s i n the novel, but whose impact i s constantly being f e l t , somehow achieves c r e d i b i l i t y . i s always there, l i k e a ubiguitous God, i n times of s t r e s s .  He  Those  people i n the town who are s p i r i t u a l l y regenerate appreciate the b e a u t i f u l q u a l i t y of h i s wildness. before the f a l l .  He i s an Adam i n the garden,  They f e e l the strength of h i s primaeval force.  The young Ben i s most c l o s e l y associated with the wind. f e e l s i t r i g h t away.  Brian  "The boy has - I wish I had p r a i r i e h a i r .  He  has the wind on him a l l the time - i t gets i n h i s h a i r . " - ^ According to the conventional wisdom of the corrupt townspeople, the young Ben i s e v i l and deserving of punishment. frightens them.  His i n s c r u t a b i l i t y  They do not want to comprehend h i s mysteries.  He  s t a l k s the town as a reminder of the p o s s i b i l i t y that they may not have found a l l the answers.  U l t i m a t e l y , they cannot get at him,  because he i s above t h e i r j u s t i c e and cannot be judged by the standards of the community.  Their laws bear no resemblance t o the laws of  nature, which he l i v e s by.  According to h i s law of necessity,  s t e a l i n g a r i f l e when i t i s needed i s l e s s immoral than the b r u t a l and wanton t o r t u r e of a p r a i r i e gopher. The townspeople want to v i s i t the sins of the father on the son and expiate t h e i r own sense of g u i l t by using the young Ben as a scapegoat f o r t h e i r own aberrations.  M i t c h e l l ' s p o r t r a i t of a town  sentencing i t s bootlegger f o r d i s t i l l i n g the whiskey they drink behind t h e i r shades becomes f l a c c i d when the irony f a l l s i n t o melodrama.  Op. c i t . , p. 24.  -30-  These same townspeople refuse to recongize the son as an i n d i v i d u a l ; "The  fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the c h i l d r e n ' s teeth are  set on edge." ( E z e k i e l 18:2) boy's r e f u s a l to j o i n .  Their c h i e f f r u s t r a t i o n l i e s i n the  He and the p r a i r i e are beyond t h e i r l i m i t e d  c i r c l e of awareness. Brian i s quick to recognize the propriety of the young Ben's presence on the p r a i r i e .  He i s the p o t e n t i a l of the unknown.  So  f a r , the town has f a i l e d to p o l l u t e e i t h e r the boy or the p r a i r i e . B r i a n was not s t a r t l e d ; he simply accepted the boy's presence out here as he had accepted that of the gopher and the hawk and the dragonfly. " This i s your p r a i r i e " , Brian s a i d . The boy did not answer him. He turned and walked as s i l e n t l y as he had come, out over the p r a i r i e . His walk was smooth. A f t e r the boy's f i g u r e had become j u s t a speck i n the distance,.Brian looked up i n t o the sky, now f i l l e d with a s o f t expanse of cloud, the higher edges luminous and s t a r t l i n g against the blue. I t stretched to the p r a i r i e ' s rim. As he stared, the gray underside carded out, and through the cloud's softness was revealed a blue w e l l shot with s u n l i g h t . Almost as soon as i t had cleared, a whisking of cloud s t o l e over i t . For one moment no wind s t i r r e d . A b u t t e r f l y went p e l t i n g past. God, B r i a n decided, must l i k e the boy's prairie.15 The characters of the town, i n that there are peihaps too manv of them to develop f u l l y , and that they are l a r g e l y seen through the prejudiced f i l t e r s o f a young boy's eyes, sometimes f a l l dangerous close to stereotype.  However, there i s an aesthetic homogeneity  i n t h e i r tendency to type and M i t c h e l l ' s c r e a t i o n of what i s and must be seen as an e s s e n t i a l l y pasteboard  town.  The hypocrisy of many of  the townspeople i s analagous to the f a l s e f r o n t s of the stores on the main s t r e e t .  They are a l l mask.  Op. c i t . , p. 12.  I t takes the p r a i r i e and the p r a i r i e  -31people; Sean, Ben, young Ben, and even Saint Sammy, to point out the d i s p a r i t y between the i l l u s i o n and r e a l i t y of the town and  the  townspeople. M i t c h e l l views a l l t h i s hypocrisy with t o l e r a n t good humour. As an a r t i s t , he i s s e n s i t i v e to the need for a d e l i c a t e balance between laughter and t e a r s , comedy and tragedy, as described i n Ecclesiastes.  He achieves a harmony, which i s l i k e r e a l l i f e , through  the point and counterpoint of town and country, r e a l and i d e a l ,  life  and death, joy and sadness. Mrs. Abercrombie, jowly and santimonious,  covers her e s s e n t i a l  misanthropy with a t h i n veneer of C h r i s t i a n m o r a l i t y .  A wolf i n  sheep's c l o t h i n g , she heads the forces of hypocrisy and e v i l i n the town.  An avowed presbyterian, her r e a l r e l i g i o n i s materialism  and her gospel i s hate and prejudice.  Warren Tallman, i n h i s a r t i c l e  "Wolf i n the Snow" which appeared i n Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , No.  5,  a t t r i b u t e s the f a i l u r e of her ultimate downfall to provide a c a t h a r s i s to M i t c h e l l ' s over indulgent t o l e r a n c e . ^  However, the slow d e f l a t i o n  of t h i s b a l l o o n f i l l e d with hot a i r i s i n t e n t i o n a l l y without drama. She i s without substance, j u s t a mask, and to make her unmasking a powerful event would mean the a t t r i b u t i n g of s p e c i a l powers to her.  The author acknowledges the f l a t n e s s of her defeat i n the  c l o s i n g paragraph? of chapter  thirty.  There was upon the faces of the board member the same look: that of a boy who has waited for the explosion of a giant cannon f i r e c r a c k e r , and has been given instead the disappointing whoosh of a dud.-^  •^Warren Tallman, "Wolf i n the Snow", part one, Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , No. 5, p. 11. 1 7  M i t c h e l l , p.  288.  -32This i s the way the world ends This i s the way the world ends This i s the way the world ends Not with a bang, but a whimper. The function of Mrs. Abercrombie i n the town i s analagous to the r o l e of Saint Sammy on the p r a i r i e . Their r e l i g i o n i s f a l s e and the p o s s i b i l i t y f o r e v i l e x i s t s everywhere.  Saint Sammy i s a  reminder that even the Promised Land must be protected from the unregenerate. Brian's i s a f a i r y t a l e world and h i s adults are defined i n c h i l d i s h archetypes.  Good and e v i l , they play out the c o n f l i c t s which  threaten the serenity of his small world.  Slowly, he becomes aware  of ambiguities; i t becomes l e s s easy to define the peripheral beings that touch h i s consciousness.  Only experience can reveal the t r u t h ,  which he has o r i g i n a l l y approached i n t u i t i v e l y .  Miss MacDonald,  seen through the eyes of a .six year o l d , i s thoroughly  e v i l , and the  young Ben's rescue of Brian from the influence of her wrath i s heroic. She i s power without wisdom or humanity.  However, Brian's mother  looks beyond the apparent with compassion.  I t i s t h i s kind of  i n s i g h t which Brian must and does develop. The town appears to be divided i n t o three moral types; the hypocrites, headed by Mrs. Abercrombie, her despicable daughter, and Mr. Powelly, the vengeful m i n i s t e r ; the almost impotent i n i t i a t e s , Svarich, Digby, M i l t Palmer and Miss Thompson; and the v i c t i m s , notably old Wong and the China K i d s .  The i n i t i a t e s are unable to  overcome hypocrisy w i t h i n the s t i f l i n g confines of the town.  They  are only o c c a s i o n a l l y able to win a minor skirmish i n the major war.  Hislop i s driven out for h i s e c c l e s i a s t i c a l doubts and ecumenical  leanings.  Svarich, by nature of h i s b i r t h , w i l l always be an outsider.  -33-  Digby, the philosopher teacher, and Miss Thompson, because of t h e i r vocation, have the greatest p o t e n t i a l .  They are unable to prevent  the b r u t a l r i t u a l leading to the s u i c i d e of Old Wong, but they h o p e f u l l y can i n s t i l l a sense of r e s p o n s i b i l i t y i n the young. In times of s t r e s s , Brian i n s t i n c t i v e l y moves from the town to the p r a i r i e .  Hisftexodus i s not an escape from r e a l i t y but a  r e c o g n i t i o n of a higher r e a l i t y .  The c h i e f tensions of the novel  are generated by the contrast between the town, with i t s f a l s e r e l i g i o n , andthe p r a i r i e , with i t s fundamental t r u t h s .  The town, with i t s  r e l i g i o n , c i v i l laws and medicine, has upset the rhythms of nature. The p r a i r i e has not l o s t i t s harmony with the natural c y c l e . ear i s a stethoscope, s e n s i t i v e to the earth's message.  Brian's  He wants to  l i e down on the p r a i r i e and hear i t s music. I t i s through the deaths of h i s father, h i s grandmother, and h i s pets that B r i a n r e a l l y learns the meaning of l i f e .  His  experiences with death are r e a l i z e d i n a romantic r e f u s a l to mourn, "The f o o l f o l d s h i s hands and eats h i s own f l e s h . "  The p r a i r i e teaches  him that death i s merely an a s s e r t i o n of continuing l i f e , a r e v i t a l i z i n g phase of the c y c l e .  The p r a i r i e becomes the landscape of h i s mature  mind as he transcends the pain of p h y s i c a l death and maps out the future.  The young Ben, who i s always there to preside over the b u r i a l  of h i s dead pets on the p r a i r i e , becomes Brian's a l t e r ego i n the quest f o r God.  Together, they bury the past i n the p r a i r i e and look  toward a future that i s t h e i r s to shape. Brian's mother and t a l e world of childhood.  father never r e a l l y leave the f a i r y They are not t a i n t e d by the s p i r i t u a l v  turmoil of the town, although they partakeof i t s ceremonial facade. Because the father i s drawn so large i n the eyes of the c h i l d , B r i a n  -34cannot accept the meaning of h i s death w i t h i n the context of the town.  S p i r i t u a l l y , the father too belongs to the regenerate  prairie  and B r i a n must go there to f e e l the pulse of the wind and f i n d in  life  death. A l l around him the wind was i n the grass with a m i l l i o n timeless whisperings. A forever and forever sound i t had, forever and f o r never. Forever and forever the p r a i r i e had been, or h i s f a t h e r , or h i s f a t h e r , or h i s father before him. Forever for the p r a i r i e ; never f o r h i s father-never again. People were forever born; people forever died, and never were again. Fathers died and sons were born; the p r a i r i e was f o r e v e r , with i t s wind whispering through the long dead grasses. Through the long and endless s-; A?..ssilence. Winter came and spring and f a l l , then summer and winter again; the sun rose and set again, and everything that was once-was again- But f o r man, the p r a i r i e whispered-never-never. For Brian's father-never.18  Hope resides i n the flowers of the new season and not i n the d r i e d remembrances of years past.  B r i a n i s the m a n i f e s t a t i o n o f that sense  of optimism which permeates the hard and i n s i s t e n t t o i l of the p r a i r i e people.  He i s new l i f e girded with a knowledge of the immediate and  h i s t o r i c a l past and a developing sense of the o v e r a l l design of l i f e . The s i l e n c e of the p r a i r i e has i t s own profound music and the boy has capacity to l i s t e n . Where s p i n d l i n g poplars l i f t t h e i r dusty leaves and w i l d sunflowers s t a r e , the gravestones stand among the p r a i r i e grasses. Over then a rapt and endless s i l e n c e l i e s . This s o i l i s rich.19 In Who Has Seen the Wind, M i t c h e l l ' s view of the world i s p r i m a r i l y one of s i m p l i s t i c optimism, the d u a l i t i e s which e x i s t i n man and nature are sharply defined as i n f a i r y t a l e or a l l e g o r y .  I b i d . , p. 246. Op. c i t . , p. 300.  There  -35-  i s no doubt t h a t good w i l l  triumph'  over e v i l .  and white d i s t i n c t i o n s between the town and r e g e n e r a t e and  degenerate people.  B r i a n makes b l a c k  the p r a i r i e ,  Experience w i l l  probably  B r i a n t h a t there are many shades between the p o l e s and d e c i s i o n s w i l l be made i n the a r e a of limbo and not d e f i n e d kingdoms of heaven and h e l l . reality,  boys quest  although d i s t u r b e d by the presence  unchecked by  the  teach hardest  the o b v i o u s l y for transcendental  of decadent f o r c e s , i s  the n e g a t i v e power of doubt.  As For Me  and My  p l e x view of r e a l i t y . between l i g h t and prairie.  The  between  House, by S i n c l a i r Ross, p r e s e n t s a more com-  I t i s not  darkness  so easy  to d e f i n e the  distinction  i n H o r i z o n , a r c h e t y p a l s m a l l town on  the  Ross's q u e s t o r s a r e more mature, more c y n i c a l i n t h e i r  p r o b i n g f o r meaning i n the known and  unknown.  I t i s the same p r a i r i e  but a d i f f e r e n t p o i n t of view t h a t Ross d e s c r i b e s . ways of l o o k i n g a t the b l a c k b i r d , the One O'Connal and  There a r e many  has many d i s g u i s e s .  the B e n t l e y s o r i g i n a t e i n the same r e a l i t y and  same u l t i m a t e o b j e c t i v e , but  the q u a l i t y  anguished  of the journey  Brian  share  the  is different.  CHAPTER I I  As For Me and My House  As W. H. New p o i n t e d out i n h i s a r t i c l e " S i n c l a i r  Ross's  Ambivalent World", i n the S p r i n g 1969 i s s u e of Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , As For Me and My House m a n i f e s t s an ambiguous a t t i t u d e toward the r e g e n e r a t i v e p o t e n t i a l of a small p r a i r i e  town, i r o n i c a l l y named  20 Horizon.  Ross's world i s f a r b l e a k e r than the o p t i m i s t i c  scape of W.O.  Mitchell.  land-  M i t c h e l l ' s town i s s i t u a t e d i n the m i d d l e  of a Promised Land; Ross's i s on the edge of the w o r l d , or on the double edged is  sword of the Japanese samurai, f o r i n every promise  the i n h e r e n t p o s s i b i l i t y  of agony and d e s p a i r .  For the B e n t l e y s ,  t h e r e i s no God w i t h i n , and every d e s p e r a t e movement toward the God without i s burdened by the permutations o f f a i l u r e . Ross's i s a b r u t a l q u e s t , where the equal p o s s i b i l i t i e s o f success or f a i l u r e r e s u l t  i n the dead average of human e x i s t e n c e .  The enthusiasm o f the romantic quest i s p o l a r i z e d by the overwhelming  evidence of n e u t r a l i z i n g r e a l i t y .  Day a f t e r day, Mrs. B e n t l e y  r e c o r d s the s e a r i n g data o f d e s p e r a t i o n , which, l i k e the dust of the  prairie,  almost smothers the a r c h e t y p a l language of hope that  c o u n t e r p o i n t s the grimness of her r e c o r d . IS  As For Me and My House  a seesaw t e e t e r i n g between the extremes of hope and d e s p a i r and  we w a i t e n d l e s s l y f o r the s h i f t i n g  o f weight that w i l l end the s t a l e m a t e .  I n h i s a r t i c l e , W.H. New c h a l l e n g e s the p r e v a i l i n g c r i t i c a l o p i n i o n t h a t tends to a c c e p t Mrs. B e n t l e y ' s s e l f - c e n t r e d view of r e a l i t y . A c c o r d i n g t o Mr. New, Ross does not share her romantic optimism a t the end of the n o v e l , or her s e l f - c o n c e p t i o n o f h e r s e l f as v i c t i m . The f u l l weight of the degenerate f o r c e s which check the symbolic language of optimism i s c o n s i d e r e d . z u  -37-  T y p i c a l l y , Ross ends the n o v e l mean s a l v a t i o n or simply  with the p o s s i b i l i t y  another h o r i z o n t a l move deeper i n t o  He makes i t c l e a r that a t many p o i n t s along life,  there'.is the power, f r e e w i l l ,  t i n u e the d e s p e r a t e charade. resolved.  The w i l l  by  t h e c o l d w i n t e r wind that  baby i s born i n A p r i l ,  The formal  another a g o n i z i n g  It i s i nApril  low c e i l i n g s .  that  of r e b i r t h i s n e u t r a l i z e d  on the s p r i n g .  Judith's as the t i e s  that the d i a r y b e g i n s , when  vicarage with i t s stained w a l l Another s p r i n g , another j o b ,  cycle. language of hope, Ross  almost erases the impact of the mythology of s u p e r i f i c i a l i n the p e r s i s t e n c e  perfection s t i l l  hope through  There i s no doubt  In h i s i r o n i c a l use of the a r c h e t y p a l  yet  con-  i s never  the p a t t e r n o f  ritual  puts a c h i l l  move i n t o the d e p r e s s i n g  paper and o p p r e s s i v e l y  follows  but he i s premature and as f r a i l  the B e n t l e y s .  the B e n t l e y s  t o overcome or t o simply  to springtime.  i s the c r u e l e s t month.  that b i n d  of a man's  The f a t e of the B e n t l e y s  the n o v e l  seasons, from s p r i n g t i m e  April  the locus  despair.  t o c o n t i n u e i s a l l the hope we a r e g i v e n .  Structurally, the  t h a t can e i t h e r  of l i f e  romanticism,  i s an a s s e r t i o n that the d e s i r e f o r  e x i s t s i n the minds a n d i h e a r t s  of the people.  As  we a r e r o t a t e d  through the c y c l e of b i r t h , c o p u l a t i o n and death, we  are c o n s t a n t l y  reminded t h a t the c i r c l e i t s e l f  passage of time i s no promise o f d i a l e c t i c  i s arbitrary.  progress,  The  as i t appears  to be i n Who Has Seen the Wind.  The son P h i l i p i s the focus of  promise a t the end of the n o v e l ,  but we a r e a l s o reminded  the f a t h e r P h i l i p was a boy too.  Mrs. B e n t l e y ,  surrogate  that mother t o  -38-  the  e l d e r P h i l i p , w i l l be mother  t o the boy.  She has w i l l e d  it.  There i s a c r u s h i n g i r o n y i n t h a t " I want i t s o . " ^ H o r i z o n ' s wind only b r i n g s d e s t r u c t i o n .  Sometimes t h a t  d e s t r u c t i v e power can be i n t e r p r e t e d as d i v i n e j u s t i c e , as when a f t e r J u d i t h ' s death the wind knocks the town f l a t . i t s e l f w i l l not b r i n g r e g e n e r a t i o n . to  b u i l d a new  However, t h e wind  I t i s up t o the men  l i f e on the r u i n s of the o l d .  The wind i s a s s o c i a t e d  with the theme of punishment which permeates the n o v e l . weary to  of the town  Through the  eyes.;df Mrs. B e n t l e y , i t i s a d e s t r o y e r , l a c k i n g the c a p a c i t y  b r e a t h e new  life  i n t o the p r a i r i e .  I n s t e a d of r e l i e v i n g the  monotony of t h e i r e x i s t e n c e , the wind i s a source of f e a r and apprehension.  "Above,  past, i n d i f f e r e n t ,  i n t t h e h i g h c o l d n i g h t , the wind goes swinging l i p l e s s l y mournful.  I t f r i g h t e n s me,  makes me 22  feel  l o s t , dropped on t h i s l i t t l e  perch of town and  abandoned."  We a r e reminded of the v a n i t y o f e s t r i u n g a f t e r the wind not  ("Solicit  thy thoughts with matters h i d " ) , r a t h e r than the rewards o f  penetrating i t s mysteries.  The romantic symbolism of i n s p i r a t i o n a l  wind i s negated i n the angry power of the p r a i r i e storm.  Even the  poppy, r e l a t i v e of the anemone, t r a d i t i o n a l wind f l o w e r of popular mythology^ i s unable to w i t h s t a n d i t s f o r c e . as  soon as they bloom and they a r e l e f t  I t s petals are scattered  to dry out and d i e on the  prairie. - S i n c l a i r Ross. As For Me and My House, p. 165. The ambigui of t h i s f i n a l r e s o l u t i o n of Mrs. B e n t l e y i s d i s c u s s e d i n W.H. New's " S i n c l a i r Ross's Ambivalent World," Canadian L i t e r a t u r e No. 40 ( S p r i n g 1969). The q u a l i t y of Mrs. B e n t l e y ' s judgement i s s t r a i n e d . I n h e r e n t i n her d e t e r m i n a t i o n to proceed on the quest she has c h a r t e d a r e the equal p o s s i b i l i t i e s of success or f a i l u r e . Z J  I b i d . , p. 5.  -39-  Rain, u s u a l l y associated with r e l i e f and f e r t i l i t y , i s merely a nuisance when i t descends on Horizon. musty smells t o Mrs. Bentley. to feed them when they need i t .  I t means c o l d s , leaks and  The r a i n f a l l s to r u i n the crops, not The "Thin disheartening d r i z z l e " i s  l i k e Chinese water t o r t u r e , d r i p , d r i p p i n g across the roofs of t h e i r minds.  The water leaves an ugly s t a i n , instead of t h r i v i n g wheat-  f i e l d , i n i t s wake.  F i n a l l y , when they need i t and i t w i l l not come,  the farmers are forced to pray for r a i n . Let us labor not i n v a i n , Hear us Father, send us rain.^3 The Gardens i n the Rain piece that Mrs. Bentley once learned to play on the piano i s a mockery of the f u n c t i o n of r a i n i n her l i f e . garden i s a f a i l u r e .  Her  She i s as inept with flowers as she i s with  people and the garden w i l l not grow i n s p i t e of her.  So f a r , she  has f a i l e d to d i r e c t the water t o provide an Eden i n the desert. The edges of Mrs. Bentley's words are f i l l e d with the dust that threatens to submerge and smother the town.  The wind, the sand,  and the dust take on a l l t h e i r negative aspects i n the novel. roots w i l l sink down and take hold. challenging the w i l l to persevere. i s s t e r i l e , without  No  The dust moves about c a p r i c i o u s l This dust i s no f e r t i l i z e r .  It  life.  The men i n Ross's world have f a i l e d to l i v e harmoniously with nature.  I n the struggle to overcome the elements, they have  l o s t t h e i r s e n s i t i v i t y and are unable to move f l e x i b l y with the seasons.  Ross has p e r s o n i f i e d the n a t u r a l environment t o such an  extent t h a t , at times, the environment has more r e a l i t y than the people who move about with i t .  