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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., University 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 in the Department of ENGLISH We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA A p r i l , 1970 I n p r e s e n t i n g t h i s t h e s i s i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t o f t h e r e q u i r e m e n t s f o r a n a d v a n c e d d e g r e e a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h C o l u m b i a , I a g r e e t h a t t h e L i b r a r y s h a l l m a k e i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r r e f e r e n c e a n d s t u d y . I f u r t h e r a g r e e t h a p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e c o p y i n g o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y p u r p o s e s may be g r a n t e d by t h e H e a d o f my D e p a r t m e n t o r by h i s r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . I t i s u n d e r s t o o d t h a t c o p y i n g o r p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l g a i n s h a l l n o t be a l l o w e d w i t h o u t my w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n . D e p a r t m e n t o f ENGLISH T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h C o l u m b i a V a n c o u v e r 8, C a n a d a ABSTRACT Time and place are the media through which the eternal i s manifested for 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 attitude toward ultimate mysteries. The patterns of nature are translated by the a r t i s t and philosopher into 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 restless 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 old as the world and as new as the twentieth century, determines a particular kind of response which i s both immediate and universal. 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 for the regenerate. The writers who have translated the p r a i r i e experience into wordst have tended to fuse t r a d i t i o n a l with personal mythology, elevating the moment i n mutable time to time ceternal. 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 response, although archetypal, has relevance for the i n d i v i d u a l . The quest motif, which i s an aspect of the romantic t r a d i t i o n of a l l cultures, i s central 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 the physical and metaphysical landscape of the p r a i r i e , 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 find their analogues i n the Bible and i n t r a d i t i o n a l mythological figures. The sick king, the fisher-man, the god, the messiah and the p r a i r i e farmer become fused i n the symbolic struggle for 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 their 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 direct 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 find 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 after the meaning of God i n Who Has Seen the Wind i s primarily s i m p l i s t i c . He believes i n the direct route. Reality i s a means and not an impediment to supernatural revelation. 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 divine ecstasy into grotesques. The Promised Land i s circumscribed with irony. Margaret Laurence, who has rejected the v e r t i c a l quest after God, i s concerned with the voyage toward self knowledge. Her paths lead into the s e l f . The individual i s responsible for his own salvation. A tragic example of i r r e s p o n s i b i l i t y related to the horizontal 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 successful, but the knowledge he gains contains the promise of salvation. That promise i s often realized i n the messianic motif which i s a corollary of the quest. Outsiders with the power to heal, l i k e Gwendolyn MacEwen' magician and George E l l i o t t ' s Jkissing:,man,have the t r a d i t i o n a l 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 correlative through which man learns by association about God and about himself. His struggle to comprehend particular environmental mysteries i s analagous to the universal quest after truth. Supervisor T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S P a g e I N T R O D U C T I O N • 1 C h a p t e r I WHO H A S S E E N T H E WIND 22 C h a p t e r I I A S F O R ME A N D MY H O U S E 3 6 C h a p t e r I I I T H E S T O N E A N G E L 57 C h a p t e r I V A J E S T O F GOD 72 C h a p t e r V T H E S A C R I F I C E 81 C h a p t e r V I T H E M E S S I A N I C M O T I F 9 3 C O N C L U S I O N 1 0 4 B I B L I O G R A P H Y 117 INTRODUCTION The Canadian p r a i r i e , i n spite 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 finest f i c t i o n written to date i n this country. The vast r o l l i n g land stretching from the f o o t h i l l s of the Rocky Mountains to the western border of Ontario i s timeless, offering a r i c h symbolic medium to the a r t i s t , who responds both to the immediacy and the univ e r s a l i t y of i t s challenge. The p r a i r i e offers simultaneously many layers of history 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 inevitable decadence of past, present and future; i t i s anywhere and everywhere, a. place where man can use his physical 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 special 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 inhabitants. The rhythm of p r a i r i e r e a l i t y can be f e l t and translated into symbolic terms. The quest for perfection 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 over-whelming adversity, i n the struggle to overcome the imperfections of man and landscape. Because of the sense of i s o l a t i o n , mental or physical, -2-inherent in the prairie, which i t s e l f commands so much of man's energy just in the struggle to stay alive, the response to i t s challenge is peculiarly protestant, in the sense that is individual rather than collective. Each man, through his own regenerate behaviour, must earn the prerogative of mental and physical liberty. He is upheld by his own right reason, for the tight social network of a large urban integrated society is denied to him. For this reason, and others, some especially b r i l l i a n t literary characters populate the prairie landscape. It takes a special almost superhuman effort to cry out and be heard in the wilderness, to be seen as a spot of colour amid the overwhelming greyness of a particularly bitter environment. Empty land. Empty sky. A>?stranger to the prairies feels uneasily that he is driving straight into i n f i n i t y . The land is without character. It excites neither hatred nor love. There is nothing here to respond to. Not the austere sinister loneliness of a true desert nor the friendly security of a conventional pastoral landscape... Many prosperous farm homes are vis 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 weather-blackened, two-storey houses with vacant, eye-like windows are reminiscent to a reader of Edgar Allen Poe of the gloom-ridden House of Usher. And, one suspects, many a farm wife of a past generation must have fel t a great sense of kinship with the tragic Lady Madeline: the kinship of being buried alive. Even in failure, 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 brief technicolour glory of a minor victory, and the landscape, •^Edward McCourt, The Road Across Canada, p. 136. McCourt' s description, although i t records the bleakness of the prairie landscape does not take into account the positive response of i t s settlers, the potential which has inspired settler and fict i o n writer alike. -3-which i s seen as an extension of the metaphysical world, w i l l ultimately triumph. Left alone with the elements that alternately blessed and cursed his ancestors, the inhabitant of the Canadian p r a i r i e often responds i n accordance with the traditions of the old world he has supposedly l e f t behind. Either the environment dictates i t s own immutable archetypal patterns or the man superimposes his own knowledge of the past on the present to f a c i l i t a t e some kind of mental order. I t i s important to understand what we perceive and understanding i s often limited to what we know. Whatever the reasons, the past i s the conven-tional medium for interpreting the present. Whether or not this i s the appropriate route to truth i s irrelevant. Whoever i s responsible for the conditioned response, man or Qod (nature), i t s t i l l happens. The p r a i r i e writer, even when he i s cynical 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 heritage. 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 desire to exist within and outside of time; Abraham i n Adele Wiseman's The S a c r i f i c e i s pathetically locked i n a notion of himself that i s en t i r e l y determined by a distorted view of history. The promise of the future and the new land i s constantly underscored by the f a i l u r e s of the past. 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 association with the symbolic vocabulary i t evokes. Jessie Weston, i n From Ritual to Romance, arti c u l a t e s the development of the quest motif from the vegetative cycle i n which man -4-i s i n v o l u n t a r i l y involved. The traditions she describes, which persist 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 inheritance 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 less distorted, 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 , physical and s p i r i t u a l . ^ The notions of the Wasted Land and the Fisher 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. E l i o t , 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 vacuum of the twentieth century desert. Although E l i o t borrows the rur a l imagery of Ezekiel and Ecclesiastes, his wasteland i s primarily urban, his response primarily i n t e l l e c t u a l . The writers of the Canadian p r a i r i e , who learned from the devastating experience of a horrible 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 vicarious experience but on direct experience with landscape for a r t i s t i c motivation. * * * Religion has i t s anthropological origins 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 cycle, so important i n the structure of the p r a i r i e novel, corresponds to the l i f e and death of the earth. Jessie Weston, i n correlating the data compiled by S i r James Frazer and examining i t s function i n l i t e r a r y motifs, Jessie Weston, From R i t u a l to Romance, p. 203. - 5 -explains the development of natural patterns into 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 this 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 personality divine, or semi-divine, whose experiences, i n vi r t u e of his close kindship with humanity, might be expressed i n terms of ordinary l i f e . At this stage the progress of the seasons, the bi r t h of vegetation i n spring, or i t s r e v i v a l after the autumn rains, i t s glorious f r u i t i o n i n early summer, i t s decline and death under the malificent influence either of the scorching sun, or the b i t t e r winter cold, symbolically represented the corresponding stages i n the l i f e of this 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 alternations of re 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 li t u r g y of men of every denomination. Catholic, 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 for the fundamental honesty of these associations. 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 history 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 characterization and plot, as i n The Sa c r i f i c e , where a balance i s only occasionally 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 association. 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 . -6-Over and over again, the personal sit u a t i o n s of i n d i v i d u a l s confronting the challenge of l i f e on the p r a i r i e are expressed i n e x p l i c i t b i b l i c a l terms. The names of the characters r e f l e c t the u n i v e r s a l i t y of t h e i r dilemma. In the ana'lagous behaviour of the Judiths, Hagars, Abrahams, Jacobs and Sarahs i s contained the d u a l i t y of existence. At once, by association, the optimism of renewal i s juxtaposed by the irony of time past. The old Judith i s dead, long l i v e the new Judith. The Idea of Judith p e r s i s t s . The permanent p o s s i b i l i t y i s always there. Just as the flowers of the new season are triumphant over the dried remainders of the year past, the new generation i s enough cause for ce l e b r a t i o n . The language of the Old Testament i s also repeated con-sciously and unconsciously i n the novels studied. In times of stress, the quest for meaning often r e s u l t s i n the comfortable and reassuring rhythms of r i t u a l utterance. Apart from the conscious need for the f a m i l i a r framework of l i t u r g y , the land i t s e l f demands and controls an almost dogmatic l i n g u i s t i c response. The order of nature i s r e f l e c t e d i n the organization of words. A new Genesis i s being written i n the cadences of the old. The mystery of the p r a i r i e i s translated into the terms which express the mysteries of the universe. One of the l i t e r a r y benefits of 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 writer i s h i s freedom from the shallow i m i t a t i o n of con-temporary precedents, set by innovators i n other environments, which has plagued Canadian writers 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 ne g l i g i b l e effect on the developing l i t e r a t u r e of the Canadian mid-west.^" 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 sophistications of San Francisco, New York, London and Paris. Out of the mainstream, the p r a i r i e writer i s freer as an i n d i v i d u a l ; he does not succumb to the temptation to write of the p r a i r i e wilder-ness i n terms of Joyce's Dublin; however he misses the impetus for 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 clique and the example of the finest writers of the generation who have found a contemporary mode of expression for contemporary problems. Consistently, the p r a i r i e writer has turned to the older model which i s rooted deep i n his heritage. The romantic pattern of Genesis and the quest for 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 related 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 overall 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 is 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 . I t i s the quality of the journey, W in Lawrencian terms, on which the outcome depends. Each of the novels discussed i s the record of a particular 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 Australian f r o n t i e r s , describes the great American push to the west over an arid and unfriendly 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 his 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 universal quest against a common environmental background. * * * W.O. Mitchell'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 re l i g i o u s motifs analagous to a young boy's quest after the meaning of the wind, as the manifestation of God, makes thenovel an obvious place to start i n the explication of the relationship between environment and the romance theme. The author art i c u l a t e s the significance of this symbiosis i n his epigraph. The Prefatory remarks read: Many interpreters of the Bible believe the wind to be symbollic of Godhead. In this 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, satiety, eternity, death. They are moments when an inquiring 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 linked and the structural 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 revelations of a young boy on the pr a i r i e are developed by analogy through the l i f e cycle. 