The wind, the snow andtthe r a i n  respond to man, often wreaking vengeance on the town, as a f t e r J u d i t h  -40death, but man often f a i l s to respond to nature; he simply endures. The harshness of winter i s a punishment for the r e f u s a l to adapt. The town Horizon i s so t y p i c a l that i t might be anywhere on the p r a i r i e .  I t has the f a l s e f r o n t s and narrow hypocrisy of many  of the p r a i r i e towns of l i t e r a t u r e , i n c l u d i n g S i n c l a i r Lewis' Main Street and M i t c h e l l ' s Who Has Seen the Wind. I t i s a l l the Main Streets of P h i l i p Bentley's discouraging career i n the m i n i s t r y and has a l l the diseases of mankind i n microcosm.  Mrs. Bentley recognizes  a l l of the towns i n each one of her husbands drawings. I t s l i k e a l l the r e s t , a single row of f a l s e fronted s t o r e s , a l o i t e r e r or two, i n the distance the p r a i r i e again. And l i k e a l l the r e s t there's something about i t that hurts. False fronts ought to be laughed a t , never understood or p i t i e d . They're such outlandish things, the front of a store b u i l t up to look l i k e a second storey. They ought always to be seen that way, pretentious, r e d i c u l o u s , never as P h i l i p sees them, s t r i c k e n with a look of s e l f awareness and pity.24 The town and the organized church are hollow i n s i d e t h e i r false fronts.  There i s no v i t a l i t y i n the people or t h e i r b e l i e f s .  The church and the town t h r i v e on b i g o t r y . Horizon i s a WASP community, whose partisanship excludes i t from the exalted company, to borrow from Paul's p h i l o l o g i c a l catalogue, of heaven. As soon as the Bentleys d r i v e out with Paul i n t o the country, they f e e l the d i f f e r e n c e .  The farmers have never l o s t touch with the  o r i g i n s of r e l i g i o u s r i t u a l .  Although s u b j e c t , even more than the  townspeople, to the changing w i l l of f a t e , they are somehow able to a r t i c u l a t e the s p i r i t u a l i t y that i s a mockery i n the uncomprehending mouths of the townspeople.  The simple goodness of f a m i l i e s l i k e the  Lawsons makes the Bentleys and Paul, who has forsaken the country for  2 4  Op . c i t . , p. 4.  -41the town, and i s p a i n f u l l y aware of the consequences, and inadequate.  f e e l small  P h i l i p Bentley can adapt to the church i n Horizon,  f i l l i n g i t with the f a l s e sounds of p i e t y , but at the Partridge H i l l schoolhouse, where the country services are held, h i s v o i c e i s an echo that returns to haunt him and h i s wife.  Mrs. Bentley,  for a l l her f a u l t s , recognizes the proximity of truth to the country schoolhouse. They were a sober work roughened congregation. There was strength i n t h e i r voices when they sang, l i k e the strength and darkness of the s o i l . The l a s t hymn was s t a i d l y orthodox, but throughout i t there seemed to mount something p r i m i t i v e , -something that was less a response to P h i l i p ' s sermon and s c r i p t u r e reading than to the grim f u t i l i t y of t h e i r own l i v e s . Five years i n succession now, they've been blown out, dried out, h a i l e d out; and i t was as i f i n the faces of so b l i n d and uncaring a universe they were t r y i n g to assert themselves, to i n s i s t upon t h e i r own meaning and importance. "Which i s the source of a l l r e l i g i o n , Paul discussed i t with me afterwards. "Man can't bear to admit h i s i n s i g n i f i c a n c e . I f you've ever seen a h a i l s t o r m , or watched a crop dry up -- h i s helplessness, the way he's ignored-well, i t was j u s t such helplessness i n the beginning that set him discovering gods who could cont r o l the storms and seasons. Powerful, f r i e n d l y godson h i s side.25 In Mrs. Bentley's d e s c r i p t i o n of the country people and Paul's explanation of t h e i r admirable b e l i e f i n man's a b i l i t y to overcome h i s natural adversaries, himself included, i s an e x p l i c i t statement of puritanism.  In the behaviour of the townspeople, with t h e i r  Op. c i t . , p. 19. In t h e i r acceptance of changing seasonal patterns and i n t h e i r determinism, the country people appear to be e s s e n t i a l l y C a l v i n i s t i c . However, there i s very l i t t l e sense of the b e l i e f that they have been "chosen" f o r s a l v a t i o n , regardless of personal behaviour, which turns Abraham i n Adele Wisman's The S a c r i f i c e , i n t o a grotesque. The r u r a l people are more nearly p u r i t a n n i c a l i n t h e i r perseverence against a d v e r s i t y , which i s an a s s e r t i o n of free w i l l , or. man's personal r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for s a l v a t i o n through regenerate behaviour.  -42-  psychological witchhunts and obsession with a set of values only s u p e r f i c i a l l y C h r i s t i a n i s a f a l s e puritanism, l a c k i n g the v i t a l i t y necessary f o r the struggle f o r i n d i v i d u a l s a l v a t i o n .  On the other  hand, the farmers are admirable i n t h e i r more pragmatic endeavours to continue i n the face of c r u e l r e a l i t i e s . these people.  Ross's r e a l hope i s i n  Their simple quest a f t e r decency and continuing l i f e ,  animal and vegetable, i s an a s s e r t i o n of p o s i t i v e v a l u e s . ^ 2  i t is  s i g n i f i c a n t that the c h i l d Mrs. Bentley hopes w i l l break the s t e r i l e curse of her l i f e i s c a r r i e d by a country g i r l , who has come to the town and escaped i t f i n a l l y i n the simultaneous  experience of  l i f e and death. The v i s i t to the ranch, which the Bentleys had hoped would be a tonic to t h e i r f l a c c i d s p i r i t s , i s j u s t another exercise i n f u t i l i t y . The ranch i s E z e k i e l ' s v a l l e y , where s e x u a l i t y , instead of being an aspect of regeneration, i s associated with c a r n a l i t y .  The puritan  conscience i s outraged by the ascendency of the body over the s p i r i t . On the ranch, there i s no correspondence between sacred and profane love.  Mrs. Bentley finds a p i c t u r e of a b u l l over her bed and i s  unsettled by the strangeness of the environment.  The expatriate theme,  which runs through every sequence of the novel, i s most acutely f e l t on the ranch.  There i s a d i s t i n c t d i s p a r i t y between the farmer and  ^The function of the country people i n As For Me and My House i s analogous to that of W i l l i a m Faulkner's negro, who, because of h i s continued a s s o c i a t i o n with the earth and overwhelming concern with the supernatural and r e l i g i o u s doctrine, conditions l a r g e l y determined by hois' ub jugation by the white man, escapes the process of degeneration inherent i n the f a l s e codes of c i v i l i z a t i o n . 2  S  -43the rancher and Mrs. Bentley i s s e n s i t i v e to the d i f f e r e n c e . Her d e s c r i p t i o n of the topography echoes that of the b i b l i c a l winderness. "The  close black h i l l s , the s t e a l t h y s l i p p i n g sound of the r i v e r made-  i t was as i f I were entering dead, forbidden country, approaching the l a i r of t e r r o r that destroyed the h i l l s , that was l u r k i n g there  still  among the s k u l l s . " 2 8 She knows she and P h i l i p don't belong there.  I t i s partly  because of the e c c l e s i a s t i c a l pose that they have conditioned over the years and p a r t l y the corruption of the ranch that makes them refuse to compromise i n t h e i r heart of hearts; I must achiit that P h i l i p i s n ' t showing up to advantage here. He can't make the cowboys forget he's a preacher, and at mealtimes they a l l look awkward and uncomfortable. For so many years he's spoken only when he's had something to say that h i s attempts now t o be conversational make him sound l i k e a p r i g g i s h young e v a n g e l i s t , I f i n d myself a l i t t l e the same way too at times. I speak or laugh, and suddenly i n my voice catch a h i n t of the benediction. I t j u s t means, I suppose, that a l l these years the Horizons have been working t h e i r w i l l on me. My heresy, perhaps, i s l e s s than I sometimes think.29 The psychological tensions generated by a l l the p o l a r i t i e s , human and environmental,  p h y s i c a l and s p i r i t u a l , that Ross has established  i n the novel are under very t i g h t and apparent l i n g u i s t i c c o n t r o l . Ross shapes and manipulates h i s grotesques.  He uses language to  c o n t r o l the s u b j e c t i v i t y of human r e l a t i o n s h i p s . Just at the point when the high frequency of emtoions threatens to shatter the mind, he relaxes the tautness of, h i s s t y l i s t i c wires.  Through the c a r e f u l  choice and r e p e t i t i o n of d i c t i o n , he shapes the a t t i t u d e s of Mrs. Bentley and the reader.  Op. C i t . , p. 95. Op. c i t . , p. 93.  -44Often, the rhythm of the d i a r y echoes b i b l i c a l cadences, creating a d u a l i s t i c l i t u r g y of hope and despair.  Through the c a r e f u l  j u x t a p o s i t i o n of black and white, he achieves the a e s t h e t i c a l l y i n t e r e s t i n g q u a l i t y of a heterogeneous greyness, which, although depressing, manifests signs of l i f e i n i t s v a r i a t i o n s .  The  pervading  greyness i s broken only by the red of Steve's t i e and the occasional r e l i e f of fuchsia's and poppies. Mrs. Bentley's nightmare.  There i s a l i v e l y monotony i n  I t saves the novel from melodrama and  strengthens i t s r e l a t i o n s h i p with r e a l i t y . Ross manipulates a f f e c t our consciousness.  language, as Mrs. Bentley does, to In the cases of Mrs. Bentley and P a u l ,  language i s an impediment to r e a l i t y f o r both characters attempt to give u n i v e r s a l d e f i n t i o n s approached through a very p a r t i c u l a r personal b i a s .  For both of them, the names becomes more important  than the t h i n g , obscuring t h e i r v i s i o n of the world.  P l a t o regarded  the e x p l o r a t i o n of the p o s s i b i l i t i e s of language as a means to t r u t h . Ross proves that there are as many ways to approach the shadows on the w a l l of the cave as there are people to i n t e r p r e t them.  On  one  l e v e l , Mrs. Bentley c o n t r o l s what we know by s e l e c t i n g c a r e f u l l y , perhaps unconsciously, what she chooses to describe and how describes i t .  she  At the same time, Ross makes i t very c l e a r that she  i s leading us through a l a b y r i n t h of her own making. On the whole, c r i t i c a l judgement of Mrs. Bentley had been gentlemanly  on the side of naivete.  Roy D a n i e l l s even goes so far  as to c a l l her "pure gold and wholly credible".30  She i s wholly  30Roy D a n i e l l s , " I n t r o d u c t i o n " , As For Me and My House, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1957, p. v i i .  -45credible a l l right.  Through language, we see facets of her character  she never dreams she i s r e v e a l i n g .  Her s e n s i t i v i t y and i n t e l l i g e n c e ,  which can never be denied, have been worn down by the r e l e n t l e s s sun, wind and sand i n t o a clever and d e s t r u c t i v e b i t t e r n e s s .  She looks  at her world through grey t i n t e d glasses, never g i v i n g the town or her  husband a chance to come out from under the heavy weight of her  judgement. Donald Stephens speaks of her "major redeeming featutr.e (which) i s her earnest desire f o r r e c o n c i l i a t i o n with her husband" and yet f e e l s obliged t o acknowledge that the p o s s i b i l i t y i s her only a l t e r n a t i v e to the desperation of r e a l l o n e l i n e s s .  Superficially,  defined i n her own terms, she wants a harmonious r e l a t i o n s h i p between h e r s e l f , her husband and her God; yet s t i l l she p e r s i s t s i n t r y i n g t o keep h e r s e l f at the centre of the universe.  She wants to be the  earth mother, manipulating husband and step-son i n a world she has created.  I t i s i r o n i c that she lacks the capacity to give l i f e .  only c h i l d was born dead.  The symbolism of her negative c a p a b i l i t i e s  as a wife and mother are too obvious to ignore. not  a creator.  Her  She i s a destroyer,  The r e a l white goddess i s Judith and Mrs. Bentley i s  unable to undermine what she i s , e i t h e r i n l i f e or death.  Judith, t a l l  and white l i k e a gothic s p i r e , i s c l o s e r to the p e r f e c t i o n they are a l l a f t e r than any of them r e a l i z e . the  She alone i s able to transcend  hypocrisy of the town, e x i s t s l i k e the young Ben outside i t s  m o r a l i t y , and P h i l i p , the spoiled p r i e s t , knows i t .  D o n a l d Stephens. "Wind, Sand, and Dust", Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , No. 23, p. 22. Ji  -46-  Mrs. Bentley's view i s d e l i b e r a t e l y one-sided.  Her judge-  ments of her husband, although couched i n sympathy and protestations of h i s true worth, work i n s i d i o u s l y on the mind  of the reader.  I t i s she who describes him as a hypocrite and a f a i l u r e . thin  We see the  white l i n e of h i s mouth and hear the perpetual slamming of the  l i b r a r y door that wears on her already badly frayed nerves, but  she  never f u l l y comprehends what motivates h i s behaviour toward her. The martyrish d e s c r i p t i o n of her shabby clothes and f u r n i t u r e suggest a whine that i s j u s t as i n t o l e r a b l e as h i s r e f u s a l to allow the c a t h a r s i s of a confrontation.  He simplyvrefuses  to allow her to  manipulate him. The p o s s i b i l i t y of her redemption through music i s as ambivalent as every r e l a t i o n s h i p and experience she becomes involved i n .  She  uses the piano constantly as a device to i r r i t a t e her husband and bangs on i t i n defiance of the town. not as a means of approaching God,  She c u l t i v a t e s her t a l e n t ,  but as a fornv.of v a n i t y .  g u i l t y about the luxury of a piano and that g u i l t gives her  She i s pleasure.  Mrs. Bentley, whose f i n a l negation resides i n the f a c t that we never even learn her f i r s t name, has been so c a r e f u l to d i s t i n g u i s h between what she regards as t r u t h and i l l u s i o n and to separate her f a l s e r e l i g i o n from h e r s e l f that she f a i l s to see the p o t e n t i a l wholeness of her g i f t or the ubiquitousness  of the God  she feigns to worship.  She uses the secular music she plays to f l a g e l l a t e the town and  the  vestiges of her p u r i t a n i c a l conscience, f a i l i n g to r e a l i z e that a l l music, l i k e a l l things, are i n God's dominion. clergyman  I t take the old  from Randolph and h i s wife to remind her of t h i s .  -47-  "Perhaps they expected hymns.  I played two Chopin walzes, and they  exclaimed p o l i t e l y that a l l music was sacred." approaches the music of the seven spheres.  I t i s Judith who  In the church, only her  voice can be heard over the sound of the wind. While Ross upholds the p u r i t a n n i c a l notion of i n d i v i d u a l i s m , he makes i t c l e a r that Mrs. Bentley perverts her prerogatives.  She  desires personal freedom from the hypocritical mores of the town, while at the same time endeavouring to force her w i l l on others.  Her  a t t i t u d e toward the people she uses, notably P h i l i p , J u d i t h , Steve and Paul, i s s u p e r f i c i a l l y c h a r i t a b l e , but she i s scarcely able to disguise the w i l l to manipulate a l l four. Her c r u e l t y to Judith i s i n t o l e r a b l e i n s p i t e of Judith's v i o l a t i o n of the mundane laws of h o s p i t a l i t y and marriage.  Intuition  immediately t e l l s her of the a t t r a c t i o n between her husband and the g i r l and she d e l i b e r a t e l y dangles Judith i n front of him. she tempts them i n the wilderness.  Satanically,  She watches them grow c l o s e r  and closer p h y s i c a l l y a f t e r perceiving t h e i r s p i r i t u a l a f f i n i t i e s and seems to enjoy i t as much as a cat playing with a p a i r of cooperative mice.  S i n c l a i r Ross, p. 8 2 . Judith appears not to share a common fear of the wind. In the C a l v i n i s t sense, she i s one of the e l e c t . The wind cannot destroy her, because she i s a part of i t . Her song i s equal to the power of the wind. "The r e s t of us, I think, were vaguely and s e c r e t l y a l i t t l e a f r a i d . The strum and whimper were wearing on our nerves. But Judith seemed to respond to i t , r i d e up with i t , f e e l i n the way a singer f e e l s an orchestra. There was something f e r a l i n her v o i c e , that even the pace and staidness of her hymn could not r e s t r a i n . " (p. 3 8 ) .  -48I t i s seldom he l i s t e n s to music, but as soon as she began tonight he turned i n h i s chair behind the p u l p i t and sat with h i s eyes f i x e d on her a l l the way thr ough the hymn. I could see him i n the l i t t l e mirror over the organ that's there for the organist to watch the progress of the c o l l e c t i o n p l a t e , and know when i t s time to taper off the o f f e r t o r y . Even a f t e r she had f i n i s h e d he sat a few minutes without s t i r r i n g . There was an uneasy c l e a r i n g of throats and r u s t l i n g of hymnbooks as the congregation waited for him. 34 Mrs. Bentley knows her Christmas present to the pregnant J u d i t h w i l l hurt and she admits i t i n a l a t e r f l a s h of g u i l t .  The  oranges she sends l a t e r are-..an awkward gesture of forgiveness, but even they are received with anguish.  I f she hadn't been instrumental  i n b r i n g i n g P h i l i p and J u d i t h together, observing the whole r e l a t i o n ship with morbid pleasure, her subtle c r u e l t i e s could be r a t i o n a l i z e d as those of a woman wronged, but i t i s a l l c o n t r i v e d , r i g h t down to her d e c i s i o n to adopt the issue of her husband and J u d i t h . When Judith d i e s , she i s remarkably  callous.  glad for her sake as much as ours. anyway?  "I'm glad she's gone --  What was there ahead of her now  I f I l o s t P h i l i p what would there be ahead of me." Next to J u d i t h , the boy Steve s u f f e r s most from her s e l f -  ishness.  One of the reasons Steve never becomes three dimensional  i n the novel i s her r e f u s a l to regard him as a human being. a pawn to her.  He i s  She plans to use him to cement her relatienship with  her husband, but when the boy makes h i s own demands for P h i l i p ' s love, she cuts him o f f .  The boy's need for love, which P h i l i p i s  best able to express through the awkward g i v i n g of g i f t s , she i n t e r p r e t s as s e l f i s h materialism.  I t gives her pleasure to turn the k n i f e i n  34 Op. c i t . , p. 38. 35 Op. c i t . , p. 162.  -49P h i l i p by taking the boy from him, l u r i n g him with music that evokes memories of the past.  She refuses to become a r e a l mother t o him.  When he leaves, she mistakes h i s bravery f o r i n d i f f e r e n c e and i s r e l i e v e d to have P h i l i p to h e r s e l f again, never t h i n k i n g of the e f f e c t of the severed r e l a t i o n s h i p w i l l have on the boy.  Later, she l i e s i n  bed, s a t i s f i e d , with only one r e g r e t , that P h i l i p hasn't come to see the boy as she has.  " I wish, though, that Steve had gone  d i f f e r e n t l y , not quite so soon.  Because i n a l i t t l e while P h i l i p would 36  have found him out, seen him p l a i n , another given me my turn again." When P h i l i p turns i n desperation t o J u d i t h , she plans her revenge, developing an imaginary r e l a t i o n s h i p with Paul.  There i s no  evidence that Paul regarded her i n any way but with f r i e n d s h i p , but she uses him to feed her ego and incense her husband. P h i l i p s u f f e r s c o n s i s t e n t l y from her honey coated s t i n g . She knows a l l the ways to i r r i t a t e him. t h e i r twelve years together.  That much can be said of  Even the g i f t of o i l p a i n t s , bought  with the money meant to buy t h e i r freedom, i s wrapped up i n her own martyrdom and s e l f p i t y .  P h i l i p has married a very clever adversary.  She i s the most accomplished  hypocrite of a l l .  The minister i s the negative pole of the e l e c t r i c tensions of the novel. his l i f e .  Withdrawal i s h i s answer t o the unbearable pressures of He lacks the t e n a c i t y of the farmers or even of h i s wife  and, judged by p u r i t a n n i c a l standards, i s weak i n h i s r e f u s a l to f i g h t . He appears to have abandoned the quest that h i s l i f e s t a r t e d out to be.  Rather than s t r u g g l i n g to overcome h i s i l l e g i t i m a c y and  skepticism, he chains himself on the wheel of h i s own g u i l t and f e e l i n g s of inadequacy. 3 6  0 p . c i t . , p. 119.  -50Ross's ambivalent view of r e a l i t y i s poignantly manifested i n P h i l i p ' s a t t i t u d e toward the t r a i n , conventional symbol of p h a l l i c energy and the romantic journey.  O r i g i n a l l y , the t r a i n appears to  P h i l i p as a way out of the dismal towns to a better l i f e , "Always the 37 t r a i n , roaring away to the world that lay beyond",  but,as the years  and the small towns wear away h i s optimism, the t r a i n becomes a grim reminder of f a i l u r e , " I t was the t r a i n again, reminding him of the outside world he hasn't r e a c h e d . "  38  Judith shares P h i l i p ' s excitement about the romantic p o s s i b i l i t i e s of the t r a i n . l i f e i n the small town.  She s t r a i n s beyond the wretchedness  of  U l t i m a t e l y , f o r her, the only way out is"  death. I t wasn't long t i l l I started making excuses down to the s t a t i o n at night when the t r a i n came i n . Mrs. F i n l e y forbade i t , but I»would s l i p out anyway. I t always excited me, the glare of the h e a d l i g h t , the way the engine swept i n steaming and important, the smoky o i l y smell. On the farm, you know, we didn't see t r a i n s very often. When i t was gone I'd stand by myself on the platform watching the green t a i l l i g h t disappear past the elevators, l i s t e n i n g to the w h i s t l e , two long, two short at every crossing.39 Often when she i s r e f l e c t i n g Mrs. Bentley seems to understand the forces that motivate her husband.  She sees a l l the small towns  oppressing h i s s p i r i t and yet she lacks the emotional strength to cope with h i s f r u s t r a t i o n s . past and the future.  A l l her sympathy i s spread over the  She i s unable to l i v e with the d a i l y mani-  f e s t a t i o n s of h i s neurosis.  3 7  0 p . c i t . , p. 32.  3 8  0 p . c i t . , p. 33.  3 9  0 p . c i t . , p. 57.  -51-  I t i s c l e a r to her that P h i l i p , due t o the circumstances of his  childhood, i s unprepared for a complete r e l a t i o n s h i p with a woman.  Instead of becoming a w i f e , she i s a surrogate mother. demands more, he i s confused.  When she  The archetypal mother and father of  his youthful dreams, the r e a l i t y was too p a i n f u l , belong to the " t r a i n " world of i l l u s i o n .  Real people, l i k e h i s w i f e , disappoint h i s notion  of p e r f e c t i o n . J u d i t h , a sua woman, comes c l o s e r to the a b s t r a c t . P h i l i p , a "child-man",  i s a prisoner i n the limbo which e x i s t s between  the i l l u s i o n of the past and the r e a l i t y of the present. P h i l i p only knows he must s u f f e r ; f o r his b i r t h , f o r the i d e a l s he i s no c l o s e r to, and f o r h i s i n a b i l i t y to communicate. He accepts even Steve's departure as i n e v i t a b l e punishment " f o r he's the kind that keeps h i s hypocrisy beside him the way a g u i l t y monk 40  would keep h i s scourge."  The theme of f l a g e l l a t i o n i s p a i n f u l l y  repeated over and over again i n the novel.  S u f f e r i n g i s the only  way back i n t o the state of grace. The emotionally i n a r t i c u l a t e man turns to a r t as a means of expressing h i s s p i r i t u a l i t y .  However, as Mrs. Bentley shrewdly per-  ceives, even the drawings are cramped by the s t i f f l i n g environment. S t i l l , i n the drawings, the w i l l to overcome p e r s i s t s and her recogn i t i o n of t h i s spurs her encouragement of a new l i f e outside of the ministry.  P h i l i p knows exactly what h i s p a i n t i n g means to him. H i s  i s a pre-renaissance view of a r t and i t echoes the gothic themes i n the novel. R e l i g i o n and a r t , he says, are almost the same t h i n g anyway. Just d i f f e r e n t ways of taking man outside of himself, bringing him to the emotional p i t c h that we  Op. c i t . , p.  -52c a l l ecstasy or rapture. They're both a r e j e c t i o n of the m a t e r i a l , common sense world f o r the one that's i l l u s o r y , yet somehow more important. Now i t s a-lways when a man turns away from t h i s common sense world that he begins to create, when he looks i n t o a v o i d , and has to give i t l i f e and f o r m . ^ Whether or not E h i l i p i s a good a r t i s t i s i r r e l e v a n t .  The  f a c t i s i f he can f i n d grace through t h i s medium, even i f he can't convey i t to others, he w i l l have succeeded i n f i n d i n g h i s way out of the wilderness.  Whether he does or not iscone of the ambiguities  Ross leaves with us at the end of the novel.  P h i l i p had always  been an i d e a l i s t , but, on the other hand, he has never r e a l i z e d his  goals. Desperately, P h i l i p t r i e s to r e w r i t e h i s own childhood through  his  r e l a t i o n s h i p with the boy Steve.  i s a pariah i n the protestant town.  Steve, C a t h o l i c and i l l e g i t i m a t e , H i s reactions are t y p i c a l , but  Ross reminds us that we are seeing him through eyes prejudiced by jealousy and fear.  The boy's s u f f e r i n g i s c a l l o u s l y ignored by  Mrs. Bentley, who i s only w i l l i n g to record the weaknesses.  Finally,  she i s able to convince P h i l i p that he has f a i l e d to make the boy love him, taking the tortured man one step further i n t o despair, which he bravely r a t i o n a l i z e s as s e l f knowledge. Steve's been good f o r me. The l a s t few days I've been r e a l l y down to earth, looking myself over. The way he dropped out on me- the unimportance of i t to everyone e l s e - i t made me r e a l i z e you're a fool not to be just as casual with l i f e as l i f e i s with you. Take things as they come- get what you can out of them. Don't want or care too much f o r a n y t h i n g . ^  Op. c i t . , p. 112. Op. c i t . , p. 119.  -53-  This i s the low ebb of the mans  1  l i f e and of the novel.  The experience with Steve appears to have f i n a l l y shattered the dream once and for a l l .  However, P h i l i p bounces back to the challenge of  a new son, h i s own t h i s time.  Ross i s remarkably r e s t r a i n e d i n h i s  d e s c r i p t i o n of the boy Steve.  I t i s almost as i f the release of a l l  the power behind the episode w i l l upset a e s t h e t i c distance.  He  refuses to turn something r e a l i n t o a cheap c a t h a r s i s . I t i s possible that Steve i s Ross himself, and, the economy of pathos i n d e s c r i p t i o n of the boys' abuse i s s t r i n g e n t l y imposed by the a r t i s t i n order to avoid melodrama. Paul K i r b y , who introduced Steve to the Bentleys' i n the f i r s t place, i s another character who i s l i m i t e d to the confines of Mrs. Bentley's imagination.  His f u n c t i o n very much l i k e the Shakespearean  philosopher f o o l , g i v i n g i n s i g h t and meaning to the r e s t of the characters but never f u l l y r e a l i z e d himself.  Mrs. Bentley uses him  i n her r e l a t i o n s h i p with her husband, but he i s never drawn i n t o her conspiracy.  He l a r g e l y stays outside of the a c t i o n , commenting on the  nature of things.  He i s equipped to understand much of what he sees,  for he i s the e x i s t e n t i a l i s t outsider.  He belongs neither to the  town nor the country and h i s wisdom embraces both. He's so humble about being a country boy, yet so stubbornly proud of i t . Humble because i t ' s born i n h i s country bones to be that way, because he s t i l l shares i n s t i n c t i v e l y the t y p i c a l countryman's f e e l i n g of disadvantage before townspeople who wear smarter clothes and w r i t e a f i n e r hand. Proud because he's come to know these town people and see them for what they r e a l l y are, to discover that most of h i s own values have been sounder a l l the time. ^ 4  Op. c i t . , p. 70.  -54-  The a e s t h e t i c , thematic and s t y l i s t i c importance of language i n the novel i s r e a l i z e d i n the p h i l o l o g i c a l leanings of Paul.  The  philosopher, l i k e the l i t e r a r y a r t i s t , i s constrained by the p o t e n t i a l of words.  Words are, i r o n i c a l l y , at the same t i m e t h e conveyors of  t r u t h and s u p e r f i c i a l masks for the deep structure or meaning of language.  Paul's semantic games are deadly serious.  to define r e a l i t y .  He i s attempting  Sometimes h i s r e v e l a t i o n s are p a i n f u l , sometimes  grotesque, and sometimes funny.  I n presenting Paul i n t h i s  way,  Ross i s g i v i n g evidence of h i s own concern for words and warning of the danger inherent i n taking them at t h e i r face value. Bentley i s a clever manipulator  Mrs.  of words, but, with Ross's help,  she i s hoisted on her own petard.  She gives away much that she  would sooner have us ignore. Judith West lacks the i n t e l l e c t of Paul Kirby,but she too i s s t r i v i n g a f t e r meaning.  She has a s p i r i t u a l r e a l i t y that f a i l s  to f i n d i t s correspondant i n the r e a l world.  Described as a r e b e l ,  she doesn't f i t i n t o the context of the community.  P h i l i p senses her  fecund s p i r i t u a l i t y and finds that the two of them, s p i r i t u a l e x i l e s from the town, are able to communicate and achieve i n t h e i r r e l a t i o n ship a union of the physical and the s p i r i t u a l , J u d i t h has s p e c i a l gifts.  Her voice can be heard i n the wilderness.  "The wind was  too  strong for P h i l i p or the c h o i r , but J u d i t h scaled i t when she sang alone 44  before the c l o s i n g hymn." w i l l of God.  She i s the singer, t h e i n t e r p r e t e r of the  The sexual union between P h i l i p and J u d i t h i s a r i t u a l  act that contains the promise of new l i f e , which i s the only p o s i t i v e Op . c i t . , p. 38.  -55-  note i n the book. Promised Land.  Her c h i l d w i l l hopefully lead the way to the  P h i l i p and Mrs. Bentley b e l i e v e i t , although Ross  makes sure that the optimism surrounding h i s b i r t h i s tempered by r e c o l l e c t i o n s of f r u s t r a t e d hopes i n the past. The theme of Judith's s a c r i f i c i a l death i s introduced by Paul.  "There was a short s i l e n c e :  then noticing the book of organ  music I had with me he said abruptly, 'Did you know that the word o f f e r t o r y comes from a word meaning s a c r i f i c e ? ' J u d i t h i s the small town's o f f e r i n g to the angry gods and the reward i f peace a f t e r the storm.  Her death culminates the p u r i t a n i c a l motif of s a c r i f i c e  i n the novel.  Death, i n the case of J u d i t h and of a l l mankind, means  continuing l i f e .  Her death i s l i n k e d to sexual themes which also  underlines the basic puritanism of Ross's view of the world.  Like  the b i b l i c a l J u d i t h , she has the power to save the town from the tyranny of decadence.  Her r e a l martyrdom i s an i r o n i c comment on the  fase martyrdom of the minister's wife.  She i s the E l Greco madonna,  the r e a l earth mother, whose l i f e and death consumates the marriage between heaven and earth. W.O.  M i t c h e l l and S i n c l a i r Ross, i n Who Has Seen the Wind and  As For Me and My House are preoccupied with the quest a f t e r transcendental r e a l i t y , i d e a l terms i n which the environment can be i n t e r p r e t e d . Only through an understanding of the earth.  of heaven can man  penetrate the mysteries  Although Brian and the Bentley's are d i s t i n c t as t r a v e l l e r s  and Brian's view of the universe i s considerably l e s s complicated than that of the Bentley's who have endured a season i n h e l l , they are  Op. c i t . , p. 8. Paul's p h i l o l o g i c a l explanations, although often f u t i l e e f f o r t s - t o organize: r e a l i t y , provide touchstones around which thematic motifs develop.  -56-  moving i n the same d i r e c t i o n -- v e r t i c a l l y ,  out of mutable  They s t r u g g l e out of chaos toward a t r a n s c e n d e n t a l Hagar S h i p l e y , the l a r g e r than l i f e  order.  s i z e d h e r o i n e of Margaret  Laurence's novel The Stone A n g e l , moves a t r i g h t angles q u e s t o r S j B r i a n and the B e n t l e y s . religion,  i s her own god and i s c o n s t a n t l y s t r u g g l i n g t o escape t h e A search f o r h e r own  p e r s o n a l order c o n s t i t u t e s the n a t u r e of her quest. takes the p i l g r i m i n many d i r e c t i o n s . promise of l i f e  for  to the s p i r i t u a l  She has r e j e c t e d o r g a n i z e d  dogmatic p a t t e r n s of the g r e a t d e s i g n e r .  shares  time.  The journey  Margaret Laurence r e j e c t s the  e v e r l a s t i n g i n . f a v o u r of a heaven on e a r t h .  She  the s y m b o l l i c v o c a b u l a r l y of Ross and M i t c h e l , but uses i t  different  purposes.  U l t i m a t e l y , her c h a r a c t e r s must r e c o n c i l e  t h e i r d i f f e r e n c e s w i t h the r e a l w o r l d .  That  i s a l l there i s .  CHAPTER I I I The Stone Angel  Margaret Laurence's personal odyssey can be measured i n terms of miles and of words.  In a r e l a t i v e l y short l i f e , she i s s t i l l  i n her early f o r t i e s , she has considered many countries of the world and of the mind.  The human landscape i s her s p e c i a l t y and she con-  siders i t with the grace of a s k i l l e d t r a v e l l e r .  From a small town  i n Manitoba, Mrs. Laurence has journeyed to the f a r corners of the world, searching for the peace which i s the reward for s e l f knowledge. Analagous to her p e r i p a t e t i c l i f e s t y l e i s her a r t , which wanders through the minds of her c r e a t i o n s , men and women • with an o c c a s i o n a l l y breathtaking r e a l i t y .  In her f i n e r work, f i c t i o n becomes fact as  her characters jump o f f the page, ceasing to e x i s t as the book of what we are and become')'< instead the people who populate the highways of l i f e . Often ignoring the p o s s i b i l i t y of transcendental r e a l i t y , Mrs. Laurence moves h o r i z o n t a l l y across the landscape.  Unlike many  of the a r t i s t s who endeavour to give meaning to the p r a i r i e by reconc i l i n g the p h y s i c a l and the s p i r i t u a l , the r e a l and the i d e a l ,  she  i s very much concerned with the immediate, with the knowing of the mutable s e l f .  I t i s the e m p i r i c a l r e a l i t i e s of time and place which  embellish the texture of-her novels and the l i v e s of her characters. She i s very much the a r i s t o t a l i a n , concerning h e r s e l f with the l i f e w i t h i n rather than the p o s s i b i l i t y of p e r f e c t i o n . To be content i n  -58t h i s world i s everything. A d e l i g h t i n the pleasures of the f l e s h i s always i n ascendency over the concerns of the s p i r i t . Because Margaret Laurence's characters must r e c o n c i l e themselves with the r e a l world, the r e s t l e s s n e s s of s p i r i t which leads others to a study of the metaphysical, of the e f f e c t of the macrocosm on the microcosm, motivates constant movement, emotional and p h y s i c a l , out of oppressing s i t u a t i o n s .  Rachel Cameron's  answer to a j e s t of God i s a journey t o a new l i f e .  S i m i l a r l y , Hagar  Shipley, l i k e Mrs. Laurence h e r s e l f , abandons the small town. Manawaka i s a looking glass through which she sees aspects of h e r s e l f she wouH rather ignore.  She escapes the mirrors temporarily, but she  cannot leave h e r s e l f behind.  The o p t i m i s t i c promise of a new l i f e  somewhere else i s d u l l e d by the inescapable i n f l u e n c e of the past upon the present and the future.  Hagar Shipley attempts to f o o l  h e r s e l f , "To move to a new place that's the greatest excitement. For a while you b e l i e v e you carry nothing with y o u . " ^  But she  knows, and Mrs. Laurence wants us to know, that the heavy baggage of s e l f can only be temporarily checked on the journey. L i k e her b i b l i c a l predecessor, Hggar Shipley moves about i n a wilderness of her own making.  A l l her l i f e , she longs f o r something  her pride w i l l not l e t her define.  I t i s a triumph f o r the p r a i r i e  that she f i n a l l y finds the answer i s not environmental but personal. The quest, manifested i n the journey motif, i s but emotional.  'Ultimately  not physical  A l l the time, she has been moving back and f o r t h from  ^^Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 155.  -59-  th e p r a i r i e to the coast, from her son's house to the f i s h cannery, wh her mind has i t s l a s t triumph over the crumbling f l e s h , she has r e a l l y been b l i n d l y raging against h e r s e l f . A l l of Margaret Laurence's major characters, to date, are women.^  The preoccupation with the feminine view of r e a l i t y , which  she, as a woman, seems to be most at home w i t h , serves to enhance the q u a l i t y and v a l i d i t y of what she has to say a s a w r i t e r and complicate the nature of the quest.  L i k e D.H. Lawrence, who has allowed many  of h i s female characters t o take over the t r a d i t i o n a l l y male romance motif, she complicates the journey of the s o u l b y adding the p a r t i c u l a r e s t r i c t i o n s of womanhood.  The male wanderer often appears i n the  guise of the hero, as did the knights of c h i v a l r i c romance and the dramatic figures of the American f r o n t i e r .  The woman, on the  other hand, i s bound by the r i g i d conventions of wifehood and motherhood.  The a s s e r t i o n of s e l f over f a m i l i a l o b l i g a t i o n s hasibeen  conventionally regarded as a desecration. Hagar Shipley's d e c i s i o n to leave her home and her husband, even though she takes the youngest c h i l d , has profound s o c i a l and personal r a m i f i c a t i o n s .  What appears  to her t o be an act of desperation becomes an act of pride.  Through  Hagar and the other women she has created, Margaret Laurence has presented several facets of a modern dilemwa. The sum t o t a l of t h e i r being'; i s an a r t i c u l a t e plea f o r the r i g h t of every woman to be an individual. The novel, The Stone Angel, i s c a r e f u l l y ground, middleground  s t r u c t u r e d . Fore-  and background of a l i f e that has covered ninety  ^'Hagar Shipley i n The Stone Angel, Rachel Cameron i n A Jest of God, and her s i s t e r Stacey i n The F i r e Dwellers, / l | l l three women are involved i n the struggle for personal freedom.  -60year s are c a r e f u l l y woven together, through the a s s o c i a t i o n of stream of consciousness and memory, which are c a r e f u l l y juxtaposed to give complete i n s i g h t i n t o a woman whose largeness, physical and emotional, dominates every aspect of her l i f e .  Mrs. Laurence's technique i s  i m p r e s s i o n i s t i c ; i t i s the j u s t a p o s i t i o n of d e t a i l , past and present, that softens the symmetry of form and v i t a l i z e s the woman and her landscape.  Past and present are meaningless without each other.  Experience and memory are the colours which shade the forms of the present.  Flowers, always a source of d e l i g h t to Hagar, are both a  p o s i t i v e assurance of l i f e over death, i n s p i t e of the morbid  funereality  of l i l a c and l i l y of the v a l l e y , and an important s t r u c t u r a l device i n the u n i f i e d development of Hagar as she once was and as she now i s . As Hagar makes the journey through l i f e , which thematically p a r a l l e l s her geographical and psychological movement, the relevance of the epigraph from Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" becomes p a i n f u l l y r e a l . r e a l i t i e s of time.  B i r t h , copulation and death are the  Death i s inherent i n the maddeningly  gression of the phases of the l i f e c y c l e .  quick pro,?  The ubiquitous presence  of death enhances the need t o l i v e l i f e completely, something Hagar, i n her t e r r i b l e pride, has been unable to do. and not a new beginning.  Death i s the end  There i s a n e c e s s i t y to rage against i t .  Time, running quickly through the hourglass, i s the most formidable enemy i n Hagar's struggle with h e r s e l f .  I t has almost run out when  she f i n a l l y finds what i t was she r e a l l y wanted.  The f i f t h stanza of  Thomas' poem, w r i t t e n f o r h i s s u f f e r i n g f a t h e r , i s most appropriate to her.  -61-  Grave men, near death, who see with b l i n d i n g sight B l i n d eyes could gaze l i k e meteors and be gay, Rage, Rage against the dying of the l i g h t . Hagar, l i k e the stone angel her father erected i n h i s pride over her mother's grave, i s b l i n d -- not l i k e Gloucester, but l i k e Lear. Summer and winter she viewed the town with s i g h t less eyes. She was doubly blind,„ not only stone but unendowed with even a pretence of s i g h t . Whoever carved her had l e f t her eyeballs blank.^8 She i s b l i n d i n her p r i d e , which leaves her unequipped to perceive the d i s p a r i t y between i l l u s i o n and r e a l i t y , the world as i t i s and as she wants i t to be.  Hagar i s b a s i c a l l y a sensual woman whose  a r t i f i c i a l s o c i a l values prevent her from communicating with those she loves and from r e j o i c i n g i n the f l e s h .  A l l her l i f e , she  allows the mask to impede her experience of r e a l i t y . her marriage and her f a v o u r i t e son.  I t destroys  Only at the end, t r i g g e r e d .by  Mr. Troy's singing of the hymn, does she "see with b l i n d i n g s i g h t " what she, i n her pride and arrogance, has missed. A l l people that on earth do d w e l l , Sing to the Lord with j o y f u l v o i c e . Him serve with mirth, His praise f o r t h - t e l l ; Come ye before Him and r e j o i c e . She had always sought her g r a i l i n the wrong-\places.  I t was there  w i t h i n her a l l the time. I would have wished i t . This knowing comes upon me so f o r c e f u l l y , so s h a t t e r i n g l y , and with such a b i t t e r ness that I have never f e l t before. I must always, always have wanted that - simple to r e j o i c e . How i s i t I never could. I know, I know. How long have I known. Or have I always known, i n some f a r c r e v i c e of my heart, some cave too deeply buried, too concealed. Every good joy I might have held, i n my man or i n any c h i l d of mine or even  ^ M a r g a r e t Laurence.  The Stone Angel, p. 3.  -62the p l a i n l i g h t of morning, of walking the earth, a l l were forced to a s t a n d s t i l l by some brake of proper appearances-oh, proper to whom? When did I ever speak the hearts' t r u t h ? 4 9  F i n a l l y , Hagar i s Lycidas' angel, turning homeward, a l i v e at l a s t . In the world of her own mind, Hagar has created a r e l i g i o n of s e l f .  She i s too l a r g e , too independant to succumb to the  lure.-of organized r e l i g i o u s r i t u a l .  