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 existence, i s at once the dominant symbol and the shape of experience. The s e l f -conscious control of r e a l i t y through rel 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 his 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 eternal. 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 interpreted symbolically. The discord between man and his environment,which i s the result of c i v i l i z a t i o n and the effort to dominate and overcome the forces of nature, can be at least temporarily forgotten on the p r a i r i e . 'f.Brian's quest ultimately leads him there, away from the town, where he can search for meaning with-out . being influenced by the d i s t o r t i n g social 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 Mitchell's treatment of material and s p i r i t u a l r e a l i t i e s . The town is corrupt, Eden after the f a l l , a place of false values and false 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 find the state of grace through contact with nature. Laurence's Hagar Shipley, Mitchell'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 yet, inherent i n the withdrawal from society which i s necessary for the penetration of the unknown, i s the promise of renewal for the town and the peers of the questor who returns to share his knowledge.-* ^The "back to nature" movement of the romantics i s evidence of the escape into landscape which, hopefully, w i l l revive uncorrupted values in 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. - 1 0 -This optimistic view persists in spite 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 attitudes of the p r a i r i e inhabitant, i s indigenous to the land and to the man who l i v e s there. The elaborate geneology of Genesis i s reflected 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 abstraction of shared mythology and the family relationships which are even more important to r u r a l people than to th e i r urban counter-parts. These relationships can be educational, as i n Brian O'Connal's experiences with his grandmother and parents, or destructive, 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 S a c r i f i c e . Although there i s much of the book of Genesis i n Who Has  Seen the Wind, the novel i s thematically closer to the guarded cynicism of Ecclesiastes and the prophecy of Ezekiel. Much history has passed before Ecclesiastes and the untried f a i t h of the early chapters has been replaced by skepticism. Mitchell's concern with the problems of the twentieth century wasteland are united with the universal themes through his employment of the imagery of Ecclesiastes most popular with writers of the " l o s t generation" of Gertrude Stein, p a r t i c u l a r l y E l i o t , Pound and Hemingway. I t i s important to remember that the optimism inherent i n the relationship of the quest to b i b l i c a l themes i s often controlled i n p r a i r i e f i c t i o n by the sign-posts of memory. No one who has endured wars, transplantation 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 - 1 1 -a l l possible 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 primarily 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 his journey, he never becomes truly three-dimensional. 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 pitted against elusive metaphysical absolutes. In the novel whose t i t l e i s taken from the promise of Joshua ("As for 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 daily with a stubborn f a i t h i n the existence of absolutes. The environment becomes for the Bentleys the f i e r c e God of the Old Testament who punishes for any deviation from the puritanical quest for salvation. Only through suffering are they able to expiate the g u i l t f e l t for thwarted desires, 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 juxtaposition 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 personified i n the persistently intrusive landscape. The wind, which i s both giver and destroyer for Brian O'Connal, invades l i k e the icy tentacles of an octopus the corners of the shabby house and minds of the Bentleys, whose eff o r t to keep the f a i t h i s painful 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 persistent -12-adherence to the doctrine of salvat i o n through s a c r i f i c e , a notion which i s focused i n the symbolic o f f e r i n g of Judith and the psychological s e l f - f l a g e l l a t i o n and f a l s e martyrdom of both Mr. and Mrs. Bentley. The impulse to believe and overcome, which i s honestly f e l t by both partners i n the h e l l i s h marriage, i s constantly checked by the grim reminders of p r a i r i e depression. God w i l l not provide for man; man i s responsible for his own physical and s p i r i t u a l sustenance. I f he f a i l s , he w i l l s u f f e r . I f he succeeds, he may possibly transcend s u f f e r i n g and experience the sublime. The Bentley's quest i s v e r t i c a l , but the opportunity for salvat i o n i s a small chink of l i g h t i n the overwhelmingly oppressive environmental greyness. As For Me and My House i s a mannerist work of s u r r e a l i s t i c tensions and the dog E l Greco serves as a reminder of the agony of the Renaissance painter. Like E l Greco's f i g u r e s , the Bentleys are stretched out onithe rack. B e l i e f i s constantly associated with pain. 6The broken c i r c l e , poignant expression 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 features i n Ross's As For Me and My House, Adele 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 Milton's "Lycidas" and Shakespeare's King Lear 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 contraposto i s manifested i n the agonizing p o l a r i t i e s of C h r i s t i a n idealism and grim psychological r e a l i t y . The e f f i c a c i o u s technical surface of the mannerist s t y l e , which serves to control 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 control of language i n the novel. In his excellent section, i n Four Stages of Renaissance Style, developing the thematic analogies, "between mannerist painting, a r c h i t e c t u r e and l i t e r a t u r e , Wylie Sypher describes the conditions which motivated 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 of Europe between 1520 and 1620, one of tormenting doubt and rigorous obedience to ardently f e l t but incoherent dogmatic p r i n c i p l e s . Mannerism i s f u l l of contradictions: r i g i d formality and obvious 'disturbance', bareness and overelegance, mysticism and pornography, E l Greco and Parmigianino." (p. 127). - 1 3 -S u p e r f i c i a l l y , the novel moves through the seasons of winter and h e l l i n t o spring and the promise of renewal contained i n the b i r t h of Judith's baby. Ross 1 use of the c y c l i c pattern of M i t c h e l l i s more subtle and h o r r i b l y i r o n i c . Death i s s a t a n i c a l l y represented i n new l i f e . Regeneration i s never automatic and can only be earned. There i s more of the desert i n the Promised Land of Ross' p r a i r i e . 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 Horizon's inhabitants away from the town to the country i s the same immutable 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 the land i t s e l f , i n spite of the cruel a l t e r n a t i o n of drought and flood, exceeds f a i t h i n human nature. I t i s only through a harmonious r e l a t i o n s h i p with the earth that the i d e a l can be experienced. The Bentleys err i n t h e i r assumption that renunciation of the f l e s h i s the only route to the s p i r i t . When they waver, the g u i l t r e s u l t i n g from carnal s i n not only prevents t h e i r knowledge of the i d e a l , but also the p o s s i b i l i t y of approaching a condition of grace through the r e a l . L ike Margaret Laurence's Hagar, the Bentley's misinterpretation of p u r i t a n i c a l values eliminates the p o s s i b i l i t y of a heaven on earth. Even t h e i r r e l i g i o n becomes an aspect of s i n for the Bentleys. Their idealism w i l l not allow them to accept the legitimate phenomenon of doubt, and, when they find t h e i r f a i t h wavering, they are unable to progress to the alternate p o s s i b i l i t y . They attempt to respond dogmatically to a pragmatic landscape and t h e i r tragedy i s r e a l l y a i»> f a i l u r e to learn the lessons of nature and adapt. The decision to escape across the p r a i r i e to another s i t u a t i o n , which w i l l probably become just another point on the locus of despair, instead of facing the .. r e a l issues which w i l l follow them wherever they go, i s the - 1 4 -ultimate f a i l u r e . Like Hagar Shipley, the Bentleys must learn that the real 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 effect 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 affects perception of landscape. In her two " p r a i r i e " novels. The Stone Angel and A Jest of  God, the world i s seen through the medium of the concave and convex personalities 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 description i s p a r t i c u l a r l y v i v i d , but i s distorted i n the s e l f -centred mirror v i s i o n of the major characters. This point of view has aesthetic and moral implications, for Margaret Laurence's i s a man-centred universe. She i s cynical about the divine p o s s i b i l i t i e s of the natural or supernatural worlds. She i s not concerned with the system of absolutes which inspire the romanticism of other p r a i r i e writers 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 exist within not without the mind and her characters are generally cynical about notions of a great designer. Natural description i n the novels i s real and f u l l of awe, but there i s nothing of the feeling 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 reject the optimistic attitude 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 - 1 5 -Wind, Margaret Laurence's characters are trapped by the puritanical frame of reference which seems indigenous to the p r a i r i e . ^ Although Hagar and Rachel reject organized r e l i g i o n early i n their l i v e s and repudiate the town, which i s the focus of their f l a g e l l a t i o n and suffering, by escaping to the coast, they consciously or unconsciously attempt to l i v e within the puritan ethic. 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 i n their l i f e styles. S t i l l , human relationships have ascendency over the com-pulsion for communion with God which alternately inspires and frustrates 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 function 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 individual's e f f o r t to break free from the r i t u a l demands of society and the i n e v i t a b l e progression of the l i f e cycle. Although Laurence's Hagar, Wiseman's Abraham and Mitchell's Brian O'Connal are obsessed by separate goals, they are irrevocably bound by a common language of archetypes. Hagar, described as an "Egyptian", i s deliberately pre-Christian and her world i s constantly described i n the terms of the desert, a barr.enwilderness that i s , i n fact, 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 writings of Margaret Laurence, Margaret Cameron i n her M.A. thesis, "Puritanism i n the Canadian P r a i r i e Novel," describes the puritanical 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 . - 1 6 -understandable and pathetic, for i t i s a mirror held up to the desolation of her own soul. Her greatest mistake rests 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 symbolically 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 polarized i n the opposites of escape and commitment i n The Stone  Angel and A Jest of God. Ultimately, the quest for s e l f - r e a l i z a t i o n , a solution to the problem of id e n t i t y , must resu 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 retreat into the world of i l l u s i o n which obscures the truth about themselves. For Rachel, i n A Jest of Godj.the false journey i s inherent i n her decision 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 herself i n terms of the real world. Analagous to Rachel's retreats are Hagar's aggressive forays into the i l l u s o r y world of self-misconception. In order for both women to find their way out of the wilderness, they must journey i n opposite directions. Hagar has to learn to examine her own weaknesses, to accept the disparity between her se l f image and r e a l i t y , and Rachel must externalize the s e l f which has hidden too long beneath a she l l of pity and self doubt. The quest takes many interesting directions. In order to know themselves, isolated beings i n the vast unprotected land must reconcile notions real and ideal through human e f f o r t . In the novels of Margaret Laurence, that e f f o r t i s expressed i n human terms. -18-She does not hope to explain the natural i n terms of the supernatural but must deal with empirical data as she perceives i t . Thereilis more to be learned from human than from divine revelation. I t i s 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 , written i n 1956. Tragically, the Russian immigrant, bearing the weighty legacy of his name, i s t o t a l l y i n s e n sitive to the d i a l e c t i c demands articulated by his own creed. He responds, according to his 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 his obsession with h i s t o r i c a l time, f a i l s dramatically i n his 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 his dream, never moving beyond the s t a t i c condition of paralysis. Abraham i s the archetypal Wandering Jew and his dilemma i s that of jews everywhere,>eshould he persevere i n his insistence on responding t r a d i t i o n a l l y to new situations or should he adapt to the contemporary landscape. Unfortunately for his victims, Miss Wiseman's bli n d and foolish Lear dogmatically fashions his quest after the symbolic mode of Jewish t r a d i t i o n , forgetting his r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s as a human being. Like Hagar Shipley, he refuses to communicate and becomes a grotesque, defeated by his own good intentions. 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 thematically and - 1 9 -aesthetically around the problem of reconciling 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 occasionally f a i l s to transcend the contrivances of an analagous plot. The r i t u a l into which Abraham has fashioned his l i f e i s only credible 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 fund-amental 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 inspired by a similar landscape. Unlike the Bentleys, Brian O'Connal, or Rachel Cameron, Abraham and his family are unable to escape the labyrinth of urban l i f e and achieve the symbolic potential of the i r names in 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 writers, 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 perfection for Moses, the grandson, i s inherent i n Abraham's misguided s a c r i f i c e of his son and the false earth mother Laiah. On the other hand, the murders, one conscious and other unconscious, are immoral and degenerate, contrary to the laws of nature and society. 