The f i r s t r e l i g i o u s  i n the novel describes her father's pride.  experience  Because he gave more  for the b u i l d i n g of a new church, he i s one of the e l e c t . i n her wisdom, knows the j u s t i c e of that. her sacred place.  Hagar,  The church was never  I f God ever existed for her, i t was i n the  cathedral of trees that she describes i n her f i n a l escape from Marvin and Doris.  She i s sincere i n her cynicism with the young  minister. Even i f heaven were r e a l , and measured as Revelation says, so many c u b i t s t h i s way and that, how gimcrack a place i t would be, crammed with i t s pavements of gold, i t s gates of topaz, l i k e a g i g a n t i c chunk of costume jewelry. Saint John of Patmos can keep h i s sequinned heaven, or share i t with Mr. Troy, f o r a l l I care, and spend e t e r n i t y i n f i n g e r i n g the gems and t e l l i n g each other gleef u l l y they're worth a fortune.50 Death o f f e r s no promise of C h r i s t i a n s a l v a t i o n . Hagar i s p r e - C h r i s t i a n , by name and d i s p o s i t i o n .  She i s described as  the pharoah's daughter, the Egyptian, throughout her l i f e , desert imagery permeates the novel.  and  Her s t r a i g h t black h a i r and  monumental p e r s o n a l i t y and stature r e c a l l the r i g i d statuary of Egypt's queens.  There i s nothing of the soft C h r i s t i a n madonna  i n her d e l i n e a t i o n . Her kingdom i s the earth and she r i d e s care-  I b i d . , p.  292.  Op. c i t . , p.  120.  -63l e s s l y over i t , missing the p o s s i b i l i t y of heaven on earth.  The  p r a i r i e and the c i t y are her Minoan l a b y r i n t h and death i s always a dead end.  When she meets her obstacles, she does not attempt  v e r t i c a l escape, as did Icarus, but instead searches out another route.  Margaret Laurence, an orphan h e r s e l f , knows the  of death.  futility  Hagar shares t h i s a t t i t u d e and i s angered by her brother's  mild acquiescence t o the i n e v i t a b l e . impotence.  She i s disgusted by h i s  He did not value l i f e enough to rage against death. 'He went q u i e t l y ' she s a i d . 'He didn't f i g h t h i s death as some do. They only make i t harder for themselves. Matt seemed to know there was no help for i t ' , Mavis s a i d . 'He didn't struggle to breathe, or t r y to hang on. He l e t himself s l i p away.' I found t h i s harder to bear than h i s death, even. Why hadn't he writhed, cursed, at l e a s t grappled with the t h i n g . 5 1  There i s no quiet acceptance i n her own death.  She struggles  to the end and dies taking the communion of l i f e . I wrest taking from her the g l a s s , f u l l of water to be had f o r the taking. I hold i t i n My hands. There. There. And them-52 In s p i t e of Hagar's renunciation of r e l i g i o n , the conv e n t i o n a l imagery o f orthodox C h r i s t i a n i t y i s woven i n t o the f a b r i c of the novel.  The seagull i n the room at;.the point, "a b i r d i n the  house means a death i n the house", t r i g g e r s r e l i g i o u s a s s o c i a t i o n s , but i t i s a l s o very r e a l i n the context of experience.  Similarly,  the sacramental pattern does not intrude upon the secular nature of the journey.  Her r e v e l a t i o n i s a ..celebration of l i f e and not  some mystic r i t u a l .  However, the analogies enrich the value of  her experience and the irony of her quest. 51  0 p . c i t . p. 60.  52  Op. c i t . , p. 308.  -64As explained i n the Introduction to the New  Canadian  L i b r a r y e d i t i o n of The Stone Angel, the b i b l i c a l analogies are not e s s e n t i a l to e x p l i c a t i o n of the character, Hagar Shipley, but another dimension to the book".  J  i s indeed i n bondage to her f l e s h .  "add  Hagar,:.like the wife of Abraham, Her husband, Bram, i s a modern  Abraham, whose desire for a dynasty i s betrayed by h i s own weakness and h i s wife's pride. desert.  He cannot make a Promised Land out of the  The p o s s i b i l i t y of regeneration inherent i n the d e s c r i p t i o n  of the marriage on a spring day, I t was spring that day, a d i f f e r e n t spring from t h i s one. The poplar b l u f f s had budded with s t i c k y leaves, and the frogs had come back to the sloughs and sang l i k e choruses of angels with sore throats, and the marsh marigolds were opening l i k e shavings of sun on the brown r i v e r where the tadpoles danced and the bloodsuckers lay slimy and low, waiting for the boys' f e e t . And I rode i n the black topped buggy beside the man who was now my mate. i s q u i c k l y shattered by the emptiness of t h e i r l i f e together.  She  never wishes to communicate with him u n t i l a f t e r he i s dead; and then i t i s too l a t e .  The mother-son motif, which complements the  dynastic theme i n the B i b l e , i s concentrated  i n the intense mis-  d i r e c t e d r e l a t i o n s h i p s between Hagar and her two sons Marvin and John.  Reference to the b i b l i c a l archetypes makes Hagar's fantasies  doubley i r o n i c . Symbolically, Hagar i s , of course, a wanderer i n the wilderness through her own w i l l f u l n e s s , l i k e the b i b l i c a l Hagar; the second wife of Bram Shipley, she resents and despises the memory of the f i r s t one as the b i b l i c a l Hagar resent Sarah, Abraham's wife.  W.H. New, i n h i s Introduction to the novel, argues the m u l t i p l e p o s s i b i l i t i e s of Hagar's symbolic i d e n t i t y . She i s not so much a s t a t i c f i g u r e i n a l l e g o r y as a r e a l i n d i v i d u a l whose tragedy i s enhanced by association. 54 Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 50.  -65Bram Shipley, with h i s f a i l u r e farm, i s no p a t r i a r c h though sadly and i r o n i c a l l y , he wishes to be one and hopes t h e i r f i r s t c h i l d w i l l be a boy: " ' I t would be someone to leave the place t o ' , he s a i d . I saw then that he wanted h i s dynasty no l e s s than my father had."' From the f i r s t t r i p to the f i n i s h i n g school i n Toronto to the f i n a l bus^ride to Shadow Point and the f i s h cannery, Hagar i s a wanderer. illusion.  Always the r e a l i t i e s are forsaken i n favour of the  She escapes from the p r a i r i e to the mannered s o c i a l  world of Toronto, where she learns s k i l l s she w i l l never use as Bram Shipley's wife, and the snobbish values, which, a f t e r the o r i g i n a l act of defiance that was her marriage, cause her to judge and condemn her husband; and she escapes him i n a sudden f l i g h t to the west coast, where her son Jo^n i s c r u c i f i e d emotionally by the i l l u s i o n s of r e s p e c t a b i l i t y '  she has created.  Her quest leads  her from r e a l i t y i n t o i l l u s i o n and f i n a l l y , through the r e v e l a t i o n of her l a s t days, back to r e a l i t y again. The children's game of "house", which she observes at the beach, i s analogous to the games Hagar has always played. The scene i n the novel serves as a book within a book where Hagar may read about h e r s e l f . interpreted r e a l i t y on her own f a l s e terms.  Always, she has  Doris, who i s remarkably  kind and patient with her ageing mother-in-law, i s described as stupid and a r t i f i c i a l .  Bram i s condemned fromfjthe s t a r t because  h i s roughness does not conform to Hagar's r i g i d standards.  There  i s always the need to escape what joy and solace these people can give her through a journey i n t o the f a l s e s e l f which i s conventional and dead.  The r e a l Hagar has the a b i l i t y to communicate, to give  and take; but:she finds out too l a t e .  Clara Thomas.  Margaret Laurence, p. 43.  -66Mrs. Laurence admits to a love-hate r e l a t i o n s h i p with Hagar, whom she resents for her " a u t h o r i t a r i a n outlook" and loves " f o r her b a t t l i n g . "  She has a r t i c u l a t e d Hagar' s journey not;.in  terms of absolutes but as a matter of s u r v i v a l . Perhaps I no longer believed so much i n the promised land, even the promised land of one's own inner freedom. Perhaps an obsession with freedom i s the p e r s i s t e n t (thank God) dance of the young. With The Stone Angel, without my recognizing i t at the time, the theme had changed to that of s u r v i v a l , the attempt of the p e r s o n a l i t y to survive with some d i g n i t y , t o t i n g the load of excess mental baggage that everyone c a r r i e s , u n t i l the moment of death. 56  On her journey to the point, Hagar makes a p a i n f u l reference to Coleridge's poem "The Ancient Mariner.""'  7  Her voyage, l i k e  the mariner's, i s physical and p s y c h o l o g i c a l . Both s u f f e r p h y s i c a l l y and emotionally; both are involved i n a journey of the f l e s h and the s p i r i t . Now that I've made my mind up, I become aware of my parched f l e s h . I've not had a drop of water since - I can't remember how long i t ' s been. A long time. I t ' s not the way I had imagined t h i r s t would f e e l . My throat doesn't burn or f e e l p a r t i c u l a r l y dry. But i t s ' blocked and shut, and i t pains me when I swallow. I can't drink sea-water-isn't i t meant to be poisonous? C e r t a i n l y . 'Water water everywhere nor any drop to drink.' That's my predicament, What e l s e d i d I s l a y , for mercy's sake?58  Margaret Laurence. "Ten Years' Sentences" The S i x t i e s , p. 14. p . 186. "What albatross did I s l a y , for mercy's sake? W e l l , w e l l , w e ' l l see - come on, old mariner, up and out of your smelly bunk and w e ' l l see what can be found." Hagar's journey, l i k e the mariner's, i s complicated by g u i l t and p r i d e , despair and optimism. 5 7  CO  Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 46.  -67-  Often, i n the p r a i r i e novel, the environment i t s e l f i s the  most formidable adversary i n the quest f o r peace.  Small human  f i g u r e s p i t themselves h e r o i c a l l y against time and tithe elements. The p r a i r i e i s p e r s o n i f i e d and i t s behaviour i s often interpreted as the w i l l of God.  Hagar's p r a i r i e i s very r e a l , but the desert  i s an extension of h e r s e l f and not an external force to be contended with.  P a r t l y because i t i s an aspect of h e r s e l f , she never r e a l l y  leaves i t .  There i s nothing m y s t i c a l about the miracle of spring  i n Manawaka.  I t just happens.  S i m i l a r l y , the b i t t e r n e s s of winter  i s accepted.  The r e a l enemy i s w i t h i n ; her own rages are f a r more  d e s t r u c t i v e than the p r a i r i e storms which a l t e r the landscape but leave the mind i n t a c t .  Hagar knows, by the time she d i e s , that  external forces have not caused her unhappiness.  She,Lalonejis  responsible. Pride was my wilderness, and the demon that l e d me there was fear. I was alone, never anything e l s e , and never free, f o r I c a r r i e d my chains w i t h i n me, and they spread out from me and shackled a l l I touched... Nothing can take away those years.59 Hagar s pride, i n h e r i t e d from her f a t h e r , causes her to 1  escape from the sensual world which i s her greatest source of pleasure.  The novel i s r i c h with the sensory d e t a i l s which i l l u m i n a t e  Hagar's p o t e n t i a l for joy. D o r i s  1  cooking, the flowers which  fill  her l i f e with perfume, and sex with Bram are a l l described with the l o v i n g care of one who r e a l i z e s too l a t e what they a l l have meant to her.  L i k e the stone angel, she has r e s i s t e d opening up her f l e s h  to the things i n which she has the capacity to r e j o i c e .  I b i d . , p. 292.  Clara Thomas  -68compares Mrs. Laurence's handling of d e t a i l to the v i r t u o s i t y of E.J. Pratt.60  The book i s a l i v e with the sounds and smells,  pleasant and unpleasant, of Hagar's l i f e t i m e .  I t i s the  author's  ear for rhythms of speech and accurate d e s c r i p t i o n of sensory d e t a i l s that give substance to the amorphous shapes of emotion. How anxious I was to be neat and o r d e r l y , imagining l i f e had been created only to celebrate t i d i n e s s , l i k e p r i s s y Pippa as she passed. But sometimes through the hot rush of d i s r e s p e c t f u l wind that shook the scrub oak and the coarse couchgrass encroaching upon the d u t i f u l l y cared-for h a b i t a t i o n s of the dead, the scent of cowslips would r i s e momentarily. They were tough-rooted, these w i l d and gaudy flowers, and although they were held back at the cemetary's edge, torn out by l o v i n g g r e l a t i v e s , determined to keep the plots c l e a r and c l e a r l y c i v i l i z e d , f o r a second or two a person walking there could catch the f a i n t , musky, dust-tinged smell of things that grew u: I -,*untended' arid*had' 'grown, always, irbef ore the p o r t l y peonies and the angels with r i g i d wings, when the p r a i r i e b l u f f s were walked through only by Cree with enigmatic faces and greasy hair.61 1  I t i s due p a r t l y to her p u r i t a n i c a l background that Hagar i s uanble to r e c o n c i l e the p o l a r i t i e s >6f.,real and imaginary  self.  The f i e r c e v i r t u e s of the father are v i s i t e d upon the daughter, who adopted the motto ("Gainsay Who  Dare")  and the pride of family  " C l a r a Thomas, Margaret Laurence, p. 43. "Mrs. Laurence , handles her d e t a i l with the absolute assurance and a u t h o r i t y that E.J. P r a t t envinced for the sea and ships of Hugh MacLennan for the H a l i f a x explosion, or G a b r i e l l e Roy for the sights and sounds of Montreal i n the t h i r t i e s . " u  61-Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 5. " G a i n s a y Who Dare", the war cry of the Clanranstld Macdonald, i s Hagar's defiant cry against the world which i s her b a t t l e ground. The motto and the p i n bearing i t are cheaply tossed away by Hagar's f a v o u r i t e son John, who has no use for the r e s t r i c t i o n s of t r a d i t i o n . 62  -69tradition.  The struggle to perpetuate  the i l l u s i o n , r e s p e c t a b i l i t y ,  makes i t d i f f i c u l t for her to accept and enjoy r e a l i t y .  A f t e r the  act of defiance that u n i t s Hagar with Bram Shipley i n marriage,  she  r e a l i z e s that she can only judge her easygoing husband according to the standards of her father.  She w i l l never respect  him.  Y o u ' l l never get anywhere i n t h i s world unless you work harder than others. I'm here to t e l l you that. Nobody's going to hand you anything on a s i l v e r " p l a t t e r . I t ' s up to you, nobody e l s e . You've got to have s t i c k - t o - i t i v e n e s s i f you want to get ahead. You ve got to use a l i t t l e elbow g r e a s e . Unfortunately, Hagar, u n l i k e Bram's former wife C l a r a ,  00  ("No  cross No crown"),°^ cannot accept the r e l i g i o u s convictions that attend the e t h i c of puritanism.  She i s l e f t with an empty s h e l l .  The r e l i g i o u s and sexual motifs associated with Hagar s 1  behaviour  are culminated i n the episode with Murray F. Lees at the f i s h cannery. In those days she could have prayed the angels themselves r i g h t down from heaven, i f she'd been so i n c l i n e d , and when she lay down on the moss and spread those great white thighs of hers, there wasn't a sweeter place i n a l l t h i s wo rid.65 Clara Thomas considers the function of Lees, the a l c o h o l i c former Redeemers' Advocate, to be analogous to the f u n c t i o n of the f o o l i n King Lear"  Indeed, l i k e the Shakespearean f o o l , Lees i s  6-*Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 13. Bram Shipley's former w i f e , C l a r a , had embroidered the legend on the bookmark. Hagar has only contempt for the morbid practices of s e l f f l a g e l l a t i o n associated with puritanism. However, she h e r s e l f accepts the doctrine of i n d i v i d u a l i s m and hard work which are inherent i n Clara's r e l i g i o n . Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 'Thomas, p. 41.  277.  -70the philosopher who i s both i n and out of the p l o t providing i n s i g h t i n t o the value of experience. mentor, ("God  He becomes Hagar's r e a l s p i r i t u a l  i s love, b u t please don't mention the two i n the  same b r e a t h " ) ^ and, despite the apparent b e t r a y a l when he reveals her h i d i n g place to Marvin and D o r i s , he allows her the opportunity for  c a t h a r s i s and f i n a l l y the chance to bless the son she has  never recognized, the act which i s her s a l v a t i o n . In an attempt to repudiate the c l a i m Bram Shipley has over her body, 'His banner over me was love'. Where that comes from, I can't now r i g h t l y say, or else for some reason i t hurts me to remember. He had a banner over me for many years. I never thought i t love, though, a f t e r we wed. Love, I fancied, must consist of words and deeds d e l i c a t e as lavender sachets, not l i k e the things he did sprawled on the high white bedstead** , that r a t t l e d l i k e a t r a i n . 1  Hagar r e j e c t e d the son she though most l i k e him. by her d e f i n i t i o n , t i l l  Marvin, i n a r t i c u l a t e ,  the end of the novel, where h i s words "She's  a holy t e r r o r " f i l l her with love, i s the son she shuts out i n favour of John, who  proves to be an Ishmael.  John i s associated  by her with Jacob, but i t i s a r o l e he does not c h e r i s h . I wish he could have looked l i k e Jacob then, w r e s t l i n g with the angel and besting i t , wringing a b l e s s i n g from i t with h i s might. But no. He sweated and grunted a n g r i l y . His feet slipped and he h i t . h i s forehead on a marble ear, and swore. His arm muscles tightened and swelled and f i n a l l y the statue moved, teetered, and was upright once 69 more. uy  Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 68 I b i d . , p. 80. 69  0p. cit.,  p.  179.  228.  -71Just as the angel i s not a r e a l angel, John i s not a r e a l Jacob.  I t i s Marvin who f i n a l l y wrests the b l e s s i n g from her on  her tortured deathbed.  He i s the son of r e a l i t y , not i l l u s i o n .  Her journey ta s taken her back to the place from which she started and that i s not so bad a f t e r a l l . Now i t seems to me that he i s t r u l y Jacob, gripping with all',his strength and bargaining. " I w i l l not l e t thee go, except thou bless me'. And I see I am thus strangely c a s t , and perhaps have been so from the beginning, and can only r e l e a s e myself by rel e a s i n g him.' 0  The c i r c u i t o u s  pattern of Hagar s journey i s completion 1  of the human rather than the d i v i n e function.  Rather than moving  from s e l f to God, as do B r i a n O'Connal, i n Who Has Seen the Wind, and the Bentley's, i n As For Me and My House, Hagar moves from s e l f back to s e l f .  The sun of E c c l e s i a s t e s i s , f o r Hagar,  an objective c o r r e l a t i v e of the n a t u r a l rather than the supernatural world.  Her b l e s s i n g of Marvin assures her completion and f o r g i v e -  ness i n the r e a l world. Because her journey i s l i m i t e d , Hagar may be more successf u l than the s p i r i t u a l questors, B r i a n and the Bentleys. communion between man and God breaks the c i r c l e .  Imperfect  This i s the tragedy  of Abraham i n Adele Wiseman's novel The S a c r i f i c e a l s o . Rachel Cameron, i n A Jest of God has a more d i f f i c u l t task than Hagar.  She i s a negative presence and her journey takes her  i n t o the tangled wilderness of her own mind.  A weak and f r u s t r a t e d  i n d i v i d u a l , she i s tempted by the sustaining p o t e n t i a l of the supernatural.  Human r e l a t i o n s h i p s are not so easy for her as they,are  for Hagar, despite Hagar's determination to c o n t r o l her peers.  7°0p. c i t . , p. 304.  CHAPTER IV A Jest of God  I f Hagar i s responsible f o r her own wasteland, so i s her b i b l i c a l descendent Rachel (Cameron) i n A Jest of God.  Rachel  i s the inverse of Hagar, who impresses her grotesque pride on the landscape, but she too i s g u i l t y i n that she allows the landscape to oppress her.  A spinster school teacher, whose only c r e a t i v e act  i s a c r u e l joke, Rachel lacks the w i l l to grab the golden r i n g as she cringes on her merry-go-round f u l l of f a m i l i a r but faces.  untouched  Her desolation, l i k e Hagar s, i s psychological. 1  The waste-  land i s her own mind where the only p o s s i b i l i t y f o r s e l f f u l f i l m e n t e x i s t s i n the fantasies she plays l i k e midnight movies across the screen of her empty nights. Hagar i s l a r g e r than l i f e and her s a l v a t i o n i s inherent i n the discovery of her own weakness.  Rachel, i f she i s ever  to f i n d h e r s e l f , must journey i n the opposite d i r e c t i o n .  She must  cast o f f her fears and s e l f doubts i n order to become a r e a l person. I t i s the flabbiness of her w i l l , the tiresomeness of her endless submission to her own i n h i b i t i o n s that leave::her character and the novel somehow incomplete and u n s a t i s f y i n g .  U n l i k e Hagar, who  challenges l i f e on her own terms, Rachel withdraws.  As Hagar rapes  and plunders her world with enthusiasm, Rachel and her emotional environment remain v i r g i n . every a c t .  There i s a negative q u a l i t y to her  She leaves reverse f o o t p r i n t s and, f o r her, tragedy i s  -73-  impossible.  Instead she i s simply the v i c t i m of a c r u e l joke and  her own sad imagination. Rachel, trembling on the threshold of l i f e , i s saturated i n the sombre shades of death over which Hagar, who has been through a l l the colours of the rainbow, i s triumphant.  I t i s the f a i l u r e  to i n t e g r a t e the p o s s i b i l i t i e s and the a c t u a l i t i e s , so e f f e c t i v e l y juxtaposed i n The Stone Angel, that leaves A Jest of God exactly where Rachel i s , at an ambivalent the colours of l i f e . -•-  beginning.  