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 inextricably wedded. Abraham's assumption of the role of s a c r i f i c i a l - 2 0 -priest i s ultimately immoral because i t i s out of the context of his so 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 divine intervention, real or imaginary, i n the person of the messiah. The struggle to overcome his natural condition i s so overwhelming at times he arti c u l a t e s the need for an agent of salvation, an intermediary who can interpret the w i l l of God and elevate man to a higher position i n the hierarchy of heaven and earth. In his madness, Abraham thrusts the messianic role on the s i c k l y shoulders of his only remaining son. His expectations are trag i c . 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 limited to the individual 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 Kissing Man i s populated with such characters. The semi-divine questor i s also central to the Australian writer 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 similar response to a landscape similar 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 controlled by an environment that j u s t i f i e s the protestant notion of perfection through suffering. L i f e i s brutal and death i s painful, but the': promise.of renewal' is.inher.ent i n every winter and every s a c r i f i c e . Thou hastiturned for me my mourning into dancing. Thou has put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. (Psalm XXX,II) P r a i r i e writers, combining an i n t e l l e c t u a l response to the modern wasteland, a physical and metaphysical response to the p r a i r i e , and an emotional response to the persistant memory of t r a d i t i o n a l - 2 1 -mythology, have, despite their i s o l a t i o n , reacted i n a very similar way to the p o s s i b i l i t i e s of a Promised Land, personal and s o c i a l , i n the Canadian mid-west. The quest motif i s inherent i n the processes of growing, discovering and building, i r o n i c a l l y articulated by an unsuccessful t r a v e l l e r . CHAPTER I Who Has Seen the Wind Christina Rossetti's poem, which provides the t i t l e for the novel Who Has Seen the Wind, also a r t i c u l a t e s i t s central problem; man's effo r t to comprehend the mysteries of a vast and uncompromising universe. The wind, Old Testament symbol of Godhead, becomes i n the novel a metaphor for the ultimate mysteries which control 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 after the meaning of the wind. The boy learns early 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 Brian Sean MacMurray O'Connal.is one toward self knowledge. His 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 . Brian's maturing process i s analagous to the development of the novel, which grows from the particular 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 relate his 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. I t i s i n the v a l i d i t y of the immediate experience that the novel 'and the boy approach truth. Brian, l i k e Stephen Dedalus, i s a stone i n the pool. As he breaks the smooth surface of the unknown, each revelation, 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. Like - 2 3 -Stephen, Brian learns the painful 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 aesthetic and structural 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 essentially positive. There i s , i n Brian 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 cru 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 die; 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 heal; a time to break down and a time to build 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 originate in reality,^progress d i a l e c t i c a l l y i n accordance with the patterns of the universe: The sun rises 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 led 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 Ecclesiastes and Ezekiel, 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 condition, i s the promise of regeneration. In the dry bones of the dead i s the promise of new l i f e . The s p i r i t of God blows upon them "and the breath came into them, and they l i v e d and stood upon their feet" (Ezekiel 3 7 : 1 0 ) M i t c h e l l avoids the a r t i s t i c dangers inherent i n the rep e t i t i o n of these motifs through his o r i g i n a l treatment of r e a l i t y . Through his honesty i n recording the empirical data of characters and landscape and an obvious delight i n human nature and natural environment, he breathes l i f e into his characters and avoids the stereotype. Unlike E l i o t , who envisioned the p o s s i b i l i t y of salvation through organized r e l i g i o n , which Brian soon learns i s clouded by hypocrisy, bigotry and narrow provincialism, 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 his own regenerate behaviour, the universal premises of a natural r e l i g i o n . By the end of the novel, he knows his 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 to another, from b i r t h to death, the wind carries 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 fie r c e and vengeful. The wind gives and the wind takes ' away. The vast unprotected p r a i r i e i s p a r t i c u l a r l y subject to the fickleness of the wind. I t can bring death to the crops or rai n to feed them. Pa t i e n t l y , the p r a i r i e waits "for 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 stroking the long grasses and given them l i f e ; l a t e r , a long hot gusting that would - 2 5 -l i f t the black topsoil and p i l e i t i n barrow pits along the roads, Q or i n deep banks against the fences." Brian i s sensitive to the changing moods of the wind. He associates i t with fear and destruction and alternately with freedom and goodness. He listened to a r i s i n g wind that night as he lay i n bed with Bobbie. The brass weather stripping on the doors of the house vibrated 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 his 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 stripping lingered on i n the silence. Fearful-avenging-was the gathering wrath about to s t r i k e down Brian Sean MacMurray O'Connal, the terror stricken 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 wild wind, panic l i f t e d within him, subsided, rose again and washed over him t i l l he trembled unmercifully and sweat started out over his entire body.9 Brian i s himself a harp the wind plays upon. M i t c h e l l imitates i t s effect on the boy through r i t u a l language. At f i r s t Brian i s almost involuntary i n his response to the wind. His i n i t i a l reaction, wonder, i s replaced by comprehension as he moves beyond his limited conception of R.W. God, B.V.D., a l l bloody, to acceptance of his father's d e f i n i t i o n of the abstract. On the paper he made blue with his 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 legs; those were spider Gods, of course.10 8w.O. Mitchell Who Has Seen the Wind, p. 1. 9 I b i d . , p. 95. °0p. c i t . , p. 32. - 2 6 -His early attempts to define God i n concrete terms are not unlike 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 arrive at a meaningful philosophy of l i f e through semantics. However, for both Paul and Brian, 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 their quest for s e l f knowledge. Brian's Uncle Sean recognizes the wind as his 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 priest 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. His refusal to acquiesce i s a magnificent assertion of man's effo r t to overcome personal f a l l i b i l i t y . In t h i s , he i s esse n t i a l l y p u r i t a n i c a l , although few of the townspeople are sensitive to the quality of d i v i n i t y i n his voice. He represents the potential f e r t i l i t y of the p r a i r i e , which i s untouched by the corruption of the town. His i s a p r i e s t - l i k e function and Brian recognizes the r i t u a l power of his blasphemy, and i s hypnotized by the power of his splendid rhetoric. The uncle's denunciations are fe r v i d l y evangelical. He w i l l multiply his talent 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 topsoil from his 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 did, he launched into one of his evangelical denunciations. 'Awful! She's plum awful, Gerald! Stupid!" he cried. 'They never hearda- s t r i p farming an 1 they don't wanta hear! 'Plant yer crops! I t e l l 'em, 'in s t r i p s across the prevailing winds- Eight the wind an' fight the d r i f t i n ' " U I b i d . , p. 18. -27-Th e grandmother, whose death wish i s closely associated(i with the wind, also perceives i t s s p i r i t u a l function. She resents the window that cuts off her communion with God. 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 for 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 sensitive to the s p i r i t u a l need, which transcends his mother's concern for the physical. He feeds on her wisdom as she nears the end of her l i f e cycle. 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 relationship with his grandmother s i g n i f i c a n t l y p a r a l l e l his growth toward maturity. Or i g i n a l l y , 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 real person with a body and a soul. " I t seems too that as he got older his grandmother had come to meet him s p i r i t u a l l y i n her declining 12 years; for a l l his gravity 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 eternal. Their expectancy i s a medium for communication. When the old lady dies, there i s a sense of r e l i e f . I t i s r i g h t . Unlike Brian's father, who i s cut off 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 real and the i d e a l . 20p. c i t . , p. 251. -28-She i s dust, but out of that dust w i l l grow his manhood. Saint Sammy i s an interesting and ambiguous figure i n Brian's landscape. His s p i r i t u a l i t y escapes sublimity and achieves only the grotesque. He i s the exception to Mitchell's equation of the wind to regenerate characters. The old man i s associated with the charnel smells of death. His quest for truth i s a f a i l u r e , for, i n the pursuit of truth, he has only broken through to the r e a l i t y of madness. There i s no hope i n madness, for, despite increased knowledge, there i s no capacity for synthesis. Saint Sammy i s a false Christ. His adherence to the language of the Bible i s empty and meaningless. He i s a corrupter of words, the fool who has lo s t sight of the philosopher. Unlike Uncle Sean, whose blasphemy i s f e r t i l e , Saint Sammy specializes i n s t e r i l e rhetoric. He i s dry bones with no l i f e . Mistakenly, Saint Sammy explains a p r a i r i e storm as the force of his own vengeance. However, there i s no power i n a hatred that knows no love. He i s a destructive force and i t i s f o l l y i n him to assume his power over the wind. "Sammy, Sammy, this 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 offfthe schoolhouse, turned over the g i r l s t o i l e t , three racks, six 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 wind-m i l l . "13 t The boys enjoy the empty r i t u a l of his witchcraft, counting his c o l l e c t i o n of underwear labels, but they f i n a l l y recognize his impotence. Op. c i t . , p. 270. -29-Th e character who comes closest to an abstraction i n the novel^ but who for some reason i s credible as the actual and imaginary companion of the boy Brian i s the young Ben. The wild p r a i r i e boy, who utters less than a half dozen lines 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 . He i s always there, l i k e a ubiguitous God, i n times of stress. Those people i n the town who are s p i r i t u a l l y regenerate appreciate the beautiful quality of his wildness. He i s an Adam i n the garden, before the f a l l . They feel the strength of his primaeval force. The young Ben i s most closely associated with the wind. Brian feels i t right away. "The boy has - I wish I had p r a i r i e hair. He has the wind on him a l l the time - i t gets i n his 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. His i n s c r u t a b i l i t y frightens them. They do not want to comprehend his mysteries. He stalks 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. Ultimately, they cannot get at him, because he i s above their j u s t i c e and cannot be judged by the standards of the community. Their laws bear no resemblance to the laws of nature, which he l i v e s by. According to his law of necessity, stealing a r i f l e when i t i s needed i s less immoral than the brutal and wanton torture 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 their own sense of g u i l t by using the young Ben as a scapegoat for their own aberrations. Mitchell's p o r t r a i t of a town sentencing i t s bootlegger for d i s t i l l i n g the whiskey they drink behind the i r shades becomes f l a c c i d when the irony f a l l s into melodrama. Op. c i t . , p. 24. - 3 0 -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 children's teeth are set on edge." (Ezekiel 18:2) Their chief fru s t r a t i o n l i e s i n the boy's refusal to j o i n . He and the p r a i r i e are beyond their limited 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 potential of the unknown. So f a r , the town has f a i l e d to pollute either the boy or the p r a i r i e . Brian 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 said. 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. After the boy's figure had become just a speck i n the distance,.Brian looked up into the sky, now f i l l e d with a soft 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 well shot with sunlight. Almost as soon as i t had cleared, a whisking of cloud stole 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 pelting past. God, Brian 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 largely seen through the prejudiced f i l t e r s of a young boy's eyes, sometimes f a l l dangerous close to stereotype. However, there i s an aesthetic homogeneity i n their tendency to type and Mitchell's creation of what i s and must be seen as an essen t i a l l y pasteboard town. The hypocrisy of many of the townspeople i s analagous to the false fronts of the stores on the main street. They are a l l mask. I t takes the p r a i r i e and the p r a i r i e Op. c i t . , p. 12. -31-people; Sean, Ben, young Ben, and even Saint Sammy, to point out the disparity 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 this hypocrisy with tolerant good humour. As an a r t i s t , he i s sensitive to the need for a delicate balance between laughter and tears, comedy and tragedy, as described i n Ecclesiastes. He achieves a harmony, which i s l i k e real l i f e , through the point and counterpoint of town and country, real and i d e a l , l i f e and death, joy and sadness. Mrs. Abercrombie, jowly and santimonious, covers her essential misanthropy with a thin veneer of Christian morality. A wolf i n sheep's clothing, she heads the forces of hypocrisy and e v i l i n the town. An avowed presbyterian, her real r e l i g i o n i s materialism and her gospel i s hate and prejudice. Warren Tallman, i n his a r t i c l e "Wolf i n the Snow" which appeared i n Canadian Liter a t u r e , No. 5, attributes the f a i l u r e of her ultimate downfall to provide a catharsis to M i tchell's over indulgent t o l e r a n c e . ^ However, the slow deflation of this balloon f i l l e d with hot a i r i s inte n t i o n a l l y without drama. She i s without substance, just 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 special powers to her. The author acknowledges the flatness of her defeat i n the closing paragraph? of chapter t h i r t y . 