She never takes on  Mrs. Laurence i s aware of t h i s .  A Jest of God, as some c r i t i c s have pointed out disapprovingly, i s a very inturned novel. I recogn i z e the l i m i t a t i o n s o f a novel, the f i r s t person and the present tense, from one viewpoint only, but i t couldn't have been done any other wa/, for Rachel h e r s e l f i s a very inturned person. She t r i e s to break the handcuffs of her own past, but she i s perceptive enough to recognize that for her no freedom from the shakledom of her ancestors can be t o t a l . Her emergence from the tomb-like atmosphere of her extended childhood i s a p a r t i a l defeat-or, looked at i n another way, a p a r t i a l v i c t o r y . She i s no longer so much a f r a i d of h e r s e l f as she was. She i s beginning to l e a r n the rules of s u r v i v a l . ^ l  Unlike the b i b l i c a l Rachel, whom God f i n a l l y rewarded by l i f t i n g the curse of s t e r i l i t y from her womb, Rachel Cameron has known no love and has only been i n i t i a t e d to the fear of God and man.  She w i l l not leave the p o s i t i v e imprint of the earth mother,  by mothering a nation who w i l l f i n d the Promised Land as the b i b l i c a l Rachel does, and her p a i n f u l post-operative plea " I am the mother now" i s only a p a r t i a l v i c t o r y .  She can only replace the ancient c h i l d  i n her care and become mother to h e r s e l f .  ^Margaret Laurence. p. 14.  "Ten Year's Sentences." The S i x t i e s ,  -74-  Rachel's Manawaka i s a very d i f f e r e n t place than that e a r l i e r b i r t h p l a c e of Hagar Shipley.  Impressed by the b r i l l i a n c e  of her own s e l f conception, Hagar regarded the p r a i r i e as an impediment to the r e a l i z a t i o n of her p o t e n t i a l . could not s u s t a i n her.  She wrongly f e l t i t  Throughout The Stone Angel, Hagar and the  desert environment, which i s an extension e>f aspects of her p e r s o n a l i t y , compete f o r ascendency.  The strong psychological c o l o r a t i o n of  Hagar i s balanced by a v i v i d l y described p r a i r i e .  Hagar s 1  fundamental e r r o r i s inherent i n her d e c i s i o n to abandon the struggle i n the e f f o r t to escape h e r s e l f and move to the c i t y .  The  i m p r e s s i o n i s t i c q u a l i t y of the d e s c r i p t i o n of mental and p h y s i c a l landscape i n The Stone Angel u n i f i e s time place and character i n an overwhelming experience.  Rachel, on the other hand, shrinks  from the technicolour grotesques of her town. to be i n t i m i d a t e d by every sign of l i f e .  She allows h e r s e l f  In A Jest of God, the  drought i s not seasonal but permanent, i n Rachel h e r s e l f .  Her grey-  ness c o n s t i t u t e s a withdrawal from the b r i l l i a n t world Margaret Laurence creates around her.  The Promised Land already seems to  have been r e a l i z e d , p h y s i c a l l y at l e a s t , i n t h i s p r a i r i e s e t t i n g . Perhaps i t i s too abundant f o r Rachel, who cannot i d e n t i f y her own barrenness with i t s apparent f e r t i l i t y .  This world i s d i s t o r t e d  through the transparent lens of Rachel's kaleidescope v i s i o n . Manawaka i s not the t r a d i t i o n a l desert that challenged Rachel's ancestors, but an exaggerated Eden she i s not equipped to populate or even destroy through s i n . Gone i s the grey weathered farmhouse and bleak f i e l d s of the depression. defiant v i r i l i t y of the K a z l i k ' s place.  Instead, there i s the  -75-  c  The K a z l i k ' s place i s about three miles out of town, along the gravel highway where the telephone wires hum l i k e the harps of the wind. The house i s set back from the road, i n d i s t i n g u i s h a b l e from a thousand frame framhouses planted among the poplars, the barn, though, i s splendid and enormous, as newly white as an egg. At the front of the house someone, Nick's mother probably, has planted orange and yellow calendula, and blue larkspur and zinnias s i f f and dowdy as paper f l o w e r s . 7 2  In her f a i l u r e to come to g r i p s with r e a l i t y , Rachel i s t o t a l l y a l i e n a t e d from her p r a i r i e and her fellow human beings. All  the people who could give dimension and meaning to her l i f e are  stereotyped i n her own r i g i d mind.  As she i s the only medium  through which the reader experiences the town, these i n d i v i d u a l s are r e s t r i c t e d by her v i s i o n .  Mrs. Cameron i s the t y p i c a l s e l f i s h  hypochondriac mother, Nick i s the t y p i c a l c a l l o u s lover and C a l l a i s the t y p i c a l f r u s t r a t e d l e s b i a n school teacher..Rachel saves a l l her compassion f o r h e r s e l f i n her frequent forays i n t o s e l f p i t y and r e v e r i e .  Her a l i e n a t i o n i s r e a l i z e d t h e m a t i c a l l y by the  constant convoluted journeys of her mind.  Unlike Hagar, who  ignored her personal wilderness and plunged i n t o devastating external r e l a t i o n s h i p s , Rachel t r a v e l s inwards, an experience sometimes i r r i t a t i n g and sometimes rewarding. Hagar's confusion of i l l u s i o n and r e a l i t y e x i s t s p r i m a r i l y i n a s o c i a l context.  She i s f r u s t r a t e d by the d i s p a r i t y between  what she i s and what she imagines h e r s e l f to be; the r e a l world, manifested i n the p r a i r i e which i s a r e f l e c t i o n not only of the tangled wilderness of her pride but a l s o her magnificent capacity for  l i f e , and the imaginary world of elaborate conventions which  Margaret Laurence, A Jest of God, p. 1 0 1 .  -76-  have no place i n the pure Old Testament medium of the p r a i r i e . For Rachel, that confusion borders on psychosis. her, e x i s t s outside of human r e l a t i o n s h i p s . image at a l l .  Illusion, for  She has no s e l f -  Her world o f i l l u s i o n i s not a mask but another  schizophrenic s e l f which moves through dreams that threaten to t o t a l l y overpower r e a l i t y .  Rather than questing outward  toward  a d i s t o r t e d i d e a l s e l f , as Hagar does, Rachel r e t r e a t s to her nocturnal r e v e r i e s . In her imaginary world, Rachel i s the heroine  of a  f a i r y t a l e of nightime fantasies that b l o t out her ambition to succeed i n the daytime with r e a l people.  U n l i k e the people of  Manawaka, who go to movies to escape, Rachel derives s a t i s f a c t i o n from the c e l l u l i o d world of her improbable dreams.  Going to the  movies i s a group experience and Rachel i s very much alone during her evenings.  She knows that every dream d e t r a c t s from the  p o s s i b i l i t y of ever r e a l i z i n g a concreteness i n the r e a l world, but she weakly allows i t to take over. I can't. Tonight i s h e l l on wheels again. T r i t e . H e l l on wheels. But almostaccurate. The night f e e l s l i k e a g i g a n t i c f e r r i s wheel turning i n blackness very slowly. Turning once f o r each hour, interminably slow. And I am glued to i t , or wired, l i k e paper, l i k e a photograph, i n s u b s t a n t i a l , unable to anchor myself, unable to stop t h i s slow nocturnal c i r c l i n g . ^ Rachel's e x i l e i s even more f r i g h t e n i n g than Hagar's, because she i s unable to e x i s t anywhere but i n her own imagination. Hagar bravely r e s i s t s death, while Rachel accepts d e a t h - i n - l i f e . her v u l n e r a b i l i t y , she finds no comfort i n r e l i g i o n .  Ibid.,  p.  19.  Despite:  She i s too  -77-  i n t e l l i g e n t to accept the f a l s e promise.  Although she has vague  hopes f o r the f u t u r e , she has no r e l i g i o u s a s p i r a t i o n s . no question of eternal l i f e .  There i s  A b e l i e f i n s p i r i t u a l absolutes  would perhaps have provided an emotional o u t l e t , as i t does f o r her f r i e n d C a l l a , but Rachel i s s k e p t i c a l .  I f God i s love and there  i s no love, then God i s dead. When I came back to teach i n Manawaka, I t o l d mother the f i r s t Sunday that I didn't think I'd go. She said "Why not?" I didn't say God hadn't died r e c e n t l y , w i t h i n the l a s t few years, but a long time ago, longer than I could remember, f o r I could not a c t u a l l y r e c a l l a time when I was a l i v e .  7 4  Only i n the f a l s e hope of a f a l s e love i s Rachel b r i e f l y able to conjure.up some idea of a living'God. I don't know why a person pleads with God. I f I believed, the l a s t kind of Creator I could imagine would be a human-type being who could be reached by tears or bribed with words. Say please, Rachel, i t s the magic word. Mother. Please, God, l e t him phone. The undertaker i s an ambiguous and ominous f i g u r e i n both The Stone Angel and A Jest of God.  In Rachel's case he i s  more oppressive, having been her own dead father.  The greatest  adversary i n the struggle f o r s e l f r e a l i z a t i o n i s death.  Rachel's  father serves ambivalently as the giver of l i f e and the overseer of death.  The emotional r e s u l t i s a n e u t r a l i t y , death i n l i f e .  The apartment over the funeral parlour with i t s neon l i g h t s i s i n e f f e c t her s p i r i t u a l c o f f i n .  She and her mother a r e r r e l i c s of  a dead past, wrapped i n mothballs l i k e the n i g h t i e s Mrs. Cameron i s saving f o r her f i n a l i l l n e s s .  74  Op. c i t . ,  p.  75  Op. C i t . ,  p.  39  Although Margaret Laurence consis-  -78t e n t l y uses b i b l i c a l archetypes, names and s i t u a t i o n s , she does not respond to the s p i r i t u a l immutabilityof the p r a i r i e .  The  Old Testament s e t t i n g i s as mutable as the characters who invade it.  There i s no promise of renewed l i f e inherent i n death.  Death  i s f i n a l , secular and unpleasant. A l l that remains i s f o r someone to delete the word f u n e r a l . A nasty word, smacking of m o r t a l i t y . No one i n Manawaka ever d i e s , not on t h i s side of the t r a c k s . We are a gathering of immortals. We pass on, through C a l l a ' s d i v i n e gates of topaz and azure, perhaps, but we do not d i e . Death i s rude, unmannerly, not to be spoken to i n the street.76 Rachel's preoccupation with death i s a neurotic i n v o l u t i o n of the townspeople's tendency to avoid i t or r e f e r to i t i n euphemisms.  Even C a l l a , whose name evokes a funeral flower, i s  associated, i n Rachel's mind, with death.  " C a l l a ' s mother was  e x c e p t i o n a l l y fond of white l i l i e s , and christened her only daughter a f t e r one v a r i e t y of them."  77  I t i s i r o n i c that Rachel and the novel are most a l i v e i n the scenes i n the tabernacle and funeral parlour, places she abhors f o r t h e i r foolishness.and hypocrisy.  She sees more of her-  s e l f there then i n any of the mirrors she has been f r a n t i c a l l y examining f o r clues to her i d e n t i t y .  " I have to pass myself again  and again, and see a thing streak of a person* a white chalk on a blackboard."  l i k e a stroke of  I n the places she knows God i s  absent from, but responds to i n her own complicated way, she i s somehow able to communicate.  76  0 p . C i t . , p. 13  77  0 p . c i t . , p. 9.  -79Silence. I can't stay. I can't stand i t . I r e a l l y can't. Beside me, the man moans gently, moans and s t i r s , and moansThat v o i c e ! Chattering c r y i n g , u l u l a t i n g , the forbidden transformed c r y p t i c a l l y to nonsense, dragged from the crypt, stolen and shouted, the shuddering of i t , the fear, the breaking, the release, the g r i e v i n g of  Not C a l l a ' s voice. Rachel.  Oh my God. Mine.  The voice  78  There i s , however, no permanent release for Rachel's s p i r i t -- through r e l i g i o n , sex or f r i e n d s h i p . F i n a l l y , she r e a l i z e s she must leave the dead s h e l l of the past behind and escape.  The withdrawal  i n t o s e l f i s not longer p o s s i b l e , f or  her w a l l s are not impermeable. there i s the t r a i n .  Always, for p r a i r i e meniand women,  For some i t i s the u m b i l i c a l cord that unites  them with the r e s t of the world and for others, l i k e Rachel and Hagar, i t i s the way out. When I was a c h i l d the t r a i n s were a l l steam, and you could hear the w h i s t l e blow a long way o f f , carrying better i n t h i s f l a t land bhan i t would have done i n the mountains, the sound a l l p r a i r i e kids grew up with, the t r a i n v o i c e that said don't stay don't stay j u s t don't ever stay-go and keep on going, never mind where. 79  However, the journey west may simply become an externalization of the countless l o n e l y t r i p s i n t o her own mind.  The t r a i n may move  along the track or the bus along the highway, but the roads themselves connect the past to the present.  There i s r e a l l y no way out.  For Rachel, as for Hagar Shipley, and Mrs. Bentley, i n As For Me and My House, the p r a i r i e can never be l e f t behind, for i t i s a  78  Op. c i t ., p. 36.  79 Op. c i t . , p. 167 .  -80-  part of them. The t r a i n i r o n i c a l l y moves Rachel out of a world she can never leave and takes Abraham, i n Adele Wiseman s novel The S a c r i f i c e 1  i n t o a landscape he w i l l never be a part of.  For the questor, the  f a l s e journey, which i s merely a marking of time, i s but a s i n g l e aspect of that process of s e l e c t i o n which takes him or her to personal s a l v a t i o n .  I t i s necessary to occasionally f a i l to f i n d  the way out of the l a b y r i n t h .  A voyage without p e r i l i s also  without s i g n i f i c a n c e . Abrahams movement i n t o the p r a i r i e landscape, which he views as the Old Testament Promised Land, i s a n a c h r o n i s t i c . unable to progress beyond h i s own narrow view of h i s t o r y .  He i s I f Rachel  over-reacts to landscape, Abraham i s t o t a l l y unable to communicate with i t s r e a l i t i e s ' .  He i s b l i n d to the present and has a d i s -  torted archetypal view of the past which, rather than equipping him f o r transcendental experiences, assures him of f a i l u r e as a questor i n a wasteland he has not bothered to comprehend.  0  CHAPTER V The  Sacrifice  With i t s inherent romantic and sexual connotations, the t r a i n i s a constant and powerful symbol i n the Canadian P r a i r i e novel.  The t r a i n i s energy and escape and, above a l l , i t i s the  l i n k with the outside world, past, present and future.  When the  present becomes unbearable, the t r a i n i s memory and d e s i r e , s t i m u l a t i n g the imagination as i t r e g u l a r l y d i s t u r b s the quiet p r a i r i e s o i l , rumbling i n :the distance l i k e some voice at the back of the mind. Abraham, u n l i k e many of h i s peers i n p r a i r i e f i c t i o n , appears to have ended h i s t r y i n g journey to the Promised Land, at the beginning of Adele Wiseman's novel The S a c r i f i c e , when he abruptly decides to disembark at an unnamed c i t y i n the middle of the p r a i r i e .  A  dogmatic f i g u r e i n a pragmatic landscape, he seems to f e e l i n s t i n c t i v e l y that he had found the land of m i l k and honey. more t r a v e l l i n g fo r the weary p i l g r i m .  There w i l l be no  The t r a i n has brought  Abraham and h i s family to peace. Enough. With a sudden rush of i n d i g n a t i o n , as though he had been jerked awake, i t came to Abraham that they had f l e d f a r enough. The thought took hold i n h i s mind l i k e a command. I t came a l i v e i n h i s head and swept through him a n g r i l y , i n a wave of energy, a r e b e l l i o u s movement of the blood. I t was as;simple as that. Enough.80 Once he has found h i s New Jerusalem i n Canada, Abraham begins to play h i s r o l e i n a r i t u a l that brings both ecstasy and  'Adele Wiseman, The S a c r i f i c e , p. 3.  -82-  despair, s a l v a t i o n and degeneration.  I r o n i c a l l y , Abraham's journey  of the soul only begins i n the new land and i t s r e s o l u t i o n i s as ambivalent as i t s beginning.  He never becomes a part of the  landscape, as he fumbles around i n the abstract world of h i s own imagination. his  The t r a i n has brought him to a c e r t a i n place, but  r e a l i t i e s are always metaphorical  environment.  rather than determined by the  H i s morality and h i s j u s t i c e are as f o r e i g n to the  twentieth century as they are to the c i t y where he has decided to stay.  L i k e King Lear, he i s a grotesque, s u f f e r i n g w i t h i n the  r i g i d framework of h i s own emotional and i n t e l l e c t u a l construct. Through the force of h i s own p e r s o n a l i t y , Abraham supports the i n e r t i a of h i s own b l i n d d i a l e c t i c "To grow, to discover, to build."  The synthesis i s painfuland regressive, but the wheel of  f i r e keeps turning, and at the end of the novel the cycle i s s t i l l incomplete; Moses moves i n t o h i s own uncertain future a f t e r the interview with h i s mad  grandfather.  Even afterward, as he sat i n the bus that r a t t l e d i t s way down to the c i t y , with h i s hand s h i e l d i n g his swollen eyes from the possible curious glances of the other passengers, he could not understand exactly what had come together f o r him... And yet he knew that he was a d i f f e r e n t person from the boy who had gone up the h i l l . The f u t u r e , f o r Moses, i s not assured, but he i s growing and discovering i n a way h i s grandfather  never could.  new l i f e inherent i n the s a c r i f i c e of h i s ancestors.  He i s the I n human and  symbollic terms, Moses i s the i n h e r i t o r of the Promised Land.  The  past i s fraught with pain, but the future, possibly because of the  I b i d . , p. 345.  -83c a t h a r t i c value of h i s granfather's insane s a c r i f i c e , the future i s a blank page on-which he i s free to w r i t e h i s own h i s t o r y . I t i s not the landscape i t s e l f , but the way the characters perceive i t s r e a l i t y that assumes s i g n i f i c a n c e i n The S a c r i f i c e . Miss Wiseman never t e l l s us the name of the c i t y , even though i t i s o f t e n assumed to be Winnipeg, or the l a s t name of her strange and powerful family.  Time and place are confused i n the l a b y r i n t h  of i d e n t i t i e s r e a l and imaginary that i s c e n t r a l to the novel itself.  Hers i s a c i t y landscape where man instead 3  of turning  outward to assure the s u r v i v a l of the body, must turn inward to assure the s u r v i v a l of the soul.  Environment i s not the formidable  adversary of As For Me and My House or the d i s t o r t e d mirror of A Jest of God, but rather an aspect of state of mind, a melange of time h i s t o r i c and mythic. For Sarah, the new land r e a l l y doesn't e x i s t at a l l . Her l i f e ended f u r i n g the pogrom i n Russia and the present i s a l i v i n g nightmare she walks through, dazed and uncommunicative.  Althou;  82 Sarah " l i v e s i n a dream",  i t i s a fractured dream of the past  and not a v i s i o n of the future shared with Abraham.  Her preoccupa-  t i o n with the joys and horrors of the past make adjustment t o Abraham's ambitions f o r a' dynasty i n the new country impossible. L i k e Mary, mother of Jesus, her t o t a l absorption with the death of the son eliminates the possibility of joy i n the promise of renewed life.  She i s a sad counterpoint to the b l i n d optimism of her husband, 1  82sarah's preoccupation with the h i s t o r i c a l past, her acceptance of a l i v i n g 'death' i s an i r o n i c counterpoint to Abraham's aggressive handling of the present i n terms of the past. They are both dead, only Abraham b l i n d l y f a i l s to see i t .  -84who unwittedly " b u i l d s a crooked house" f o r the future generations. Abraham does not know why he decides to end the long journey from Russia on the p r a i r i e .  Presumably, t h e i r exodus was to take  them to the west coast, the end of the l i n e . the novel i s one of w i l l .  His f i r s t act i n  He knows he i s r i g h t , t r u s t i n g as he  always does'in h i s own i n t u i t i o n regarding the w i l l of God.  Later,  on the awful night of L a i a h s murder, h i s daughter-in-law holds 1  his  arrogance up to him l i k e a m i r r o r . 0 You thought. You and God are always t h i n k i n g . Whatever i s convenient for you God happens to think. Where do you keep him, t h i s God of yours, i n your coat pocket? What others think doesn't matter. As long as you-83  In h i s p r i d e , Abraham attempts to fashion h i s r e l a t i v e s and h i s landscape i n t o the shape of h i s own dreams.  His obsession supresses  a l l those aspects of r e a l i t y which do not correspond to the i d e a l . He i s overly conscious of the weight of h i s own name and h i s r e l a t i o n ship to the b i b l i c a l Abraham.  Indeed, h i s confusion of the r e a l  and symbollic modes c o n s t i t u t e h i s tragedy.  The new country i s  a Promised Land which he approaches i n terms of p r e - c h r i s t i a n rather than twentieth century values.  His l i f e i s a sustained  r i t u a l against an a r t i f i c i a l s e t t i n g .  He responds to the c i t y as  an Old Testament desert to be c u l t i v a t e d . urban r e a l i t y .  There i s no harmony with  He i s a tree and he has made no allowance f o r the  concrete sidewalks h i s roots must pierce. Then, with the new day, to s e t t l e themselves gingerly on the crust of the c i t y , perhaps someday even to send down a few roots-those r o o t s , pre-numbed and  'Adele Wiseman, The S a c r i f i c e , p. 288.  -85-  shallow, of the often uprooted. But strong. Abraham f e l t strength surge up i n him, excitement shaking the tiredness out of h i s body. No matter what i s done to the plant, when i t f a l l s , again i t w i l l send out the t e n t a t i v e roots to the earth and r i s e upward again to the sky. The boy was young, the boy was blessed, the boy would grow. 84  Isaac, the ironist^ who perceives and experiences  the  negative pole of h i s fathers optimism, i s the most t r a g i c f i g u r e i n the c o n f l i c t between past and present. his  He must l i v e up to  father's i d e a l with the f u l l knowledge that he has neither the  energy nor the s p e c i a l i n t e l l i g e n c e of a messiah. he i s destroyed i n the e f f o r t to be superhuman.  A normal  man,  Unfortunately,  Isaac must pursue p r i n c i p l e s he knows to be f u t i l e i n order to please h i s overwhelming father.  I f he were unable to perceive the  d i s p a r i t y between i l l u s i o n and r e a l i t y , h i s struggle would not be so p a i n f u l .  But he must s a c r i f i c e himself with the f u l l knowledge  that h i s s e l f d e n i a l w i l l make very l i t t l e d i f f e r e n c e . The c i t y , to Isaac, r e f l e c t s the c o n f l i c t s i n h i s own mind. Penetrating the archetypal v i s i o n of h i s f a t h e r , he sees the d i f f e r e n c e between what i s and what might be i n r e a l i s t i c terms. In the new  landscape, the shadows of past and present struggle for  ascendency i n h i s mind.  "The  l i f e that he remembered wavered uncer-  t a i n l y forward to meet the l i f e that he seemed about to l i v e . " sees the land i n terms of planes rather than d e t a i l s .  He  The looming  shapes of a s t a t i c world manipulate and u l t i m a t e l y destroy  him.  He i s paralyzed, l i t e r a l l y and metaphorically, by the forces that tear at h i s body and h i s mind.  8 4  I b i d . , p. 6.  Longing to become a part of the  -86immutable world i n order to s a t i s f y the enormous ambitions of h i s f a t h e r , he knows that time holds him green and dying, l i k e everyT one else. To Isaac the land seemed l i k e a great arrested movement, p e t r i f i e d i n time, l i k e h i s memories, and the c i t y crawled about i t s surface i n a counterpoint of life. 8 5  This i s a p o r t r a i t of Isaac himself. The tragedy of Abraham i s that, contrary to i n t e n t i o n , he f a i l s to grow and discover and instead of s e t t i n g down i n the roots of a strong tree manages only to b u i l d a crooked house f o r his grandson Moses.  Abraham i s locked i n h i s own s o c i a l and  r e l i g i o u s prejudices. In s t r i v i n g to l i v e up to the prototype Abraham, he misses most of the p o s s i b i l i t i e s offered by the new land. His  He equates past with present and refuses to accept change.  w i f e w i l l not d i e i n a h o s p i t a l .  I n a heterogeneous community,  where a l l men must come together t o shape the future, Abraham c l i n g s to the notion that he i s of "the chosen people".  He i s i n -  s e n s i t i v e t o change and t o the emotional needs of the people around him-,  of whom he tends to t h i n k i n terms of archetypes.  must l i v e up to the f u l l p o t e n t i a l of h i s name. i s forsaken i n favour of the d i v i n e .  Everyone  The human p o s s i b i l i t y  Abraham, assumes h i s s u p e r i o r i t y  over moral and c i v i l law, thus making success i n n a t u r a l terms impossible.  H i s a c t s , which he considers to be sacred, are a c t u a l l y  a desacration. Miss Wiseman's response to the p r a i r i e , although superf i c i a l l y Jewish, i s fundamentally analagous to that of most other  Op. c i t . , p. 13.  -87w r i t e r s of p r a i r i e f i c t i o n .  I t i s the landscape of the,Old  Testament, harsh and t e r r i f y i n g at times but f u l l of the p o s s i b i l i t y of renewal.  C h r i s t i a n and Jew a l i k e respond to the t r a d i t i o n a l s e t t i n g  with a s t i r i n g about the roots.  Each author, i n h i s own way,:,is  r e w r i t i n g the book of Genesis. The pioneers who migrated to the new b i b l i c a l wilderness were motivated by a f a i t h i n t h e i r a b i l i t y to r e b u i l d a new world on the ruins of the o l d dead one l e f t behind. i s unable to cut off the dead limbs. on the future.  Abraham, however,  The past i s a t e r r i b l e burden  In Miss Wiseman's novel, myth and symbol complicate  and sometimes strangle r e a l i t y .  I t i s not enough to draw on the  past.  Tears evoked by the memory of s u f f e r i n g cannot sustain new  life.  Abraham f a i l s to see t h i s . When Abraham emerged i n s ome alarm from the bedroom, Mrs. P l o p l e r at once became t e r r i b l y brave. She spoke touchingly to them of the new world, new f r i e n d s , a new l i f e . . . Perhaps i n some incomprehensible woman's way that draws courage from tears, she might be able to help h i s wife to accept her fate.86 Thenovel operates, with varying degrees of success, on  several temporal l e v e l s . his  Personal mythology, which f o r Abraham and  family t e l l s the story of a long Odyssey of s u f f e r i n g , i s  juxtaposed with immediate r e a l i t y and the r i g i d framework of r e l i g i o u s myth.  Abraham would fashion t h e i r l i v e s as objective  c o r r e l a t i v e s f o r the b i b l i c a l story, frozen i n time. Unfortunately, he i s mortal and the d i s p a r i t y between h i s own circumstances and those of the father of I s r a e l i s too great to overcome through the  'Op. c i t . ,  p. 25.  -88assumption of a f a l s e priesthood. i s Abraham's weakness.  The weakness of The  Sacrifice  Too often, the goal becomes more important  than the journey and the characters become i v o r y pawns i n an impossible game of chess.  The human being i s locked i n the symbol.  No s u f f e r i n g i s more poignant than that of Isaac,  who  r e a l i z e s he cannot escape punishment i n the deadly game of i l l u s i o n and r e a l i t y .  L e f t alone, he could b u i l d a hopeful future upon  the dead past, but h i s father's hopes and prejudices strangle the possibility.  Because he i s caught between hope and despair,  Isaac i s rendered  impotent.  He embarks on the heroic act of saving  the Torah with the f u l l knowledge that h i s s a c r i f i c e w i l l make very l i t t l e d i f f e r e n c e . Caught between the past and the future, he i s the v i c t i m of the counterpoint of r e a l i t i e s .  Pain and s u f f e r i n g  have no joy f o r him because he knows h i s heroism i s f a l s e . has been s a c r i f i e d to  a Jewish past.  He  Far b e t t e r to l i v e i n a  non-denominational future. "Yes", said Abraham s o f t l y to h i s grandson, " I t s hard to be a Jew." "Harder s t i l l , " said Isaac as s o f t l y , " t o be a human being."87 Isaac wants to succeed as a human being, f o r h i s family. His p r i v a t e quest i s l i m i t e d to mutable time.  However, he must  respond to the f a l s e symbolic quest o u t l i n e d by h i s f a t h e r . dreams, the past r e s t r a i n s him i n a p l a s t i c bubble.  Like a child  s t r u g g l i n g to be born, he r e s i s t s i t i n a desperate b i d f o r freedom.  Op.  cit.,  p.  129.  In h i s  -89Sometimes, i n a burst of energy and d e s i r e , he pushed out and outward, expanding h i s sphere, s t r e t c h ing h i s limbs beyond any length that they had ever achieved, so that the t i p s of h i s toes and fingers alone touched i t s surface, and he poised i n the ecstasy of e f f o r t , c e r t a i n that one f i n a l burst of strength and w i l l would s t r e t c h the bubble to i t s l i m i t s and he would burst through. But he could s t r e t c h no f a r t h e r . At the t i p s of h i s body i t waited, f i r m and r e s i l i e n t , c r u e l l y p a t i e n t , ready to spring i n upon him and crush him the moment he could hold back no longer. The pain i n h i s arms and legs was unberable... But i n s p i t e of the pain and the fear and the danger there was always the f e e l i n g that someday, perhaps, a superhuman movement would release him, and he endured, waiting f o r that moment. 88  Isaac i s trapped.  There are too many demands and he hasn't the  strength to be reborn.  The former l i f e has weakened h i s w i l l to  overcome the negative forces of degeneration.  I n saving the  Torah, he succumbs to the past. The analogy between the butcher Abraham and the father of I s r a e l are at times contrived but somehow acceptable i n that they explain i f they do not j u s t i f y the immigrant's obssession. He errs i n equating s e l f with symbol, but i t i s e n t i r e l y possible within the framework of h i s l i f e .  He dreams of u n i t i n g himself  with God and that dream i s a form of madness, e l i m i n a t i n g r a t i o n a l behaviour outside the framework of r i t u a l .  He views h i s i l l e g i t i m a t e  s a c r i f i c e as the supreme moment of union between man and God. God himself i s bound at that moment,ifor i t i s the point of mutual surrender, the one thing he can't r e s i s t , a f a i t h so absolute. You are r i g h t when you say that i t i s l i k e a c i r c l e - the completed c i r c l e ,  8 8  0p. cit.,  p. 197.  -90when the maker of the s a c r i f i c e and the s a c r i f i c e himself and the Demander who i s the Receiver of the s a c r i f i c e are poised together, and l i f e flows i n t o e t e r n i t y , and f o r a moment a l l three are as one.&9 Abraham i s a f a l s e p r i e s t and h i s s a c r i f i c e s , Isaac and L a i a h , f o r they are both h i s v i c t i m s , are as anti-God as the r i t u a l slaughter he performed as a young apprentice i n Russia.  Isaac r e a l i z e s  the human e r r o r i n the attempt to j u s t i f y the ways of man i n terms of d i v i n e w i l l .  In h i s a n a l y s i s of the o r i g i n a l Abraham, he unknow-  i n g l y condemns the l a t e r behaviour of h i s own f a t h e r . "But who's to say," Isaac began when he and Ruth were alone and they could hear sounds of water splashing i n the bathroom, "that i t s not j u s t an excitement of the imagination? K i l l i n g c h i l d r e n i s a b r u t a l and wasteful h a b i t , as Abraham r e a l i z e d , just as any k i l l i n g i s . So, being a c l e v e r man, he evolved a method of convincing h i s people i n terms that would e x c i t e t h e i r imaginations and make them take notice.90 Abraham had hoped to transcend mutable r e a l i t y and experience r e v e l a t i o n through s a c r i f i c e .  However, instead of f i n d i n g t r u t h ,  he has simply penetrated the awful r e a l i t y of madness.  Too'late,  henrrealizes the value of l i f e , the healing power of love. The r i t u a l trance that Abraham works-vhiniself i n t o before the t e r r i b l e murder of Laiah i s l i k e the c o n t r o l l e d h y s t e r i a of n a z i Germany.  He must f i n d a scapegoat f o r h i s own fears and  g u i l t and that s a c r i f i c i a l lamb must be transformed to f i t the symbolic mode.  He must cease to be a man and she a woman. They  become i n h i s compulsion  s a c r i f i c i a l p r i e s t and v i c t i m .  8 9  0p. cit.,  p. 178.  9 0  0p. cit.,  p. 179.  Within  -91h i s own frame of reference, Abraham's act i s j u s t i f i e d , so long as he i s i n the power of h i s self-hypnosis. Laiah i s the animal who has been sent by God to replace the son Isaac.  He has always perceived her i n a n i m a l i s t i c terms.  Of her need for love and comfort, he i s unaware.  Although a sensual  woman, she has born no c h i l d r e n , contrary to Abraham's i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the laws of nature.  She i s the f a l s e promise of a f a l s e spring.  " I t disturbed him to watch a grown woman, f i l l e d out with middle years, t r y i n g s t i l l to move to the rhythms of spring.  Behirri i t  91 there was something f r i g h t e n i n g . " She becomes f o r him the embodiment of e v i l , the d e n i a l of l i f e .  He i s i n f u r i a t e d by her promise of sex without c h i l d r e n .  Instead of p i t y i n g her, she becomes the obvious s a c r i f i c i a l v i c t i m . She was l i k e a great overripe f r u i t without seed, which hung now, long past i t s season, on the bough. How many generations had been denied i n her womb. What festered there instead? She had denied c r e a t i o n , Q  O  and to deny i s to a n n i h i l a t e . I t i s i r o n i c that i n the scene of Laiah's r i t u a l murder, when Abraham's delusion i s at i t s peak, symbol and r e a l i t y are e x q u i s i t e l y fused i n the tense counterpoint of sexual and r e l i g i o u s passion.  The c o n f l i c t i n g motifs of l i f e and death, love and hate  are b u i l t to a passionate crescendo as Laiah's sexual d e s i r e and Abraham's insane r i t u a l reach a climax.  Real and f a l s e i d e a l are  layered to form an impossible conclusion. by h i s rage. place.  Abraham i s hypnotized  "Looking at her then, he was l i f t e d out of time and  L i f e t i m e s swept by and he stood dreaming on a platform, 91  0p.  c i t . , p. 180.  9 2  0 p . c i t . , p. 261.  -92apart, gazing at her with fear growing i n h i s heart, and somewhere 93 his Master, w a i t i n g . "  In human terms, L a i a h s death i s grotesque. 1  Symbolically, for Abraham, s t i l l i n the grips of h i s compulsion, i t i s sublime.  L a t e r , when the s p e l l i s broken, he i s reduced again  to the mortal world and he f e e l s the t e r r i b l e impact of h i s crime. Abraham's r e t r e a t i n t o limbo, following the murder, despite i t s s o c i a l r a m i f i c a t i o n s , frees h i s grandson from the shackles of the past.  Although Laiah's death i s a t e r r i b l e waste,  i t has motivated a regenerative phase of the c y c l e ; r e v i v i n g once again the prospect of the Promised Land.  Isaac's journey l e d  him to death and Abraham's to madness, but there i s s t i l l the boy. In death i s the i m p l i c i t promise of continuing l i f e .  Moses f r i e n d  Aaron brings up the p o s s i b i l i t y of the new country, I s r a e l . knows he i s h i s own country. ness of b l i n d optimism.  Moses  Experience has taught hinv the f o o l i s h -  He w i l l not make the same mistakes h i s  grandfather d i d . "Wei's s t a r t a new country," Aaron went on f i n a l l y , " s t a r t new, clean, get r i d of a l l the d i r t - " " I don't know", said Moses. "We've had a country before. Remember what happened..."94 The fundamental note of optimism at the conclusion of The S a c r i f i c e , as i n Who Has Seen the Wind, As For Me and My House and The Stone Angel, i s the inherent promise of a new generation. The weary p i l g r i m must d i e , just as the crops of the spring are bound to be harvested i n the f a l l , but the new generation w i l l carry on the quest f o r the g r a i l . i n s p i t e of past f a i l u r e s .  9 3  0 p . c i t . , p. 303.  9 4  0 p . c i t . , p. 339.  The ascendant phase of the sun triumphs  CHAPTER VI The Messianic Motif  In h i s effort to r e c o n c i l e h i s notions of r e a l and i d e a l worlds, the a r t i s t , who knows himself and h i s peers as imperfect and f a l l i b l e , often f e e l s compelled to create the myth of the superman,  or messiah, who has the capacity to help h i s fellows overcome  the human c o n d i t i o n .  In the p r a i r i e novel, where the complications  of c i t y and c i v i l i z a t i o n are minimized  i n a confrontation with  the same elements that b a f f l e d our ancestors, the l i t e r a r y a r t i s t r e s o r t s to a l l e g o r i c a l patterns almost as ancient as the land i t s e l f . The metaphorical struggle of a new generation i s expressed of h i s t o r i c a l archetypes.  i n terms  I t i s i n e v i t a b l e that the promise of  the Old Testament should be r e a l i z e d i n the person of the prophet promised to lead the way i n t o the maze of the Promised Land and, u l t i m a t e l y , beyond i t to the a b s t r a c t i o n of e v e r l a s t i n g l i f e .  The  emphasis i n the novels we have studied so f a r i s on the f i r s t phase, the era of Genesis.  The f i r s t r e a c t i o n to the b i t t e r but  rewarding p r a i r i e i s a reminder of the harshness of the Old Testament. Man learns to struggle against the forces of decadence inherent i n the p r a i r i e and i n h i s own being. grow, as evidenced  However, as the communities  p a r t i c u l a r l y i n Who Has Seen the Wind, As For  Me and My House and The S a c r i f i c e , the need for the lesson of compassion and symbolic s a c r i f i c e and redemption becomes acute. L i k e C h r i s t i n the wilderness, Hagar was tempted by pride.  However, despite the sacramental  image patterns i n The  -94-  Stone Angel, her v i c t o r y i s personal and l i m i t e d .  I n Who Has Seen  the Wind, B r i a n O'Connal i s s t i l l w a i t i n g f o r the Redeemer .who show him the meaning of God.  will  The regenerative p o s s i b i l i t y i s  fragmented i n t o aspects of experience rather than concrete symbolism. Hagar, B r i a n and the Bentleys are l e f t alone to sort out the meaning of t h e i r ambivalent l i v e s .  S a l v a t i o n i s a p o s s i b i l i t y which i s  suggested but never r e a l i z e d . F a i t h or desperation must eventually lead e i t h e r to cynicism or to the r e a l i z a t i o n of hope i n a symbol of i n f i n i t e possibility.  I t i s n a t u r a l that the messiah, promised to the jews  and produced to the s a t i s f a c t i o n of c h r i s t i a n s , should eventually enter i n t o the p r a i r i e landscape, enriching the s o i l with the lessons of love and compassion.  The novel then moves from the  Old Testament to the New Testament and the c i r c l e u n i t i n g man  and  God i s at l e a s t temporarily completed. The p r a i r i e i s then transformed e n t i r e l y i n t o archetype, approaching the timelessness of Gwendolyn MacEwen's J u l i a n the Magician, where the Messiah/magician e x i s t s i n the limbo of imagination o f f e r i n g the p o s s i b i l i t y of the state of grace f o r a l l men i n a l l places i f they are w i l l i n g to endure and overcome. I t i s technique, the v i t a l presentation of the r e a l as representative or adversary of the i d e a l , that saves the good novel from the tedium of conventional a l l e g o r y .  Miss MacEwen's book  succeeds because of the psychological accuracy of c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n , j u s t as The Stone Angel transcends c l i c h e because of the overwhelming humanity of i t s c e n t r a l character, Hagar Shipley. Of a l l the novels studied, Adele  Wiseman's The S a c r i f i c e i s l e a s t  -95-  s u c c e s s f u l i n shrugging o f f the e x c e s s i v e weight of Her  c h a r a c t e r s are imprisoned  get f r e e .  i n the symbols and o n l y  T h i s i s the dilemma of the w r i t e r and  the f i c t i o n a l The  people who  p o p u l a t e her  burden of time.  history? and  How  utilized  the problem of  landscape.  Man  What i s the v a l u e of p e r s o n a l and  i n the r e g e n e r a t i v e phase?  j u x t a p o s e d w i t h memory and  the cultural  salvaged  T h i s dilemma i s p a r t i c u l a r l y  c o u n t r y , where the p o s s i b i l i t y  r e a l l y change.  to the  i s always faced with  much of the d e g e n e r a t i v e c y c l e should be  acute i n a new  never  occasionally  problems i n h e r e n t i n the symbolic response  p r a i r i e landscape a r e u n i v e r s a l . heavy  archetypes.  of a f r e s h s t a r t i s  the knowledge t h a t the land i t s e l f  Somehow, a balance between past and  will  present  must be a c h i e v e d i f the i n d i v i d u a l or the work of a r t i s going to be r e l e v a n t . George E l l i o t t ' s  The K i s s i n g Man,  a c o l l e c t i o n of s h o r t  s t o r i e s bound by the e p i s o d i c development of s e t t i n g and c h a r a c t e r s i n the manner of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg Ohio, successful i n this respect.  Sometimes E l l i o t t ' s  i s unevenly  symbols and  a r e i n t r u s i v e , but more o f t e n they p r o v i d e a r i c h v a r i e t y f o r the homespun f a b r i c ful He  t o keep one  of l i f e  i n a p r a i r i e town.  eye on the immediate and  evokes b i b l i c a l analogues  through  In the f i r s t  i s care-  the other on the u n i v e r s a l .  the symbolic  nomenclature  S i m i l a r l y , h i s language i s b i b l i c a l  same time n a t u r a l t o the s e t t i n g .  i n texture  Elliott  of his c h a r a c t e r s , but, at the same time, assures"them individual±ty~.  grotesques  I t has  of  their  and a t the  the simple f o r c e of t r u t h .  s t o r y , "An A c t of P i e t y " , E l l i o t t e s t a b l i s h e s  the f e r t i l e a g r a r i a n mood of the town.  The  g r a n d f a t h e r , Mayhew S a l k a l d ,  -96-  is  l i k e n e d t o a " B i b l e p a t r i a r c h " whose f a i t h i n g e n e r a t i o n has  been o r g a n i z e d beyond n a t u r a l r e l i g i o n . r e l i g i o n of your own". -*  s a i d you had a  The S a l k a l d s a r e good people but the  9  s u s p i c i o n and  "You  envy and greed t h a t e v e n t u a l l y l e a d to the f a l l  a n t i c i p a t e d i n t h e i r n e g a t i v e r e a c t i o n t o the new in  next door.  community.  not  people who  H i s t o r y i s b e g i n n i n g to r e p e a t i t s e l f  The malignant  are move  i n the p i o n e e r  c o n d i t i o n of b i g o t r y , so r u t h l e s s l y  d e s c r i b e d i n E a r l e B i r n e y ' s poem "Anglo-Saxon S t r e e t " , i s b e g i n n i n g to  take h o l d .  Man  seems doomed to c o n t i n u e making the same m i s t a k e s ;  but t h e r e i s always  another'.chance.  Mayhew has a g r e a t a f f i n i t y  f o r the l a n d and he knows 96  instinctively The  that " t h e t r u t h of l i f e  s t o r y echoes  the p a t t e r n o f G e n e s i s .  c r e a t i n g the world and Abraham s i r i n g His  and death  (were) not the same"  Mayhew i s both  the men  who  will  God  populate i t .  