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 firecracker, and has been given instead the disappointing whoosh of a dud.-^ •^Warren Tallman, "Wolf i n the Snow", part one, Canadian Literature, No. 5, p. 11. 1 7 M i t c h e l l , p. 288. -32-This 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 role of Saint Sammy on the p r a i r i e . Their r e l i g i o n i s false and the p o s s i b i l i t y for e v i l exists 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 tale world and his adults are defined i n ch 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 less easy to define the peripheral beings that touch his consciousness. Only experience can reveal the truth, 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 old, 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 this kind of insight which Brian must and does develop. The town appears to be divided into three moral types; the hypocrites, headed by Mrs. Abercrombie, her despicable daughter, and Mr. Powelly, the vengeful minister; the almost impotent i n i t i a t e s , Svarich, Digby, M i l t Palmer and Miss Thompson; and the victims, notably old Wong and the China Kids. The i n i t i a t e s are unable to overcome hypocrisy within the s t i f l i n g confines of the town. They are only occasionally able to win a minor skirmish i n the major war. Hislop i s driven out for his e c c l e s i a s t i c a l doubts and ecumenical leanings. Svarich, by nature of hi s b i r t h , w i l l always be an outsider. - 3 3 -Digby, the philosopher teacher, and Miss Thompson, because of the i r vocation, have the greatest potential. They are unable to prevent the brutal r i t u a l leading to the suicide of Old Wong, but they hopefully 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 stress, 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 recognition of a higher r e a l i t y . The chief tensions of the novel are generated by the contrast between the town, with i t s false r e l i g i o n , andthe p r a i r i e , with i t s fundamental truths. 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 lost i t s harmony with the natural cycle. Brian's ear i s a stethoscope, sensitive to the earth's message. 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 his father, his grandmother, and his pets that Brian r e a l l y learns the meaning of l i f e . His experiences with death are realized i n a romantic refusal to mourn, "The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh . " The p r a i r i e teaches him that death i s merely an assertion of continuing l i f e , a r e v i t a l i z i n g phase of the cycle. The p r a i r i e becomes the landscape of his mature mind as he transcends the pain of physical 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 his dead pets on the p r a i r i e , becomes Brian's a l t e r ego i n the quest for God. Together, they bury the past i n the p r a i r i e and look toward a future that i s theirs to shape. Brian's mother and father never r e a l l y leave the f a i r y -tale world of childhood. They are vnot tainted by the s p i r i t u a l 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 , Brian -34-cannot accept the meaning of his death within the context of the town. S p i r i t u a l l y , the father too belongs to the regenerate p r a i r i e and Brian must go there to feel the pulse of the wind and find l i f e i n 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 for never. Forever and forever the p r a i r i e had been, or his father, or his father, or his father before him. Forever for the p r a i r i e ; never for his 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 forever, 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 every-thing that was once-was again- But for 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 dried remembrances of years past. Brian i s the manifestationof that sense of optimism which permeates the hard and ins 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 overall design of l i f e . The silence 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 spindling poplars l i f t t heir dusty leaves and wild sunflowers stare, the gravestones stand among the p r a i r i e grasses. Over then a rapt and endless silence l i e s . This s o i l i s rich.19 In Who Has Seen the Wind, Mitc h e l l ' s view of the world i s primarily one of s i m p l i s t i c optimism, the d u a l i t i e s which exist i n man and nature are sharply defined as i n f a i r y tale or allegory. There Ib i d . , p. 246. Op. c i t . , p. 300. -35-i s no doubt that good w i l l triumph' over e v i l . Brian makes black and white d i s t i n c t i o n s between the town and the p r a i r i e , between regenerate and degenerate people. Experience w i l l probably teach Brian that there are many shades between the poles and the hardest decisions w i l l be made i n the area of limbo and not the obviously defined kingdoms of heaven and h e l l . The boys quest for transcendental r e a l i t y , although disturbed by the presence of decadent forces, i s unchecked by the negative power of doubt. As For Me and My House, by S i n c l a i r Ross, presents a more com-plex view of r e a l i t y . I t i s not so easy to define the d i s t i n c t i o n between l i g h t and darkness i n Horizon, archetypal small town on the p r a i r i e . Ross's questors are more mature, more cy n i c a l i n t h e i r anguished probing for 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 point of view that Ross describes. There are many ways of looking at the blackbird, the One has many disguises. Brian O'Connal and the Bentleys o r i g i n a t e i n the same r e a l i t y and share the same ultimate objective, but the q u a l i t y of the journey i s d i f f e r e n t . CHAPTER II As For Me and My House As W. H. New pointed out i n his a r t i c l e " S i n c l a i r Ross's Ambivalent World", i n the Spring 1969 issue of Canadian L i t e r a t u r e , As For Me and My House manifests an ambiguous a t t i t u d e toward the regenerative 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 far bleaker than the op t i m i s t i c land-scape of W.O. M i t c h e l l . M i t c h e l l ' s town i s situated i n the middle of a Promised Land; Ross's i s on the edge of the world, or on the double edged sword of the Japanese samurai, for i n every promise i s the inherent p o s s i b i l i t y of agony and despair. For the Bentleys, there i s no God within, and every desperate movement toward the God without i s burdened by the permutations of f a i l u r e . Ross's i s a brutal quest, where 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 r e s u l t i n the dead average of human existence. The enthusiasm of the romantic quest i s polarized by the overwhelm-ing 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. Bentley records the searing data of desperation, which, l i k e the dust of the p r a i r i e , almost smothers the archetypal language of hope that counterpoints the grimness of her record. As For Me and My House IS a seesaw teetering between the extremes of hope and despair and we wait endlessly for the s h i f t i n g of weight that w i l l end the stalemate. z u I n his a r t i c l e , W.H. New challenges the p r e v a i l i n g c r i t i c a l opinion that tends to accept Mrs. Bentley's self-centred view of r e a l i t y . According to Mr. New, Ross does not share her romantic optimism at the end of the novel, or her self-conception of h e r s e l f as v i c t i m . The f u l l weight of the degenerate forces which check the symbolic language of optimism i s considered. - 3 7 -T y p i c a l l y , Ross ends the novel with the p o s s i b i l i t y that can either mean salvation or simply another horizontal move deeper into despair. He makes i t clear that at many points along the locus of a man's l i f e , there'.is the power, f r e e w i l l , to overcome or to simply con-tinue the desperate charade. The fate of the Bentleys i s never resolved. The w i l l to continue i s a l l the hope we are given. S t r u c t u r a l l y , the novel follows the patternof hope through the seasons, from springtime to springtime. There i s no doubt that A p r i l i s the cruelest month. The formal r i t u a l of r e b i r t h i s neutralized by the cold winter wind that puts a c h i l l on the spring. Judith's baby i s born i n A p r i l , but he i s premature and as f r a i l as the t i e s that bind the Bentleys. I t i s i n A p r i l that the diary begins, when the Bentleys move in t o the depressing vicarage with i t s stained wall-paper and oppressively low c e i l i n g s . Another spring, another job, another agonizing cycle. In his i r o n i c a l use of the archetypal language of hope, Ross almost erases the impact of the mythology of s u p e r i f i c i a l romanticism, yet i n the persistence of l i f e i s an assertion that the desire for perfection s t i l l exists i n the minds andihearts of the people. As we are rotated through the cycle of b i r t h , copulation and death, we are constantly reminded that the c i r c l e i t s e l f i s a r b i t r a r y . The passage of time i s no promise of d i a l e c t i c progress, 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 at the end of the novel, but we are also reminded that the father P h i l i p was a boy too. Mrs. Bentley, surrogate mother to -38-the elder P h i l i p , w i l l be mother to the boy. She has w i l l e d i t . There i s a crushing irony i n that "I want i t s o . " ^ Horizon's wind only brings destruction. Sometimes that destructive power can be interpreted as divine j u s t i c e , as when a f t e r Judith's death the wind knocks the town f l a t . However, the wind i t s e l f w i l l not bring regeneration. I t i s up to the men of the town to b u i l d a new l i f e on the ruins of the old. The wind i s associated with the theme of punishment which permeates the novel. Through the weary eyes.;df Mrs. Bentley, i t i s a destroyer, lacking the capacity to breathe new l i f e i nto the p r a i r i e . Instead of r e l i e v i n g the monotony of t h e i r existence, the wind i s a source of fear and appre-hension. "Above, intthe high cold night, the wind goes swinging past, i n d i f f e r e n t , l i p l e s s l y mournful. I t frightens me, makes me 2 2 f e e l l o s t , dropped on t h i s l i t t l e perch of town and abandoned." We are reminded of the vanity ofestriung a f t e r the wind ( " S o l i c i t not thy thoughts with matters h i d " ) , rather than the rewards of 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 flower of popular mythology^ i s unable to withstand i t s force. I t s petals are scattered as soon as they bloom and they are l e f t to dry out and die on the p r a i r i e . Z J - 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. Bentley i s discussed 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 (Spring 1969). The q u a l i t y of Mrs. Bentley's judgement i s strained. Inherent i n her determination to proceed on the quest she has charted ar 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 . I b i d . , p. 5. -39-Rain, usually 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. I t means colds, leaks and musty smells to Mrs. Bentley. The rain f a l l s to ruin the crops, not to feed them when they need i t . The "Thin disheartening d r i z z l e " i s l i k e Chinese water torture, drip, dripping across the roofs of their minds. The water leaves an ugly s t a i n , instead of thr 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 vain, 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 function of ra i n i n her l i f e . Her garden i s a f a i l u r e . She i s as inept with flowers as she i s with people and the garden w i l l not grow i n spite of her. So far, she has f a i l e d to direct the water to 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 their negative aspects i n the novel. No roots w i l l sink down and take hold. The dust moves about capriciousl challenging the w i l l to persevere. This dust i s no f e r t i l i z e r . I t i s s t e r i l e , without l i f e . The men i n Ross's world have f a i l e d to l i v e harmoniously with nature. In the struggle to overcome the elements, they have lost their 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 personified the natural environment to such an extent that, 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 after Judith -40-death, 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 refusal 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 false fronts 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 , including S i n c l a i r Lewis' Main Street and Mitchell'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 ministry 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 rest, a single row of false fronted stores, 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 rest there's something about i t that hurts. False fronts ought to be laughed at, 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, rediculous, never as P h i l i p sees them, stricken with a look of s e l f awareness and pity.24 The town and the organized church are hollow inside their false fronts. There i s no v i t a l i t y i n the people or their b e l i e f s . The church and the town thrive on bigotry. 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 drive out with Paul into the country, they feel the difference. The farmers have never l o s t touch with the origins of rel i g i o u s r i t u a l . Although subject, even more than the townspeople, to the changing w i l l of fate, 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 families 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. -41-the town, and i s painfully aware of the consequences, feel small and inadequate. 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 false sounds of piety, but at the Partridge H i l l schoolhouse, where the country services are held, his voice i s an echo that returns to haunt him and his 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 their 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 primitive, -something that was less a response to P h i l i p ' s sermon and scripture reading than to the grim f u t i l i t y of their own l i v e s . Five years i n succession now, they've been blown out, dried out, hailed out; and i t was as i f i n the faces of so blind and un-caring a universe they were trying to assert themselves, to i n s i s t upon their 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 his insignificance. I f you've ever seen a hailstorm, or watched a crop dry up -- his helplessness, the way he's ignored-well, i t was just such helplessness i n the beginning that set him discovering gods who could con-t r o l the storms and seasons. Powerful, friendly gods-on his side.25 In Mrs. Bentley's description of the country people and Paul's explanation of their admirable b e l i e f i n man's a b i l i t y to overcome his 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 their Op. c i t . , p. 19. In their acceptance of changing seasonal patterns and i n their determinism, the country people appear to be essentially 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" for salvation, regardless of personal behaviour, which turns Abraham i n Adele Wisman's The S a c r i f i c e , into a grotesque. The r u r a l people are more nearly puritannical i n their perseverence against adversity, which i s an assertion 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 salvation 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 Christian i s a false puritanism, lacking the v i t a l i t y necessary for the struggle for individual salvation. On the other hand, the farmers are admirable i n their more pragmatic endeavours to continue i n the face of cruel r e a l i t i e s . Ross's re a l hope i s i n these people. Their simple quest after decency and continuing l i f e , animal and vegetable, i s an assertion of positive values. 