c r e e d i s the p r a c t i c a l wisdom o f the p i o n e e r and i t s a r t i c u l a t i o n  ("You  knew about  permanence the day you moved i n t o your own  u n i t e s him w i t h the l a n d .  property")  The young boy, Honey, l e a r n i n g the  facts  i  of  l i f e and death from h i s g r a n d f a t h e r , f e e l s the weight  legacy.  "The  past was  i n him,  never t o be f o r g o t t e n nor i g n o r e d .  But he d i d n ' t know whether he was keep what was The  to f o r g i v e .  good and pass i t o n . " second  of h i s  He wanted only to  9 7  s t o r y "When Jacob was  a Boy",  d e a l s w i t h the  themes of s e x u a l i t y and brotherhood t h a t a r e ^ i n h e r e n t i n every journey a l t h o u g h the obvious antecedent -^George E l l i o t , 6  Ibid.,  7  0p.  p.  cit.,  The K i s s i n g Man,  10. p.  i s t h a t of Jacob and  12.  p.  10.  life  Esau,  -97-  grandsons of Abraham.  Cruelty and death are the grotesques woven  i n t o t h i s simple a l l e g o r y .  Throughout the s t o r i e s , the i n d i v i d u a l s  hover between the extremes of love and hate as the seasons and generations change, modifying a l l i n the complex r e l a t i o n s h i p of man and environment which i s r e a l i t y .  L i f e , time immediate and  h i s t o r i c a l , death, winter and summer are superimposed  on one  another to give a c o l o u r f u l kaleidescope v i s i o n of l i f e i n a p r a i r i e town, or anywhere for that matter. "The K i s s i n g Man" of the book. outsider.  i s the physical and emotional centre  He i s e x p l i c i t l y the saviour and, of necessity, an  I n the f i v e s t o r i e s which make up the f i r s t h a l f of  the c o l l e c t i o n , the problems, the sorrows and the joys, of the townspeople are a r t i c u l a t e d .  They are the people who carved out  the wilderness. With the k i s s i n g man comes a new phase, the development of s o c i a l r e s p o n s i b i l i t y .  In a l l the s t o r i e s which  f o l l o w , the motif of the k i s s i n g man i s continued i n the u n s e l f i s h acts of a series of e x i s t e n t i a l characters; the old man under the tree, the man \h o l i v e d out loud, Johnson Mender, Bertram Sunbird, and the grinder man.  A l l are foreigners.  They come from nowhere  and they disappear again without a trace except f o r the impression they leave on the souls of the inhabitants of the town.  The simple  r i t u a l of t h e i r c h a r i t y somehow motivates a p o s i t i v e response i n the hearts of those they touch which takes the d i a l e c t i c one step c l o s e r to the state, of grace. Somewhere i n the genesis of the land comes the need for an intermediary between man and God.  The pulse of the earth has  been confused by the complexities of mutable l i f e .  Somehow the  truths which are manifested i n a d i r e c t r e l a t i o n s h i p with the earth  -98-  must be a r t i c u l a t e d and organized.  Words become the medium of  understanding, a subjective response must be explained i n terms of objective t r u t h .  There must be some connection between the  r e a l and the i d e a l , l i f e temporal andi.life e x t e r n a l .  A man i s  bound by h i s own weakness to f a i l i n t h i s s p i r i t u a l mission.  His  quest must be transformed i n t o symbolic terms and h i s r e a l i t y must be transformed i n t o some i d e a l being, even though i t i s the product of h i s own imagination, who has the power to eradicate the errors and show the way to better understanding. The .kissing man, who as an unknown has the s l i g h t l y b i z a r r e q u a l i t y of i r r a t i o n a l i t y , or at l e a s t the strangeness of another r e a l i t y , i s such a man. and misunderstood g i v e r .  L i k e C h r i s t , he i s the mysterious  He has the a b i l i t y to perceive i n the  tangled wilderness of man and nature, the proper medium f o r understanding.  His embraces become a sacrament, elevating the  l i v e s of the , wretched, who have need. 1  Who l i v e d once, and was a person to love, now i s a wisp of l o n e l i n e s s . Why i s i t that order of l i v i n g , loving and l o n e l i n e s s ? Why do I see i t wherever I go? I dream of taking you, Miss C o r v i l l , and l o v i n g you body with my eyes, touching you, making you cry from shame u n t i l the shame i s out of you, making you cry then f o r that, and g i v i n g i t , g i v i n g i t a l l the way no man ever d i d . I t ' s the beginning. The beginning of l i f e and love. And i t ' s the end. The Q ft end of l o n e l i n e s s that leaves you dust. ° Man has always shown a need for i n s p i r a t i o n by those r e a l and imaginary i n d i v i d u a l s who are able to transcend s e l f i s h n e s s and i l l u m i n a t e the path to wisdom and goodness which becomes tangled over i n the dark nights which obscure the l i g h t .  Sometimes the  quest i s too p a i n f u l , too d i f f i c u l t to undertake without guidance. Op. c i t . , p. 70.  -99-  Th e expression of t h i s need i s n ' t peculiar to p r a i r i e f i c t i o n , but due to the s p e c i a l circumstances provided by a unique landscape with i t s obvious symbolic p o t e n t i a l , i t becomes more obvious. An A u s t r a l i a n n o v e l i s t who demonstrates t h i s phenomenon rather w e l l i s Randolph Stow, whose response to an environment s i m i l a r to the Canadian p r a i r i e i s t y p i c a l i n mode but exceptional i n i t s successful handling of the motifs we have followed.  The  best of Mr. Stow's novels to date i s Tourmaline, which r e c o n c i l e s the  r e a l and symbolic modes i n a l y r i c a l t r i b u t e to man's w i l l to  overcome. Tourmaline, the s t a t i c desert mining town, i s caught i n the  l i f e denying s t a s i s of limbo, somewhere between heaven and  hell.  I t i s a v e r i t a b l e wasteland and the s u f f e r i n g i s r e a l , but  somehow hope p e r s i s t s .  Its ' 1  i n h a b i t a n t s , caught i n the cycle of  time, wait f o r the way out, f o r the prophet to lead them out of the  wilderness, since they l a c k the energy to change the i n e r t i a  which a f f l i c t s the i n d i v i d u a l and the environment.  They seize  on the opportunity to r e s u r r e c t the town and t h e i r l o s t v i t a l i t y . Michael Random, the water-diviner, l i k e J u l i a n the magician and the  k i s s i n g man, i s an outsider with the apparent power to heal.  Water i s the medium which binds the p h y s i c a l and metaphysical landscapes and Michael claims to have the power to f i n d i t . soul t h i r s t f o r the r e l i e f of the sacrament. symbolic, w i l l r e s t o r e l i f e .  Body and  Water, r e a l and  The body and the s p i r i t ("The sky  i s the garden of Tourmaline") w i l l grow. Apart from Tom Spring, the elder Speed and the Law there i s l i t t l e doubt among the townspeople that Michael i s the prophet,  -100"But he had been f a r , so f a r , i n the country never mapped, on the border lands of death.  He had been where K e s t r e l had not, where  none of us had ever been.  And he brought news.""  He i s the c a t a l y s t  which a c t i v a t e s t h e i r optimism, "The d e s e r t ' l l blossom", but both Michael and the townspeople err i n f o r g e t t i n g that Michael i s too human and that h i s d i v i n i t y i s a posture of pride. of Tour-maline", Stow makes i t very c l e a r that man, i s the most dispensable aspect of  In "The Testament even Michael,  landscape,  The loved land w i l l not pass away World has no l i f e but transformation Nothing made s e l f l e s s can decay . The loved land w i l l not passsaway The grown man w i l l not pass away Body i s land i n permutation T i r e l e s s w i t h i n the fountains play The grown man w i l l not pass away. Michael, i n h i s s e l f i s h n e s s , w i l l decay.  He i s the angel  of l i g h t ('"And he,' she s a i d , 'ah, f u l l of l i g h t ' " ) and pride i a his  downfall.  Eventually, he i s associated with the f i r e of h e l l  and not the "burning i c e cold p u r i t y of God".  The f i r s t i r o n i c  step i n Michael's descent i n t o h e l l i s h i s discovery of gold instead of water.  He confuses h i s s p e c i a l powers, i l l u s t r a t e d i n the  discovery of gold and the arm w r e s t l i n g match, with the p r i v i l e g e s of a p l e n i p o t e n t i a r y from God: I slapped my palm on the t a b l e , and asked (too l o u d l y , but I was unnerved by him) 'Who are you?' 'A voice,' he s a i d , s l i g h t l y s m i l i n g , with a kind of holy complacency. 'A voice i n the wilderness.' 'Ah, t h i s i s old s t u f f . ' 'Well, nothing's new under the sun.' 'Then what's your business?' 'To speak for God,' he said s o f t l y . 'Because "Randolph Stow, Tourmaline, p. 15. As an outsider, Michael can be compared with the f i s h e r king who i s i d e n t i f i e d with the Divine p r i n c i p l e of L i f e and f e r t i l i t y . 1 0 0  P. 7 2.  Raldolph  Stow, "Testament of Tourmaline," Counterfeit Silence.  -101he spoke to me, i n the wilderness. Now I'm h i s mouthpiece.'101 Because of the ambivalence of Michael's r o l e i n the s t a t i c landscape, Tourmaline, l i k e Horizon, i s neither paradise l o s t nor paradise regained.  There i s always the past to contend  with and the future i s never assured.  However, Deborah w i l l have  a c h i l d and that hope triumphs over the death of Tom Spring, breaking the degenerative c y c l e .  This happens without M i c h a e l , who i s ,  i n many ways,i_a f a l s e prophet.  Satan eventually gains ascendency  over Michael ( " S o l i c i t not thy thoughts w i t h matters hid.")  His  organization of the town i s reminiscent of the c o u n c i l of h e l l . When Michael achieves power, b i b l i c a l cadence gives say to the r h e t o r i c of M i l t o n : We met i n the s t r e e t around the war memorial, and no one was missing but Tom, Dave Speed and Jimmy Bogada-- and, as expected, the d i v i n e r . Every remaining man i n Tourmaline had come. I w i l l c a l l the r o l l . Because they are the sons of Tourmaline, that I love to count, as a miser counts h i s hoard. Rock was there, with Jack Speed, and Byrne as h i s lieutenants.102 Michael cannot save the town, but he can and does remind the people that they can be the instruments of t h e i r own  salvation.  He i s a l s o the reminder of the i n f i n i t e p o s s i b i l i t y ("The colours 103 of time b l i n d the eye to timeless colours") a positive function.  and as such serves  Tourmaline, l i k e many of the towns brought to  lOlRandolph Stow, Tourmaline, p. 130. The imagery of E c c l e s i a s t e s i s as appropriate to t h i s environment as i t appears to be to the Canadian p r a i r i e . 1 0 2  I b i d . , p. 150.  103^n image which r e c a l l s Shelley's famous p l a t o n i c statement i n "Adonais": L i f e , l i k e a dome of many-coloured g l a s s , Stains the white radiance of E t e r n i t y .  -102-  l i f e i n Canadian p r a i r i e f i c t i o n , i s both an island and a scheduled part of the cosmos.  The problems which affect i t s inhabitants  are universal, even though the particular demands of environment control the response of the a r t i s t or the individual to them. Because of his heritage and perhaps the timelessness of the land, man  appears to react i n a predictable way  to the actual and  symbolic  properties of the desert or p r a i r i e , ("I say we have a b i t t e r heritage, but that i s not to run i t down. " )  1 0 4  Tourmal me,  A u s t r a l i a and Horizon, Canada, i n s p i r e the very human desire to improve and overcome. Randolph Stow's world i s not r e a l l y very d i f f e r e n t from that of S i n c l a i r Ross or W.O.  Mitchell.  Perceptions may  alter  with the i n d i v i d u a l , but, given the conditions of the Wasted Land, h i s t o r i c a l or contemporary, the a r t i s t w i l l respond i n the medium of a shared language of conventional archetypes.  Ezekiel's desert,  E l i o t ' s c i t y , Stow's mining town, Mitchell's p r a i r i e and Coleridge's ocean a l l i n s p i r e , i n spite of the obvious power of decadence, a romantic quest for perfection which i s controlled by personal and c u l t u r a l myths ultimately determined  by the patterned-rhythms "of  nature. In his discussion of the "Australian legend" Russel Ward arrives at a d e f i n i t i o n of n a t i o n a l i t y which ,is universally applicable:  104  Op. c i t . , p. 7 ,  -103-  N a t i o n a l c h a r a c t e r i s n o t , as was once h e l d , something i n h e r i t e d , nor i s i t , on the other hand, e n t i r e l y a figment of the i m a g i n a t i o n of poets,^ p u b l i c i s t s and other f e c k l e s s dreamers. I t i s r a t h e r a peoples i d e a of i t s e l f and t h i s s t e r e o t y p e , though o f t e n a b s u r d l y r o m a n t i c i z e d and exaggerated, i s always connected with r e a l i t y i n two ways. I t s p r i n g s l a r g e l y from a peoples past e x p e r i e n c e s , and i t o f t e n m o d i f i e s c u r r e n t events by c o l o u r i n g men's i d e a s of how they ought " t y p i c a l l y " t o behave. The  quest  and i t s s u b o r d i n a t e m e s s i a n i c m o t i f know no  n a t i o n a l boundaries,  j u s t as the seasons  c o u r s e , b r i n g i n g l i f e and death,  follow their  everywhere.  of view which a l t e r s from man t o man, a r t i s t l i g h t , which i s t r u t h , i s a combination t r i b u t i n g d i f f e r e n t a s p e c t s of r e a l i t y  l 5R u  U S S e  i  relentless  I t i s simply p o i n t to a r t i s t .  The white  of many c o l o u r s a l l cont o a shared  absolute.  Ward, The A u s t r a l i a n Legend, p. 1.  CONCLUSION  The successful questor learns that he must l i v e i n harmony with the rhythms of nature or s u f f e r the consequences of p h y s i c a l and s p i r i t u a l a l i e n a t i o n .  This i s the lesson of Odysseus, S i r  Gawain and the ancient mariner, one modern urban man i n h i s i n t e l l e c t u a l arrogance must heed q u i c k l y or face e x t i n c t i o n .  The  state of grace i s a v a i l a b l e only to the man or woman who recognizes, and accepts the l i m i t a t i o n s of time and place i n s t r u g g l i n g to create a b e t t e r world.  The d e s i r e for p e r f e c t i o n should not be  l i m i t e d but encouraged by an awareness of human  fallibility.  Mrs. Bentley, i n As For Me and My House, Hagar Shipley, i n The Stone Angel, and Abraham i n The S a c r i f i c e , a l l faL1 or succeed as human beings r e l a t i v e to the degree to which they adapt to landscape.  Abraham i s t r a g i c because he i s t o t a l l y  u n w i l l i n g to communicate with h i s environment, Mrs. Bentley remains i n limbo as she weighs the r e l a t i v e advantages of town and country, love and hate, and Hagar, wanderer i n her own wasteland, only creates the medium f o r s a l v a t i o n when she recognizes the f u t i l i of her own pride.  L i k e i t or not, we are a l l prisoners i n the  cycle of time which manifests i t s e l f i n the extreme seasonal changes o f i p r a i r i e l i f e , but some have the power and d e s i r e " t o sing i n t h e i r chains l i k e the sea."  The lesson of E c c l e s i a s t e s  i s repeated over and over i n p r a i r i e f i c t i o n as the a r t i s t warns t h e ^ p o t e n t i a l questor that only the f o o l , overcome by h i s own smallness i n a great overwhelming universe, " f o l d s h i s handsand  -105-  eats h i s own f l e s h . " l O For-some p r a i r i e i n h a b i t a n t s , Hagar Shipley and Abe  Spalding  •in Frederick P. Grove's F r u i t s of the Earth, a novel which i s more s o c i a l document than f l e s h and blood  communion with the s o i l ,  r e c o n c i l i a t i o n with mutable l i f e , i s a l l the r e l i g i o n they need. For others the most important inherent f a c t o r i n the quest i s the need to r e l a t e the God w i t h i n to the God without, the n a t u r a l with the supernatural.  I f God manifests himself i n nature, then  i t i s through concert with the earth that the questor can know God,  or at l e a s t comprehend i n part the e t e r n a l mysteries.  The  pioneers, who brought with them to the p r a i r i e s the concepts of organized r e l i g i o n derived from the o r i g i n a l Promised Lands, struggled to u n i t e the old notions with the new  experiences.  The d i s p a r i t y  between r e a l and i d e a l can be i n t e r p r e t e d i n human and d i v i n e terms.  On one hand, there i s the farmer,^  Abe Spalding i n F r u i t s  of the Earth or Caleb Gare i n Martha Ostenso's Wild Geese, whose i d e a l i s p r i m a r i l y m a t e r i a l i s t i c -- the wilderness must be c u l t i v a t e d . Then there i s the s p i r i t u a l man,  often incorporated i n the same  being, who ponders the wilderness of the mind i n order to capture and i d e n t i f y e l u s i v e t r u t h s . Once the immediate demands of environment are s a t i s f i e d , the problems of l i v i n g i n harmony with landscape expand to a l a r g e r need for communion with God.  Man himself becomes the medium  The reference i s e x p l i c i t l y made i n Martha Ostenso's Wild Geese, p. 41, and W.O. M i t c h e l l ' s Who Has Seen the Wind, with reference to Old Wong, who lacked the strength necessary to oppose the prejudices of the town.  -106through which the temporal and eternal mysteries are r e c o n c i l e d . The a r t i s t has a r e s p o n s i b i l i t y to i n t e r p r e t what he knows i n terms of l e s s e r and greater r e a l i t i e s . times i n Canadian f i c t i o n to i g n o r e " ^  7  An image repeated too many perhaps best expresses  the need to r e l a t e human and d i v i n e experience. The childhood game of "angels i n the snow" unites physical and metaphysical r e a l i t i e s , as s i l e n t l y and poignantly, the questor leaves h i s f o o t p r i n t , compelling with h i s impression the d i a l e c t i c of progress. Hagar Shipley dreams of s p e c i a l powers: My bed i s cold as winter, and now i t seems to me that I am l y i n g as the c h i l d r e n used to do, on f i e l d s of snow, and they would spread t h e i r arms and sweep them down to t h e i r sides,sand when they rose, there would be an o u t l i n e of an angel with spread wings. The i c y whiteness covers me, d r i f t s over me, and I could d r i f t to sleep i n i t , l i k e someone caught i n a b l i z z a r d , and freeze.108 Every angel i n the snow i s d i f f e r e n t from a l l the others which come before or a f t e r i t . Human i n t e r f e r e n c e with the medium, snow, i s a shared property, but the impression v a r i e s . more b e a u t i f u l than others.  Some are  Just as the common game i n a common  medium produces a heterogeneous q u a l i t y of angel, the landscape evokes varying responses i n the questor, which i s point of view. The footsteps of Brian O'Connal i n Who Has Seen The Wind, are very d i f f e r e n t from those of Gander i n Robert Stead's Grain, or G i l Reardon i n Edward McCourt's Music at the Close. the  Whichever route  p i l g r i m choses to f o l l o w , however, he i s s t i l l bound to the  q u a l i t y of h i s environment and the t r a d i t i o n s which have shaped h i s  • ^ I n Leonard Cohen's Favourite Game, S i n c l a i r Ross' As For Me and My House, and Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel. 7  108 Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel,-p. 81.  -107-  personal  mythology. In  t r a c i n g the development of basic environmental responses  i n t o l i t e r a r y m o t i f s , J e s s i e Weston, i n From R i t u a l to Romance, e x p l i c a t e s many of the motifs which are manifested i n the major and minor f i c t i o n of the Canadian p r a i r i e .  There i s a shared  language of conventional archetypes which the p r a i r i e pioneer shares with the questor  everywhere.  The pattern of development i n the p r a i r i e novel appears to be from p a r t i c u l a r to general, r e a l to i d e a l .  Just as landscape  commanded the f i r s t a t t e n t i o n of p r i m i t i v e man, i t demands d e s c r i p t i o n by the a r t i s t who i s then free to draw h i s own conclusions.  F i c t i o n and n o n - f i c t i o n w r i t e r s , begin by d e s c r i b i n g  a p r a i r i e so s i m i l a r i t would be monotonous without the r i c h connotations of human response to unknown challenge.  The country  painted by Bruce Hutchison i n Unknown Country, a n o n - f i c t i o n work, corresponds to the landscape of n o v e l i s t s S i n c l a i r Ross, W.O.  Mitchell,  Margaret Laurence, Robert J . Stead and Martha Ostenso only as lowest common denominator. The q u a l i t y of d e s c r i p t i o n v a r i e s and i t i s on the t r e a t ment of r e a l i t y , human and environmental that most p r a i r i e f i c t i o n w i l l stand or f a l l .  Adele Wiseman's The S a c r i f i c e i s a b r i l l i a n t  f a i l u r e because the weakness of i t s major character i s the weakness of  the n o v e l .  For Abraham and for Miss Wiseman, the angel i n the  snow i s too c o n t r i v e d , too much under the c o n t r o l of the archetype. There i s l i t t l e v i t a l i t y i n the symbol.  For d i f f e r e n t reasons,  Raymond K n i s t e r ' s novel White Narcissus f a i l s to achieve s u b l i m i t y . K n i s t e r , an imagist poet who died, perhaps, tooyoung to achieve the f u l l e s t p o t e n t i a l of h i s promise, i s capable of breathtaking n a t u r a l  -108-  d e s c r i p t i o n , but h i s human beings are frozen and i n a r t i c u l a t e . The wind was dying before !the sunset, but had c h i l l e d , turning up the undersides of leaves. Trees shivered under a d u l l e d sky. The evening, muted by wind and c o l d , given a s u l l e n swiftness of animation, mated the f e e l i n g of Richard Milne. A f t e r a week of b o r r i d weather i n which the very sky seemed to.r.melt, r a i n should have come to sweeten the smell of r i p e n i n g g r a i n and whitened clods. But f i r s t t h i s dry c o l d , i n which trees writhed blanching, while now and again a c r i c k e t c h i r p i n g up f i t f u l l y made s t i l l greater the removal from the s u l t r y quietude proper to the time and season.109 I t may be s i g n i f i c a n t that K n i s t e r , who had a speech impediment, and Frederick Grove, who was deaf, both had d i f f i c u l t y developing an easy r e l a t i o n s h i p between man and man, man and landscape. music, both  The  dissonant and harmonious, of environment must be  heard and i n t e r p r e t e d .  