2^ i t i s 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 carried 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 their f l a c c i d s p i r i t s , i s just another exercise i n f u t i l i t y . The ranch i s Ezekiel's v a l l e y , where sexuality, instead of being an aspect of regeneration, i s associated with ca 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 picture 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 disparity between the farmer and 2^The function of the country people i n As For Me and My House i s analogous to that of William Faulkner's negro, who, because of his continued association with the earth and overwhelming concern with the supernatural and r e l i g i o u s doctrine, conditions largely determined by hois'Sub jugation by the white man, escapes the process of degeneration inherent in the false codes of c i v i l i z a t i o n . -43-the rancher and Mrs. Bentley i s sensitive to the difference. Her description 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 stealthy slipping 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 terror that destroyed the h i l l s , that was lurking there s t i l l among the skulls."28 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 partly the corruption of the ranch that makes them refuse to compromise i n their 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 his attempts now to be conversational make him sound l i k e a priggish young evangelist, I find 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 hint of the benediction. I t just means, I suppose, that a l l these years the Horizons have been working their w i l l on me. My heresy, perhaps, i s less 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, physical and s p i r i t u a l , that Ross has established in the novel are under very tight and apparent l i n g u i s t i c control. Ross shapes and manipulates his grotesques. He uses language to control the subject i v i t y of human relationships. Just at the point when the high frequency of emtoions threatens to shatter the mind, he relaxes the tautness of, his s t y l i s t i c wires. Through the careful choice and re p e t i t i o n of d i c t i o n , he shapes the attitudes of Mrs. Bentley and the reader. Op. C i t . , p. 95. Op. c i t . , p. 93. -44-Often, the rhythm of the diary 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 careful juxtaposition of black and white, he achieves the aesthetically interesting quality of a heterogeneous greyness, which, although depressing, manifests signs of l i f e i n i t s variations. 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. There i s a l i v e l y monotony i n Mrs. Bentley's nightmare. I t saves the novel from melodrama and strengthens i t s relationship with r e a l i t y . Ross manipulates language, as Mrs. Bentley does, to affect our consciousness. In the cases of Mrs. Bentley and Paul, language i s an impediment to r e a l i t y for both characters attempt to give universal defintions approached through a very particular personal bias. For both of them, the names becomes more important than the thing, obscuring the i r v i s i o n of the world. Plato regarded the exploration of the p o s s i b i l i t i e s of language as a means to truth. Ross proves that there are as many ways to approach the shadows on the wall of the cave as there are people to interpret them. On one l e v e l , Mrs. Bentley controls what we know by selecting c a r e f u l l y , perhaps unconsciously, what she chooses to describe and how she describes i t . At the same time, Ross makes i t very clear that she i s leading us through a labyrinth 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 Daniells even goes so far as to c a l l her "pure gold and wholly credible".30 She i s wholly 30Roy Daniells, "Introduction", As For Me and My House, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1957, p. v i i . -45-credible a l l r i g h t . Through language, we see facets of her character she never dreams she is revealing. Her s e n s i t i v i t y and in t e l l i g e n c e , which can never be denied, have been worn down by the relentless sun, wind and sand into a clever and destructive bitterness. She looks at her world through grey tinted glasses, never giving 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 for r e c o n c i l i a t i o n with her husband" and yet feels obliged to acknowledge that the p o s s i b i l i t y i s her only a l t e r -native to the desperation of rea l loneliness. S u p e r f i c i a l l y , defined i n her own terms, she wants a harmonious relationship between herself, her husband and her God; yet s t i l l she persists i n trying to keep herself 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 ir o n i c that she lacks the capacity to give l i f e . Her 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. She i s a destroyer, not a creator. The real white goddess i s Judith and Mrs. Bentley i s unable to undermine what she i s , either i n l i f e or death. Judith, t a l l and white l i k e a gothic spire, i s closer to the perfection they are a l l after than any of them r e a l i z e . She alone i s able to transcend the hypocrisy of the town, exists l i k e the young Ben outside i t s morality, and P h i l i p , the spoiled p r i e s t , knows i t . J iDonald Stephens. "Wind, Sand, and Dust", Canadian Liter a t u r e , No. 23, p. 22. - 4 6 -Mrs. Bentley's view i s deliberately one-sided. Her judge-ments of her husband, although couched i n sympathy and protestations of his 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 . We see the thin white l i n e of his 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 description of her shabby clothes and furniture suggest a whine that i s just as intolerable as his refusal to allow the catharsis 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 relationship 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. She cultivates her talent, not as a means of approaching God, but as a fornv.of vanity. She i s g u i l t y about the luxury of a piano and that g u i l t gives her pleasure. Mrs. Bentley, whose f i n a l negation resides in the fact that we never even learn her f i r s t name, has been so careful to distinguish between what she regards as truth and i l l u s i o n and to separate her false r e l i g i o n from herself that she f a i l s to see the potential 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 puritanical 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. I t take the old clergyman from Randolph and his 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." I t i s Judith who approaches the music of the seven spheres. In the church, only her voice can be heard over the sound of the wind. While Ross upholds the puritannical notion of individualism, he makes i t clear 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 attitude toward the people she uses, notably P h i l i p , Judith, Steve and Paul, i s s u p e r f i c i a l l y charitable, but she i s scarcely able to disguise the w i l l to manipulate a l l four. Her cruelty to Judith i s intolerable i n spite 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. I n t u i t i o n immediately t e l l s her of the at t r a c t i o n between her husband and the g i r l and she deliberately dangles Judith i n front of him. Satanically, she tempts them i n the wilderness. She watches them grow closer and closer physically after perceiving their 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 pair 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 elect. 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 rest of us, I think, were vaguely and secretly 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 , ride up with i t , feel i n the way a singer feels an orchestra. There was something f e r a l i n her voice, that even the pace and staidness of her hymn could not r e s t r a i n . " (p. 3 8 ) . -48-I 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 his chair behind the pulpit and sat with his eyes fixed 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 plate, and know when i t s time to taper off the offertory. Even after she had finished he sat a few minutes without s t i r r i n g . There was an uneasy clearing 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 Judith w i l l hurt and she admits i t i n a la t e r flash 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 bringing P h i l i p and Judith together, observing the whole r e l a t i o n -ship with morbid pleasure, her subtle cr u e l t i e s could be rationalized as those of a woman wronged, but i t i s a l l contrived, right down to her decision to adopt the issue of her husband and Judith. When Judith dies, she i s remarkably callous. "I'm glad she's gone --glad for her sake as much as ours. What was there ahead of her now anyway? I f I lo s t P h i l i p what would there be ahead of me." Next to Judith, the boy Steve suffers most from her s e l f -ishness. One of the reasons Steve never becomes three dimensional i n the novel i s her refusal to regard him as a human being. He i s a pawn to her. She plans to use him to cement her relatienship with her husband, but when the boy makes his own demands for P h i l i p ' s love, she cuts him off. The boy's need for love, which P h i l i p i s best able to express through the awkward giving of g i f t s , she interprets as s e l f i s h materialism. I t gives her pleasure to turn the knife i n 34 Op. c i t . , p. 38. 35 Op. c i t . , p. 162. -49-P 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 real mother to him. When he leaves, she mistakes his bravery for indifference and i s relieved to have P h i l i p to herself again, never thinking of the effect of the severed relationship 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 regret, 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 3 6 have found him out, seen him pl a i n , another given me my turn again." When P h i l i p turns i n desperation to Judith, she plans her revenge, developing an imaginary relationship with Paul. There i s no evidence that Paul regarded her i n any way but with friendship, but she uses him to feed her ego and incense her husband. P h i l i p suffers consistently from her honey coated sting. She knows a l l the ways to i r r i t a t e him. That much can be said of their twelve years together. Even the g i f t of o i l paints, bought with the money meant to buy their freedom, i s wrapped up i n her own martyrdom and self pity. 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. Withdrawal i s his answer to the unbearable pressures of his l i f e . He lacks the tenacity of the farmers or even of his wife and, judged by puritannical standards, i s weak i n his refusal to f i g h t . He appears to have abandoned the quest that his l i f e started out to be. Rather than struggling to overcome his i l l e g i t i m a c y and skepticism, he chains himself on the wheel of his own g u i l t and feelings of inadequacy. 3 60p. c i t . , p. 119. -50-Ross's ambivalent view of r e a l i t y i s poignantly manifested i n P h i l i p ' s attitude 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 his 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 reached." 3 8 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 . She strains beyond the wretchedness of l i f e i n the small town. Ultimately, for her, the only way out is" death. I t wasn't long t i l l I started making excuses down to the station at night when the t r a i n came i n . Mrs. Finley forbade i t , but I»would s l i p out anyway. I t always excited me, the glare of the headlight, 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 trains 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 whistle, 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 his s p i r i t and yet she lacks the emotional strength to cope with his frustrations. A l l her sympathy i s spread over the past and the future. She i s unable to l i v e with the daily mani-festations of his neurosis. 3 70p. c i t . , p. 32. 3 80p. c i t . , p. 33. 3 90p. c i t . , p. 57. -51-I t i s clear to her that P h i l i p , due to the circumstances of his childhood, i s unprepared for a complete relationship with a woman. Instead of becoming a wife, she i s a surrogate mother. When she demands more, he i s confused. The archetypal mother and father of his youthful dreams, the r e a l i t y was too painful, belong to the " t r a i n " world of i l l u s i o n . Real people, l i k e his wife, disappoint his notion of perfection. Judith, a sua woman, comes closer to the abstract. P h i l i p , a "child-man", i s a prisoner i n the limbo which exists 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 suffer; for his b i r t h , for the ideals he i s no closer to, and for his i n a b i l i t y to communicate. He accepts even Steve's departure as inevitable punishment "for he's the kind that keeps his hypocrisy beside him the way a g u i l t y monk 40 would keep his scourge." The theme of f l a g e l l a t i o n i s painfully repeated over and over again i n the novel. Suffering i s the only way back into the state of grace. The emotionally i n a r t i c u l a t e man turns to art as a means of expressing his 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 persists and her recog-n i t i o n of this spurs her encouragement of a new l i f e outside of the ministry. P h i l i p knows exactly what his painting means to him. His i s a pre-renaissance view of art and i t echoes the gothic themes i n the novel. Religion and a r t , he says, are almost the same thing anyway. Just different ways of taking man outside of himself, bringing him to the emotional pitch that we Op. c i t . , p. -52-c a l l ecstasy or rapture. They're both a rejection of the material, common sense world for 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 this common sense world that he begins to create, when he looks into a void, and has to give i t l i f e and form.^ Whether or not E h i l i p i s a good a r t i s t i s ir r e l e v a n t . The fact i s i f he can find grace through this 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 his 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 realized his goals. Desperately, P h i l i p t r i e s to rewrite his own childhood through his relationship with the boy Steve. Steve, Catholic and i l l e g i t i m a t e , is a pariah i n the protestant town. His 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 suffering i s call o u s l y ignored by Mrs. Bentley, who i s only w i l l i n g to record the weaknesses. F i n a l l y , 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 into despair, which he bravely rat i o n a l i z e s as se l f knowledge. Steve's been good for 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 else- 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 for anything.^ Op. c i t . , p. 112. Op. c i t . , p. 119. -53-This i s the low ebb of the mans1 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, his own this time. Ross i s remarkably restrained i n his description 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 aesthetic distance. He refuses to turn something real into a cheap catharsis. I t i s possible that Steve i s Ross himself, and, the economy of pathos i n description of the boys' abuse i s stringently imposed by the a r t i s t i n order to avoid melodrama. Paul Kirby, who introduced Steve to the Bentleys' i n the f i r s t place, i s another character who i s limited to the confines of Mrs. Bentley's imagination. His function very much l i k e the Shakespearean philosopher f o o l , giving insight and meaning to the rest of the characters but never f u l l y realized himself. Mrs. Bentley uses him i n her relationship with her husband, but he i s never drawn into her conspiracy. He largely stays outside of the action, 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 his 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 his 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 typ i c a l countryman's feeling of disadvantage before townspeople who wear smarter clothes and write a finer 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 his own values have been sounder a l l the time. 4^ Op. c i t . , p. 70. -54-The aesthetic, thematic and s t y l i s t i c importance of language i n the novel i s realized 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 potential of words. Words are, i r o n i c a l l y , at the same timethe conveyors of truth 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. He i s attempting to define r e a l i t y . Sometimes his revelations are painful, sometimes grotesque, and sometimes funny. In presenting Paul i n this way, Ross i s giving evidence of his own concern for words and warning of the danger inherent i n taking them at their face value. Mrs. Bentley i s a clever manipulator 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 after 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 find i t s correspondant i n the r e a l world. Described as a rebel, she doesn't f i t into 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 exiles from the town, are able to communicate and achieve i n their 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 , Judith has special g i f t s . Her voice can be heard i n the wilderness. "The wind was too strong for P h i l i p or the choir, but Judith scaled i t when she sang alone 44 before the closing hymn." She i s the singer, the interpreter of the w i l l of God. The sexual union between P h i l i p and Judith 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 positive Op . c i t . , p. 38. -55-note i n the book. Her c h i l d w i l l hopefully lead the way to the Promised Land. P h i l i p and Mrs. Bentley believe i t , although Ross makes sure that the optimism surrounding his b i r t h i s tempered by recollections of frustrated 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 silence: then noticing the book of organ music I had with me he said abruptly, 'Did you know that the word offertory 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 offering to the angry gods and the reward i f peace after the storm. Her death culminates the pu 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 Judith and of a l l mankind, means continuing l i f e . Her death i s linked 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 Judith, she has the power to save the town from the tyranny of decadence. Her real martyrdom i s an i r o n i c comment on the fase martyrdom of the minister's wife. She i s the El Greco madonna, the real 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 after transcen-dental r e a l i t y , ideal terms i n which the environment can be interpreted. Only through an understanding of heaven can man penetrate the mysteries of the earth. 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 less 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 time. They struggle out of chaos toward a transcendental order. Hagar Shipley, the larger than l i f e sized heroine of Margaret Laurence's novel The Stone Angel, moves at r i g h t angles to the s p i r i t u a l questorSj Brian and the Bentleys. She has rejected organized r e l i g i o n , i s her own god and i s constantly struggling to escape the dogmatic patterns of the great designer. A search for her own personal order c o n s t i t u t e s the nature of her quest. The journey takes the p i l g r i m i n many d i r e c t i o n s . Margaret Laurence rej e c t s the promise of l i f e e v e r l a s t i n g in.favour of a heaven on earth. She shares the symbollic vocabularly of Ross and Mitche l , but uses i t for d i f f e r e n t purposes. Ultimately, her characters must re c o n c i l e t h e i r differences with the r e a l world. 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 specialty 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 far corners of the world, searching for the peace which i s the reward for self knowledge. Analagous to her peripatetic l i f e s tyle i s her art, which wanders through the minds of her creations, men and women • with an occasionally breathtaking r e a l i t y . In her fine r work, f i c t i o n becomes fact as her characters jump off the page, ceasing to exist 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 horizontally 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 recon-c i l i n g the physical and the s p i r i t u a l , the real and the i d e a l , she is very much concerned with the immediate, with the knowing of the mutable s e l f . I t i s the empirical 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 herself with the l i f e within rather than the p o s s i b i l i t y of perfection. To be content i n -58-this world i s everything. A delight i n the pleasures of the flesh i s always i n ascendency over the concerns of the s p i r i t . Because Margaret Laurence's characters must reconcile themselves with the real world, the restlessness of s p i r i t which leads others to a study of the metaphysical, of the effect of the macrocosm on the microcosm, motivates constant movement, emotional and physical, out of oppressing situations. Rachel Cameron's answer to a jest of God i s a journey to a new l i f e . S i m i l a r l y , Hagar Shipley, l i k e Mrs. Laurence herself, abandons the small town. Manawaka i s a looking glass through which she sees aspects of herself she wouH rather ignore. She escapes the mirrors temporarily, but she cannot leave herself behind. The optimistic promise of a new l i f e somewhere else i s dulled by the inescapable influence of the past upon the present and the future. Hagar Shipley attempts to fool herself, "To move to a new place that's the greatest excitement. For a while you believe you carry nothing with you."^ 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. Like 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 for something her pride w i l l not l e t her define. I t i s a triumph for 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 ' U l t i m a t e l y not physical but emotional. A l l the time, she has been moving back and forth from ^^Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 155. - 5 9 -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 herself. 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 with, serves to enhance the quality and v a l i d i t y of what she has to say asa writer and complicate the nature of the quest. Like D.H. Lawrence, who has allowed many of his female characters to 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 soulby adding the particula 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 mother-hood. The assertion of se l f over f a m i l i a l obligations hasibeen conventionally regarded as a desecration. Hagar Shipley's decision to leave her home and her husband, even though she takes the youngest c h i l d , has profound social and personal ramifications. What appears to her to 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 their being'; i s an ar t i c u l a t e plea for the right of every woman to be an ind i v i d u a l . The novel, The Stone Angel, i s carefully structured. Fore-ground, middleground 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 Fi r e Dwellers, / l | l l three women are involved i n the struggle for personal freedom. -60-year s are car e f u l l y woven together, through the association of stream of consciousness and memory, which are care f u l l y juxtaposed to give complete insight into a woman whose largeness, physical and emotional, dominates every aspect of her l i f e . Mrs. Laurence's technique i s impressionistic; i t i s the justaposition 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 delight to Hagar, are both a positive assurance of l i f e over death, i n spite 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 structural device in the unified 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 pai n f u l l y r e a l . B i r t h , copulation and death are the r e a l i t i e s of time. Death i s inherent i n the maddeningly quick pro,? gression of the phases of the l i f e cycle. The ubiquitous presence of death enhances the need to l i v e l i f e completely, something Hagar, in her t e r r i b l e pride, has been unable to do. Death i s the end and not a new beginning. There i s a necessity to rage against i t . Time, running quickly through the hourglass, i s the most formidable enemy i n Hagar's struggle with herself. 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, written for his suffering father, i s most appropriate to her. - 6 1 -Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind 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 his pride over her mother's grave, i s blind -- not l i k e Gloucester, but l i k e Lear. Summer and winter she viewed the town with sight-less eyes. She was doubly blind,„ not only stone but unendowed with even a pretence of sight. Whoever carved her had l e f t her eyeballs blank.^8 She i s blind i n her pride, which leaves her unequipped to perceive the disparity 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 fle 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 . I t destroys her marriage and her favourite son. Only at the end, triggered .by Mr. Troy's singing of the hymn, does she "see with blinding sight" what she, i n her pride and arrogance, has missed. A l l people that on earth do dwell, Sing to the Lord with jo y f u l voice. Him serve with mirth, His praise f o r t h - t e l l ; Come ye before Him and rejo i c e . She had always sought her g r a i l i n the wrong-\places. I t was there within 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 shatteringly, 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 rejoice. 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 far crevice 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 ^Margaret Laurence. The Stone Angel, p. 3. -62-the plain 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 large, too independant to succumb to the lure.-of organized re 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 experience i n the novel describes her father's pride. Because he gave more for the building of a new church, he i s one of the elect. Hagar, i n her wisdom, knows the j u s t i c e of that. The church was never her sacred place. 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 cubits this 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 gigantic chunk of costume jewelry. Saint John of Patmos can keep his sequinned heaven, or share i t with Mr. Troy, for a l l I care, and spend eternity i n fingering the gems and t e l l i n g each other glee-f u l l y they're worth a fortune.50 Death offers no promise of Christian salvation. Hagar is pre-Christian, by name and disp o s i t i o n . She i s described as the pharoah's daughter, the Egyptian, throughout her l i f e , and desert imagery permeates the novel. Her straight black hair and monumental personality 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 Christian madonna in her delineation. Her kingdom i s the earth and she rides care-Ibid. , p. 292. Op. c i t . , p. 120. -63-l 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 labyrinth 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 herself, knows the f u t i l i t y of death. Hagar shares this attitude and i s angered by her brother's mild acquiescence to the inevitable. She i s disgusted by his impotence. He did not value l i f e enough to rage against death. 'He went quietly' she said. 'He didn't fight his death as some do. They only make i t harder for themselves. Matt seemed to know there was no help for i t ' , Mavis said. 'He didn't struggle to breathe, or try to hang on. He l e t himself s l i p away.' I found this harder to bear than his death, even. Why hadn't he writhed, cursed, at least 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 glass, f u l l of water to be had for the taking. I hold i t i n My hands. There. There. And them-52 In spite of Hagar's renunciation of r e l i g i o n , the con-ventional imagery of orthodox C h r i s t i a n i t y i s woven into the fabric of the novel. The seagull i n the room at;.the point, "a bird i n the house means a death i n the house", triggers r e l i g i o u s associations, but i t i s also very re a l i n the context of experience. S i m i l a r l y , the sacramental pattern does not intrude upon the secular nature of the journey. Her revelation 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. 5 10p. c i t . p. 60. 52 Op. c i t . , p. 308. -64-As explained i n the Introduction to the New Canadian Library edition of The Stone Angel, the b i b l i c a l analogies are not essential to explication of the character, Hagar Shipley, but "add another dimension to the book". J Hagar,:.like the wife of Abraham, i s indeed i n bondage to her f l e s h . Her husband, Bram, i s a modern Abraham, whose desire for a dynasty i s betrayed by his own weakness and his wife's pride. He cannot make a Promised Land out of the desert. The p o s s i b i l i t y of regeneration inherent i n the description of the marriage on a spring day, I t was spring that day, a different spring from this one. The poplar b l u f f s had budded with sticky 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' feet. And I rode i n the black topped buggy beside the man who was now my mate. i s quickly shattered by the emptiness of their l i f e together. She never wishes to communicate with him u n t i l after 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 Bible, i s concentrated i n the intense mis-directed relationships 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 his Introduction to the novel, argues the multiple 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 figure i n allegory as a real individual whose tragedy i s enhanced by association. 