Margaret Laurence and S i n c l a i r Ross are  perhaps better w r i t e r s because they have a f i n e ear f o r the s u b t l e t i e s which provide v a r i a t i o n on a common theme. P a t r i c i a Barclay, i n the a r t i c l e "Regionalism and the writer",which appeared i n Canadian L i t e r a t u r e No.  14  (Autumn  1962),  describes the sense of place which the a r t i s t must t r a n s l a t e i n t o significant universal truths. The sense of environment, vast, challenging and r e l a t i v e l y unexplored s t i l l . d o m i n a t e s the Canadian consciousness. And a panoramic view of the h i s t o r y of our a r t s could a p t l y be depicted i n a s e r i e s of b a s - r e l i e f s i n which the f i g u r e s are seen gradually emerging from, yet s t i l l supported by t h e i r background. The greatest a r t i s t s stand f r e e s t . . . they have r e s i s t e d t h e i r surrounding enough to use them f o r t h e i r own ends; to use them i n the c r e a t i o n of u n i v e r s a l statements, true not j u s t f o r one man,  Raymond K n i s t e r , White Narcissus, p. 3 2 .  -109region or n a t i o n , but for a l l men... To the t r u l y g i f t e d a r t i s t , the p a r t i c u l a r character of h i s environment i s secondary; i t i s the use he makes of i t that counts.110 The problems of contending with a sense of i d e n t i t y w i t h i n vast immutable landscape are shared by the a r t i s t with every i n d i v i d u a l who,  l e f t alone with nature, struggles to a r t i c u l a t e the i n d i v i d u a l i t y  of s e l f .  The p h i l o s o p h i c a l concerns of the p r a i r i e w r i t e r , often  r e l a t e d to h i s own personal quest as a r t i s t , are expressed by the inhabitants of h i s p r a i r i e .  Mark Jordan, innocent conductor of the 111  tensions of Martha Ostenso's almost Lawrent;ian  novel Wild Geese,  a r t i c u l a t e s the r e l a t i o n s h i p between man and nature i n h i s discussion of the North: That's a country f o r you. I f there's a God, I imagine that's where he s i t s and does h i s t h i n k i n g . The s i l e n c e i s awful. You f e e l immense things going on, i n v i s i b l y , there i s that e t e r n a l s k y l i g h t and darkness -- the endless p l a i n s of snow -- a few f i r trees, maybe a h i l l or a frozen stream. And the human beings are l i k e totems -- f i g u r e s of wood with mysterious legends upon them that you can never make out. The a u s t e r i t y of nature reduces the outward expression i n l i f e , simply, I t h i n k , because there i s not such an abundance* of n a t u r a l objects f o r the s p i r i t to react to. We are, a f t e r a l l , only a mirror of our environment. L i f e here at Oeland, even, may seem a negation but i t s only a r e f l e c t i o n from so few e x t e r i o r n a t u r a l objects that i t has the semblance of negation. These people are thrown inward upon themselves, t h e i r passions stored up, they are i n t e n s i f i e d figures of l i f e with no outward expression -- no rel e a s i n g gesture.112  H P a t r i c i a Barclay, "Regionalism and the W r i t e r , " Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , No. 14, (Autumn 1962), p. 53. u  ''""^Ostenso's sexual honesty and treatment of female characters, p a r t i c u l a r l y J u d i t h Gare, who struggles v a l i a n t l y against the conventional notions of f e m i n i n i t y , i s very much l i k e D.H. Lawrence. The:, t e r r i b l e psychological tensions which e x i s t between men and women, and the n a t u r a l r e l i g i o n , whichhas i t s lessons for man, are a l s o Lawrentian. ^•'•^Martha Ostenso, Wild Geese, p. 78.  -110Heaven and earth are the p o l a r i t i e s which d i s t r a c t the p r a i r i e inhabitant from the i r r e g u l a r i t i e s of existence between. Despite the hardships i t o f f e r s , the-ssoil i s s t i l l the source of l i f e . " I t was no small thing to be on intimate terms with the earth i t s e l f , no ignoble l i f e that was dedicated, however b l i n d l y , to the nourishing of l i f e . " 1 1 3 Even the a t t r a c t i o n s of urban l i f e , the s u p e r f i c i a l comforts of the c i t y , which drew many of the second and t h i r d generation p r a i r i e inhabitants away from the country, cannot complete with the magnetism of the s o i l and i t s t r u t h s .  Hagar  Shipley,,in The Stone Angel, learns too l a t e her need of the earth from which she sprung, j u s t as Richard Milne recognizes the a t t r a c t i o n s of the e a r l y l i f e which he as forsaken f o r a career as an a r t i s t i n the c i t y .  "... he knew that he could never be freed from the  hold of the s o i l , however f a r from i t he had t r a v e l l e d , though he were never to be c a l l e d back by i t s e l f , but by a f o r f e i t of love which i n f i n a l desperation he had come to redeem or tear from i t s roots forever. The tension between c i t y and town, the natural patterns of r u s t i c l i f e and the synthetic order of c i v i l i z a t i o n i s a motif which i s c a r r i e d through most p r a i r i e f i c t i o n .  Abe Spalding, i n  F r u i t s of the Earth, knows he has f a i l e d when h i s c h i l d r e n move from the farm.  Caleb Gare, i n Wild Geese, even i n h i s psychotic s t a t e ,  knows that to be cut o f f from the land i s to be dead.  Often the  questor moves toward the c i t y , as does Richard Milne, i n White  13Edward McCourt, Music at the Close, p. 132. ^Raymond K n i s t e r , White Narcissus, p. 21.  -111Narcissus or Hagar Shipley, i n The Stone Angel, but he, or she, i n e v i t a b l y returns to the p r a i r i e f o r nourishment.  Richard Milne  had begun t o w r i t e , and i t was comparatively l a t e that he had obeyed that questing s p i r i t which i s the heritage of youth. Well, he had gone i n t o the world and done a l l that he had dreamed of doing, and he had returned frequently enough with the one purpose, to the one being which could c a l l him back, and s t i l l the land was the same, with a sorrowful sameness.115 The c i t i e s and towns, with t h e i r f a l s e - f r o n t e d b u i l d i n g and hard concrete, are an aberration i n the unbroken l i n e of p r a i r i e . are a disturbance of the land and the values i t represents.  They In his  travelogue The Road Across Canada, Edward McCourt reacts t y p i c a l l y to the c i t y : I f , however, you f e e l at home i n the middle of vast empty spaces -- and some people l i k e myself do -you w i l l resent Regina. And every other p r a i r i e c i t y . They are a l i e n eruptions on the face of nature, they d i s t u r b the harmony of a world i n which the s t e e l and - glass a n t - h i l l s of modern man are an impertinence. Mrs. Bentley, i n As For Me and My House, recognizes the malignant e v i l of the p r a i r i e town and yet she perseveres the c i t y .  i n her b e l i e f i n  I t i s her t r a g i c i n a b i l i t y to d i s t i n g u i s h between the  f a l s e hope of the bookstore and the r e a l hope of J u d i t h , who draws her to the land i n t h e i r walks and f i n a l l y i n her s a c r i f i c e , that leaves the novel unresolved.  When I s a a c ^ i n The S a c r i f i c e , describes  h i s c i t y , he a r t i c u l a t e s the dilemna which not only ruins h i s father but i s a u n i v e r s a l problem of modern man. "To Isaac the land seemed l i k e a great arrested movement, p e t r i f i e d i n time,  1 1 5  I b i d . , p. 24. ^Edward McCourt, The Road Across Canada, p. 147.  -112l i k e h i s memories, and the c i t y crawled about i t surface i n a 117 counterpoint of l i f e . " The t r a i n , which often c a r r i e s the p i l g r i m away from the p r a i r i e to the c i t i e s as w e l l as i n t o i t i s an ambivalent symbol }  in prairie literature.  Symbolically, i t corresponds to the  t r a d i t i o n a l v e h i c l e s of quest l i t e r a t u r e , the horse and the s a i l i n g vessel.  However, i t i s a l s o associated with the mysterious and  f r i g h t e n i n g power of modern technology; Abe Spalding's daughter Frances i n F r u i t s of the Earth, who i s a v i c t i m of the c i t y and modern values, i s associated with the e v i l power of the t r a i n .  The  t r a i n i s innocence^ and i n t h i s capacity i s often associated with the f a l s e dream, and l o s t innocence, as i t thrusts i t s e l f across the p r a i r i e , male and arrogant, to the c i t y .  J u d i t h and P h i l i p Bentley  i n As For Me and My House long f o r the romantic escape to a b e t t e r world that i s promised by the t r a i n .  This hope i s shared by Margaret  Laurence's Hagar Shipley and Rachel Cameron, who long to communicate with the outside world, b e l i e v i n g i t w i l l hold the key to the s o l u t i o n of t h e i r problems.  The response of Judith Gare, the prisoner of her  father, the farm and anachronistic concepts of femininity,. >-is t y p i c a l : Judith had never seen a t r a i n . Neither&had E l l e n or Martin, although they had been at the r i d i n g many times. They had seen f l a t cars standing on the t r a c k s . But never a t r a i n . I t must be marvellously free r i d i n g on a t r a i n . L i k e a Magic Carpet she remembered about when she was a c h i l d at school. Going somewhere -- away to another place. Just away -- that was enough.''"''" The quest penetrates every l e v e l of r e a l i t y .  I t i s the  Exodus to the promised Land and the escape from i t when the p h y s i c a l  ^ A d e l e Wiseman;, The S a c r i f i c e , p. 13. 7  •^Martha Ostenso, Wild Geese, p. 225.  -113and emotional demands of landscape become overwhelming.  It is a  physical struggle against the wasteland of drought and a s p i r i t u a l struggle against the desert of the mind.  Every journey, even the  migratory expedition of Fred Bodsworth's b i r d s i n Last of the Curlews, i s the record of a f i g h t f o r s u r v i v a l .  The b i r d , romantic  and  r e l i g i o u s symbol of freedom and i n s p i r a t i o n , traces a pattern against the p r a i r i e sky, reminding the earth bound of.the promise of e t e r n i t y . Far overhead i n the night sky sounded the honking of the w i l d geese, going south now ... a remote, t r a i l ing shadow ... a magnificent seeking-through s o l i t u d e . . . an endless quest... 119 The i d e a l i s m , which survives i n s p i t e of a d v e r s i t y and i n s p i r e s the p i l g r i m , of the pioneer i s a counterpoint i n the p r a i r i e novel to the horrors of depression, drought, s p i r i t u a l decadence and the f a i n t but p e r s i s t a n t beating of drums i n faraway wars.  Few,  of the f i c t i o n a l characters are Byronic heroes, but most have at the core of t h e i r being a romantic d e s i r e to p e r s i s t , f a i t h i n something b e t t e r . " I t was a long time ago," N e i l agreed, "But I remember t e l l i n g you that night that you were the kind of guy would couldn't l i v e without b e l i e v i n g i n something. You had to have a f a i t h . " "Well?" "Well, seems you've found i t . " G i l did not say anything for a while. He f i n i s h e d p u t t i n g away the dishes, then sat down at the t a b l e and r o l l e d a c i g a r e t t e . "Maybe you're r i g h t , " he said slowly. "And i t s the f i n e s t f a i t h there i s f a i t h i n mankind." N e i l opened h i s eyes. "Maybe", he s a i d . "But a mighty hard one to hand on to."120 I b i d . , p. 239. Edward McCourt, Music at the Close, p.  156.  -114F a i t h oftencmeans a fundamentalist r e l i g i o n that can be t r a n s l a t e d i n t o fear.  Prejudices r e s u l t i n g from a dogmatic moral  code are woven i n t o a motif of c u r e l t y which pervades much p r a i r i e fiction.  The novels are sprinkled with pariahs, who, because of  b i r t h or the breaking of r i g i d s o c i a l codes, are s a c r i f i c e d to s a t i s f y the i n f l e x i b l e p u r i t a n i c a l demand for p e r f e c t i o n .  Hypocrisy  i n the name of God i s the most f r u s t r a t i n g aspect of that c r u e l t y . The desire to r e l a t e the unknown to the known i n terms of f a i t h gives m y s t i c a l properties to the various aspects of landscape.  The wind, i n Who Has Seen the Wind, Music at the Close  and As For Me and My House i s associated with d i v i n e music and a God who i s a l t e r n a t e l y f i e r c e and benevolent.  Rain i s r e l i e f f o r  the crops, "Rain, the f i r s t love of every farmer, the bride of 121 every dry, t h i r s t y f i e l d , the mother of every crop that grows I" and a grim reminder of the f i r s t f l o o d . The same impulse that equates environment with aspects of Godhead, i n s p i r e s the symbolic naming of human beings.  Prairie l i t e r -  ature i s permeated with Abrahams, Sarahs, and Ruths who w i l l make out of the desert a Promised Land.  Inherent, though, i n the Old  Testament landscape,is the new l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n .  The problems  of the twentieth century, synchronized with t r a d i t i o n by scholars l i k e J e s s i e Weston and w r i t e r s l i k e T.S. E l i o t , Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway, are very much a part of the general concern of the p r a i r i e w r i t e r .  He may describe the immediate, but he i s  u l t i m a t e l y concerned with the u n i v e r s a l . Robert J.C. Stead, Grain, p. 79. ;  -115-  Typical of the symbiosis of t r a d i t i o n a l and contemporary motifs i s Edward McCourt's treatment of the "prophet" B i l l i n Music at the Close.  Aberhart  The same p r a i r i e that produced R i e l  produced the b i b l e thumping s o c i a l c r e d i t o r , who, l i k e Michael Random i n Randolph Stow's Tourmaline, promises s a l v a t i o n but i s tainted with the p r i n c i p l e s of materialism.  The wanderers i n the  desert are too eager to grab at the messiah who w i l l lead them to the Promised Land. N e i l d i d not hear very much of what W i l l i a m Aberhart s a i d . He was too much preoccupied with the spectacle that he was witnessing the spectacle of a people gripped by something approaching h y s t e r i a i n the presence of the prophet of a new age... But i n B i b l e B i l l Aberhart, the man with the pate expEe's.sionless face and the sleepy eyes, they saw leadership -- they saw the prospective a n n i h i l a t i o n of whatever had been responsible f o r t h e i r f r u s t r a t i o n , and they were prepared to f o l l o w him with a kind of desperate t r u s t i n the wisdom and the strength of the prophet because they no longer trusted t h e i r own.I 22  The questor i s no innocent, the path i s fraught with irony and the shape and meaning of the g r a i l i s uncertain, but he perseveres, b e l i e v i n g i n the i n f i n i t e p o s s i b i l i t i e s that have i n s p i r e d every wanderer since the beginning of time.  The p r a i r i e ,  where intercourse between man and God i s r e l a t i v e l y f r e e from the complications of thousands of years of c i v i l i z a t i o n , i s an i d e a l medium for the search for t r u t h , to the stimulus of enviornment.  The p r a i r i e w r i t e r  has responded  He i s obviously concerned with the  immediate but i t i s the t r u t h that l i e s underneath or beyond which grips h i s imagination.  W.O M i t c h e l l a r t i c u l a t e s a general t r u t h  Edward McCourt, Music at the Close, p. 180.  -116when he speaks of h i s own w r i t i n g . I can't go t o work on a piece unless I have some e s s e n t i a l l y human truth that I believe very passiona t e l y and that I hope s h a l l transcend time and region.123  P a t r i c i a Barclay. "Regionalism and the Writer", Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , No. 14 (Autumn 1962), p. 54.  BIBLIOGRAPHY  Primary Sources Bodsworth, Fred. Last of the Curlews, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1963. E l l i o t , George.  The K i s s i n g Man, Toronto:  MacMillan, 1962.  Grove, Frederick P. F r u i t s of the Earth, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1963. K n i s t e r , Raymond. White Narcissus, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1962. Laurence, Margaret. Stewart, 1966. .  A Jest of God, Toronto: McClelland and  The Stone Angel, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1968.  McCourt, Edward. Music at the Close, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1966. MacEwen, Gwendolyn. M i t c h e l l , W.O. Ostenso, Martha.  J u l i a n the Magician, Toronto: MacMillan, 1963.  Who Has Seen the Wind, Toronto: MacMillan, 1947. Wild Geese, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1961.  Ross, S i n c l a i r . As For Me and My House, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1967. Roy, G a b r i e l l e . Where Nests the Water Hen, Toronto: McClelland aand Stewart, 1961. Stead, Robert J.C. Stow, Randolph. 1969. .  Grain, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1963.  A Counterfeit Silence, Sydney:  Angus and Robertson,  Tourmaline, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963.  S t r i n g e r , Arthur. The P r a i r i e Mother, New York: Wiseman, Adele.  The S a c r i f i c e .  A.L. Burt, 1920.  Toronto: MacMillan, 1968.  -118Secondary Sources A l l e n , H.C. Bushaand Backwoods; a comparison of the f r o n t i e r s i n A u s t r a l i a and the United States, Michigan State U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1959. Barclay, P a t r i c i a . "Regionalism and the Writer", Canadian L i t e r a t u r e No. 14, (Autumn 1962). Bevan, A l l a n . " I n t r o d u c t i o n " to Music at the Close by Edward McCourt, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1966. Buckley, Vincent. "In the Shadow of P a t r i c k White", Meanjin XX, No. 2 (1961). Burgess, O.N. "The Novels of Randolph Stow", The A u s t r a l i a n Quarterly, V o l . XXVII, No. 1, (March 1965). Cameron, Margaret. Puritanism i n Canadian P r a i r i e F i c t i o n , M.A. Thesis, U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1966. C h i l d , P h i l i p . "Introduction" to White Narcissus by Raymond K n i s t e r , Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1962. D a n i e l l s , Roy. "Introduction" to As For Me and My House, by S i n c l a i r Ross, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1957. Dutton, Geoffrey. "The Search f o r Permanence: the Novels of Randolph Stow", Journal of Commonwealth L i t e r a t u r e , No. 1 (September 1965). Harlow, Robert. "Lack of Distance," Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , No. 31 (Winter 1967). Hutchison, Bruce. The Unknown Country, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1948. J a c k e l , Susan. "The House on the P r a i r i e s " , Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , No. 42, (Autumn 1969). Johnson, G.K.W. "The A r t of Randolph Stow", Meanjin XX, No. 2 (1961). King, C a r l y l e . " I n t r o d u c t i o n " to Wild Geese, by Martha Ostenso, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1961. Kramer, Leonie. "The Novels of Randolph Stow", Southerly, XXIV, No. 2 (1964). Laurence, Margaret. "Ten Years Sentences", The S i x t i e s , Vancouver: UBC P u b l i c a t i o n s Centre, 1969.  -119McCourt, Edward A. 1949. .  The Canadian West i n F i c t i o n , Toronto: Ryerson,  The Road Across Canada, Toronto: MacMillan, 1965.  New, W i l l i a m H. "A F e e l i n g of Completion", Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , No. 17, (Summer 1963). . " I n t r o d u c t i o n " to The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1968. . "The Novel i n E n g l i s h " , The S i x t i e s , Vancouver: P u b l i c a t i o n s Centre,5 1969. . "Outsider Looking Out: C r i t i q u e , V o l . IX, No. 1.  UBC  The Novels of Randolph Stow",  . " S i n c l a i r Ross' Ambivalent World", Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , No. 4, (Spring 1969). Pacey, Desmond. Creative W r i t i n g i n Canada, rev.-ed., Toronto: Ryerson, 1967. Parks, M.G. "Introduction" to F r u i t s of the Earth by F r e d e r i c k P. Grove, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1965. Read, S.E. "The Maze of L i f e " , Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , No. 27 (Winter 1966). Roper, Gordon. " I n t r o d u c t i o n " to Where Nests the Water Hen by G a b r i e l l e Roy, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1961. Saunders, Thomas, "Introduction" to Grain by Robert J . C. Stead, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1963. Stephens, Donald. "Wind, Sand and Dust", Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , No. 23, (Winter 1965). Stevens, John. " I n t r o d u c t i o n " to Last of the Curlews, by Fred Bodsworth, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1963. Sypher, Wylie. Four Stages of Renaissance S t y l e , New York: Doubleday, 1955. Tallman, Warren. "Wolf i n the Snow" Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , No. 5 (Summer 1960), No. 6 (Autumn 1960). Thomas, C l a r a . Margaret Laurence, Canadian W r i t e r s , No. 3, New Canadian L i b r a r y , Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1969.  -120-  Ward,  Russel. Press,  Weston,  The  Wightman,  Legend,  London:  Oxford  Universi  1966.  Jessie.  1957  Australian  From  Ritual  to  Romance,  New  York:  Doubleday,  . Jennifer.  Randolph  Stow",  "Waste Meanjin  Places, XX  Dry  (1969).  Souls:  The  Novels  of  

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