54 Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 50. -65-Bram Shipley, with his f a i l u r e farm, i s no patriarch-though sadly and i r o n i c a l l y , he wishes to be one and hopes their 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 to', he said. I saw then that he wanted his dynasty no less 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. Always the r e a l i t i e s are forsaken i n favour of the i l l u s i o n . She escapes from the p r a i r i e to the mannered soci 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, after 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 respectability' she has created. Her quest leads her from r e a l i t y into i l l u s i o n and f i n a l l y , through the revelation 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 herself. Always, she has interpreted r e a l i t y on her own false terms. 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 start because his 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 into the false s e l f which i s conventional and dead. The real 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. -66-Mrs. Laurence admits to a love-hate relationship with Hagar, whom she resents for her "authoritarian outlook" and loves "for her b a t t l i n g . " She has articulated Hagar' s journey not;.in terms of absolutes but as a matter of survival. Perhaps I no longer believed so much in the promised land, even the promised land of one's own inner freedom. Perhaps an obsession with freedom i s the persistent (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 personality to survive with some dignity, toting the load of excess mental baggage that everyone carries, u n t i l the moment of death. 5 6 On her journey to the point, Hagar makes a painful reference to Coleridge's poem "The Ancient Mariner.""'7 Her voyage, l i k e the mariner's, i s physical and psychological. Both suffer physically and emotionally; both are involved i n a journey of the flesh 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 feel 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? Certainly. 'Water water everywhere nor any drop to drink.' That's my predica-ment, What else did I slay, for mercy's sake?58 Margaret Laurence. "Ten Years' Sentences" The S i x t i e s , p. 14. 5 7 p . 186. "What albatross did I slay, for mercy's sake? Well, w e l l , we'll see - come on, old mariner, up and out of your smelly bunk and we'll 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 pride, despair and optimism. CO Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 46. - 6 7 -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 for peace. Small human figures p i t themselves he r o i c a l l y against time and tithe elements. The p r a i r i e i s personified 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 herself and not an external force to be contended with. Partly because i t i s an aspect of herself, she never r e a l l y leaves i t . There i s nothing mystical about the miracle of spring i n Manawaka. I t just happens. S i m i l a r l y , the bitterness of winter i s accepted. The real enemy i s within; her own rages are far more destructive than the p r a i r i e storms which a l t e r the landscape but leave the mind in t a c t . Hagar knows, by the time she dies, that external forces have not caused her unhappiness. She,Lalonejis responsible. Pride was my wilderness, and the demon that led me there was fear. I was alone, never anything else, and never free, for I carried my chains within me, and they spread out from me and shackled a l l I touched... Nothing can take away those years.59 Hagar 1s pride, inherited from her father, causes her to escape from the sensual world which i s her greatest source of pleasure. The novel i s r i c h with the sensory details which illuminate Hagar's potential for joy. Doris 1 cooking, the flowers which f i l l her l i f e with perfume, and sex with Bram are a l l described with the loving care of one who rea l i z e s too l a t e what they a l l have meant to her. Like the stone angel, she has resisted opening up her flesh to the things i n which she has the capacity to rejoice. Clara Thomas Ib i d . , p. 292. -68-compares 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 description 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 orderly, imagining l i f e had been created only to celebrate tidiness, l i k e prissy Pippa as she passed. But sometimes through the hot rush of disrespectful wind that shook the scrub oak and the coarse couchgrass encroaching upon the d u t i f u l l y cared-for habitations of the dead, the scent of cowslips would r i s e momentarily. They were tough-rooted, these wild and gaudy flowers, and although they were held back at the cemetary's edge, torn out by lovinggrelatives, determined to keep the plots clear and c l e a r l y c i v i l i z e d , for 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,1 always, irbef ore the portly 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 I t i s due partly to her pu r i t a n i c a l background that Hagar i s uanble to reconcile the p o l a r i t i e s >6f.,real and imaginary s e l f . The f i e r c e virtues 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 " u 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 authority that E.J. Pratt envinced for the sea and ships of Hugh MacLennan for the Halifax explosion, or Gabrielle Roy for the sights and sounds of Montreal i n the t h i r t i e s . " 61-Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 5. 6 2"Gainsay Who Dare", the war cry of the Clanranstld Macdonald, is Hagar's defiant cry against the world which i s her battle ground. The motto and the pin bearing i t are cheaply tossed away by Hagar's favourite 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 . -69-t r a d i t i o n . 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 . After the act of defiance that units Hagar with Bram Shipley i n marriage, she realizes that she can only judge her easygoing husband according to the standards of her father. She w i l l never respect him. You'll never get anywhere i n this 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 "platter. I t ' s up to you, nobody else. You've got to have stick-to-itiveness i f you want to get ahead. You ve got to use a l i t t l e elbow grease. 0 0 Unfortunately, Hagar, unlike Bram's former wife Clara, ("No cross No crown"),°^ cannot accept the re l i g i o u s convictions that attend the ethic 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 1s 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 right 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 this wo rid.65 Clara Thomas considers the function of Lees, the alcoholic former Redeemers' Advocate, to be analogous to the function of the fool 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 wife, Clara, had embroidered the legend on the bookmark. Hagar has only contempt for the morbid practices of self f l a g e l l a t i o n associated with puritanism. However, she herself accepts the doctrine of individualism and hard work which are inherent i n Clara's r e l i g i o n . Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 277. 'Thomas, p. 41. -70-the philosopher who i s both i n and out of the plot providing insight into the value of experience. He becomes Hagar's real s p i r i t u a l mentor, ("God i s love, but please don't mention the two i n the same b r e a t h " ) ^ and, despite the apparent betrayal when he reveals her hiding place to Marvin and Doris, he allows her the opportunity for catharsis and f i n a l l y the chance to bless the son she has never recognized, the act which i s her salvation. In an attempt to repudiate the claim 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, after we wed. Love, I fancied, must consist of words and deeds delicate as lavender sachets, not l i k e the things he did sprawled on the high white bedstead**1, that r a t t l e d l i k e a t r a i n . Hagar rejected the son she though most l i k e him. Marvin, i n a r t i c u l a t e , by her d e f i n i t i o n , t i l l the end of the novel, where his words "She's a holy terror" 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 role he does not cherish. I wish he could have looked l i k e Jacob then, wrestling with the angel and besting i t , wringing a blessing from i t with his might. But no. He sweated and grunted angrily. 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. u y Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel, p. 228. 68 I b i d . , p. 80. 6 90p. c i t . , p. 179. -71-Just as the angel i s not a re a l angel, John i s not a real Jacob. I t i s Marvin who f i n a l l y wrests the blessing 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 after 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 release myself by re-leasing him.' 0 The circuitous pattern of Hagar 1s journey i s completion of the human rather than the divine function. Rather than moving from self to God, as do Brian O'Connal, i n Who Has Seen the Wind, and the Bentley's, i n As For Me and My House, Hagar moves from self back to s e l f . The sun of Ecclesiastes i s , for Hagar, an objective correlative of the natural rather than the supernatural world. Her blessing of Marvin assures her completion and forgive-ness i n the real world. Because her journey i s l i m i t e d , Hagar may be more success-f u l than the s p i r i t u a l questors, Brian and the Bentleys. Imperfect communion between man and God breaks the c i r c l e . This i s the tragedy of Abraham i n Adele Wiseman's novel The S a c r i f i c e also. 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 into the tangled wilderness of her own mind. A weak and frustrated i n d i v i d u a l , she i s tempted by the sustaining potential of the super-natural. Human relationships are not so easy for her as they,are for Hagar, despite Hagar's determination to control her peers. 7°0p. c i t . , p. 304. CHAPTER IV A Jest of God I f Hagar i s responsible for 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 creative act is a cruel joke, Rachel lacks the w i l l to grab the golden ring as she cringes on her merry-go-round f u l l of familiar but untouched faces. Her desolation, l i k e Hagar 1s, i s psychological. The waste-land i s her own mind where the only p o s s i b i l i t y for s e l f fulfilment exists i n the fantasies she plays l i k e midnight movies across the screen of her empty nights. Hagar i s larger than l i f e and her salvation i s inherent i n the discovery of her own weakness. Rachel, i f she i s ever to find herself, must journey i n the opposite d i r e c t i o n . She must cast off her fears and s e l f doubts i n order to become a real 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 unsatisfying. Unlike 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 . There i s a negative quality to her every act. She leaves reverse footprints and, for her, tragedy i s - 7 3 -impossible. Instead she i s simply the v i c t i m of a cruel 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 integrate 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 beginning. She never takes on the colours of l i f e . 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 recog-nize 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 herself 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 afrai d of herself as she was. She is beginning to learn 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 positive imprint of the earth mother, by mothering a nation who w i l l find the Promised Land as the b i b l i c a l Rachel does, and her painful post-operative plea " I am the mother now" is 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 herself. ^Margaret Laurence. "Ten Year's Sentences." The S i x t i e s , p. 14. - 7 4 -Rachel's Manawaka i s a very different place than that e a r l i e r birthplace of Hagar Shipley. Impressed by the b r i l l i a n c e of her own self conception, Hagar regarded the p r a i r i e as an imped-iment to the r e a l i z a t i o n of her potential. She wrongly f e l t i t could not sustain her. Throughout The Stone Angel, Hagar and the desert environment, which i s an extension e>f aspects of her personality, compete for ascendency. The strong psychological coloration of Hagar i s balanced by a v i v i d l y described p r a i r i e . Hagar 1s fundamental error i s inherent in her decision to abandon the struggle i n the eff o r t to escape herself and move to the c i t y . The impressionistic quality of the description of mental and physical landscape i n The Stone Angel unifies time place and character i n an overwhelming experience. Rachel, on the other hand, shrinks from the technicolour grotesques of her town. She allows herself to be intimidated by every sign of l i f e . In A Jest of God, the drought i s not seasonal but permanent, i n Rachel herself. Her grey-ness constitutes 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 re a l i z e d , physically at l e a s t , i n this p r a i r i e setting. Perhaps i t i s too abundant for 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 distorted 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 farm-house and bleak f i e l d s of the depression. Instead, there i s the defiant v i r i l i t y of the Kazlik's place. - 7 5 -The Kazlik'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, indistinguishable 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 c 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 grips with r e a l i t y , Rachel i s t o t a l l y alienated from her p r a i r i e and her fellow human beings. A l l 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 individuals 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 callous lover and C a l l a i s the t y p i c a l frustrated lesbian school teacher..Rachel saves a l l her compassion for herself i n her frequent forays into self pity and reverie. Her alienation i s realized thematically by the constant convoluted journeys of her mind. Unlike Hagar, who ignored her personal wilderness and plunged into devastating external relationships, Rachel travels 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 exists primarily i n a so c i a l context. She i s frustrated by the d i s p a r i t y between what she i s and what she imagines herself 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 also 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 . - 7 6 -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. I l l u s i o n , for her, exists outside of human relationships. She has no s e l f -image at a l l . 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 distorted ideal s e l f , as Hagar does, Rachel retreats to her nocturnal reveries. In her imaginary world, Rachel i s the heroine of a f a i r y t a l e of nightime fantasies that blot out her ambition to succeed i n the daytime with real people. Unlike 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 detracts 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 real 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 feels l i k e a gigantic f e r r i s wheel turning i n blackness very slowly. Turning once for each hour, interminably slow. And I am glued to i t , or wired, l i k e paper, l i k e a photograph, insubstantial, unable to anchor myself, unable to stop this slow nocturnal c i r c l i n g . ^ Rachel's e x i l e i s even more frightening than Hagar's, because she i s unable to exist 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 . Despite: 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 . She i s too I b i d . , p . 1 9 . - 7 7 -i n t e l l i g e n t to accept the false promise. Although she has vague hopes for the future, she has no rel i g i o u s aspirations. There i s no question of eternal l i f e . 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 outlet, as i t does for her friend C a l l a , but Rachel i s skeptical. 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 told 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 recently, within the l a s t few years, but a long time ago, longer than I could remember, for I could not actually r e c a l l a time when I was a l i v e . 7 4 Only i n the false hope of a false 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 figure 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 for self 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 result 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 effect 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 nighties Mrs. Cameron i s saving for her f i n a l i l l n e s s . Although Margaret Laurence consis-7 4 Op. c i t . , p. 3 9 75 Op. C i t . , p. -78-tently uses b i b l i c a l archetypes, names and situations, 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 setting i s as mutable as the characters who invade i t . 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 for someone to delete the word funeral. A nasty word, smacking of mortality. No one in Manawaka ever dies, not on this side of the tracks. We are a gathering of immortals. We pass on, through Calla's divine gates of topaz and azure, perhaps, but we do not die. Death i s rude, unmannerly, not to be spoken to i n the street.76 Rachel's preoccupation with death i s a neurotic involution of the townspeople's tendency to avoid i t or refer 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. "Calla's mother was exceptionally fond of white l i l i e s , and christened her only daughter after one variety of them." 7 7 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 for their 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 for 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* l i k e a stroke of a white chalk on a blackboard." In the places she knows God i s absent from, but responds to i n her own complicated way, she i s some-how able to communicate. 7 60p. C i t . , p. 13 7 70p. c i t . , p. 9. -79-Silence. 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 moans-That voice! Chattering crying, 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 grieving-Not Calla's voice. Oh my God. Mine. The voice of Rachel. 7 8 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 friendship. F i n a l l y , she realizes she must leave the dead shell of the past behind and escape. The withdrawal into self i s not longer possible, f or her walls are not impermeable. Always, for p r a i r i e meniand women, there i s the t r a i n . For some i t i s the umbilical cord that unites them with the rest 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 trains were a l l steam, and you could hear the whistle blow a long way off , carrying better i n this 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 trainvoice that said don't stay don't stay just don't ever stay-go and keep on going, never mind where. 7 9 However, the journey west may simply become an externalization of the countless lonely t r i p s into her own mind. The t r a i n may move along the track or the bus along the highway, but the roads them-selves 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 . - 8 0 -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 Wiseman1s novel The S a c r i f i c e into 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 single aspect of that process of selection which takes him or her to personal salvation. I t i s necessary to occasionally f a i l to find the way out of the labyrinth. A voyage without p e r i l i s also without significance. Abrahams movement into the p r a i r i e landscape, which he views as the Old Testament Promised Land, i s anachronistic. He i s unable to progress beyond his own narrow view of history. I f Rachel over-reacts to landscape, Abraham i s t o t a l l y unable to communicate with i t s re a l i t i e s ' . He i s blind to the present and has a d i s -torted archetypal view of the past which, rather than equipping him for 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 S a c r i f i c e 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 desire, stimulating the imagination as i t regularly disturbs 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, unlike many of his peers i n p r a i r i e f i c t i o n , appears to have ended his trying 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 figure i n a pragmatic landscape, he seems to feel i n s t i n c t i v e l y that he had found the land of milk and honey. There w i l l be no more t r a v e l l i n g fo r the weary pilgrim. The t r a i n has brought Abraham and his family to peace. Enough. With a sudden rush of indignation, as though he had been jerked awake, i t came to Abraham that they had fled far enough. The thought took hold i n his mind l i k e a command. I t came a l i v e i n his head and swept through him angrily, i n a wave of energy, a rebellious movement of the blood. I t was as;simple as that. Enough.80 Once he has found his New Jerusalem i n Canada, Abraham begins to play his role 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. - 8 2 -despair, salvation 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 resolution 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 his own imagination. The t r a i n has brought him to a certain place, but his r e a l i t i e s are always metaphorical rather than determined by the environment. His morality and his j u s t i c e are as foreign to the twentieth century as they are to the c i t y where he has decided to stay. Like King Lear, he i s a grotesque, suffering within the r i g i d framework of his own emotional and i n t e l l e c t u a l construct. Through the force of his own personality, Abraham supports the i n e r t i a of his own blind d i a l e c t i c "To grow, to discover, to bui l d . " 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 into his own uncertain future after the interview with his 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 his hand shielding his swollen eyes from the possible curious glances of the other passengers, he could not understand exactly what had come together for him... And yet he knew that he was a different person from the boy who had gone up the h i l l . The future, for Moses, i s not assured, but he i s growing and discovering i n a way his grandfather never could. He i s the new l i f e inherent i n the s a c r i f i c e of his ancestors. In human and symbollic terms, Moses i s the inheritor of the Promised Land. The past i s fraught with pain, but the future, possibly because of the Ib i d . , p. 345. -83-cathartic value of his 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 write his own history. 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 significance 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 often 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 labyrinth of i d e n t i t i e s real and imaginary that i s central to the novel i t s e l f . Hers i s a c i t y landscape where man 3instead of turning outward to assure the survival of the body, must turn inward to assure the survival of the soul. Environment i s not the formidable adversary of As For Me and My House or the distorted 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 exist at a l l . Her l i f e ended furing 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-tion with the joys and horrors of the past make adjustment to Abraham's ambitions for a' dynasty i n the new country impossible. Like 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 l i f e . She i s a sad counterpoint to the blind optimism1 of her husband, 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 . -84-who unwittedly "builds a crooked house" for 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, their exodus was to take them to the west coast, the end of the l i n e . His f i r s t act i n the novel i s one of w i l l . He knows he i s r i g h t , trusting as he always does'in his own i n t u i t i o n regarding the w i l l of God. Later, on the awful night of Laiah 1s murder, his daughter-in-law holds his arrogance up to him l i k e a mirror. 0 You thought. You and God are always thinking. Whatever i s convenient for you God happens to think. Where do you keep him, this God of yours, i n your coat pocket? What others think doesn't matter. As long as you-83 In his pride, Abraham attempts to fashion his r e l a t i v e s and his land-scape into the shape of his 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 his own name and his r e l a t i o n -ship to the b i b l i c a l Abraham. Indeed, his confusion of the real and symbollic modes constitute his tragedy. The new country i s a Promised Land which he approaches i n terms of pre-christian 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 setting. He responds to the c i t y as an Old Testament desert to be cult i v a t e d . There i s no harmony with urban r e a l i t y . He i s a tree and he has made no allowance for the concrete sidewalks his 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 roots, 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 his 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 tentative 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. 8 4 Isaac, the ironist^ who perceives and experiences the negative pole of his fathers optimism, i s the most tragic figure i n the c o n f l i c t between past and present. He must l i v e up to his father's ideal with the f u l l knowledge that he has neither the energy nor the special i n t e l l i g e n c e of a messiah. A normal man, he i s destroyed i n the e f f o r t to be superhuman. Unfortunately, Isaac must pursue principles he knows to be f u t i l e i n order to please his overwhelming father. I f he were unable to perceive the disparity between i l l u s i o n and r e a l i t y , his struggle would not be so painful. But he must s a c r i f i c e himself with the f u l l knowledge that his s e l f denial w i l l make very l i t t l e difference. 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 his own mind. Penetrating the archetypal v i s i o n of his father, he sees the difference 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 his 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 . " He sees the land i n terms of planes rather than d e t a i l s . The looming shapes of a s t a t i c world manipulate and ultimately destroy him. He i s paralyzed, l i t e r a l l y and metaphorically, by the forces that tear at his body and his mind. Longing to become a part of the 8 4 I b i d . , p. 6. -86-immutable world i n order to s a t i s f y the enormous ambitions of his father, 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 move-ment, p e t r i f i e d i n time, l i k e his memories, and the c i t y crawled about i t s surface i n a counterpoint of l i f e . 8 5 This i s a port r a i t of Isaac himself. The tragedy of Abraham i s that, contrary to intention, he f a i l s to grow and discover and instead of setting down i n the roots of a strong tree manages only to build a crooked house for his grandson Moses. Abraham i s locked i n his own socia l and religi o u s prejudices. In striving 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. He equates past with present and refuses to accept change. His wife w i l l not die i n a hos p i t a l . In a heterogeneous community, where a l l men must come together to shape the future, Abraham clings to the notion that he i s of "the chosen people". He i s i n -sensitive to change and to the emotional needs of the people around him-, of whom he tends to think i n terms of archetypes. Everyone must l i v e up to the f u l l potential of his name. The human p o s s i b i l i t y i s forsaken i n favour of the divine. Abraham, assumes his superiority over moral and c i v i l law, thus making success i n natural terms impossible. His acts, which he considers to be sacred, are actually a desacration. Miss Wiseman's response to the p r a i r i e , although super-f i c i a l l y Jewish, i s fundamentally analagous to that of most other Op. c i t . , p. 13. -87-writers 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. Christian and Jew a l i k e respond to the t r a d i t i o n a l setting with a s t i r i n g about the roots. Each author, i n his own way,:,is rewriting 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 their a b i l i t y to rebuild a new world on the ruins of the old dead one l e f t behind. Abraham, however, i s unable to cut off the dead limbs. The past i s a t e r r i b l e burden on the future. 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 suffering cannot sustain new l i f e . Abraham f a i l s to see t h i s . When Abraham emerged i n s ome alarm from the bedroom, Mrs. Plopler at once became t e r r i b l y brave. She spoke touchingly to them of the new world, new friends, 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 his wife to accept her fate.86 Thenovel operates, with varying degrees of success, on several temporal l e v e l s . Personal mythology, which for Abraham and his family t e l l s the story of a long Odyssey of suffering, i s juxtaposed with immediate r e a l i t y and the r i g i d framework of reli g i o u s myth. Abraham would fashion the i r l i v e s as objective correlatives for the b i b l i c a l story, frozen i n time. Unfortunately, he i s mortal and the disparity between his 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. -88-assumption of a false priesthood. The weakness of The S a c r i f i c e i s Abraham's weakness. Too often, the goal becomes more important than the journey and the characters become ivory pawns i n an impossible game of chess. The human being i s locked i n the symbol. No suffering i s more poignant than that of Isaac, who rea 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 . Left alone, he could build a hopeful future upon the dead past, but his father's hopes and prejudices strangle the p o s s i b i l i t y . 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 his s a c r i f i c e w i l l make very l i t t l e difference. 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 suffering have no joy for him because he knows his heroism i s f a l s e . He has been s a c r i f i e d to a Jewish past. Far better to l i v e i n a non-denominational future. "Yes", said Abraham s o f t l y to his grandson, " I t s hard to be a Jew." "Harder s t i l l , " said Isaac as s o f t l y , "to be a human being."87 Isaac wants to succeed as a human being, for his family. His private quest i s limited to mutable time. However, he must respond to the false symbolic quest outlined by his father. In his dreams, the past restrains him i n a p l a s t i c bubble. Like a c h i l d struggling to be born, he r e s i s t s i t i n a desperate bid for freedom. O p . c i t . , p . 1 2 9 . -89-Sometimes, i n a burst of energy and desire, he pushed out and outward, expanding his sphere, stretch-ing his limbs beyond any length that they had ever achieved, so that the tips of his toes and fingers alone touched i t s surface, and he poised i n the ecstasy of e f f o r t , certain that one f i n a l burst of strength and w i l l would stretch the bubble to i t s l i m i t s and he would burst through. But he could stretch no farther. At the tips of his body i t waited, firm and r e s i l i e n t , c r u e l l y patient, ready to spring i n upon him and crush him the moment he could hold back no longer. The pain i n his arms and legs was unberable... But i n spite of the pain and the fear and the danger there was always the feeling that someday, perhaps, a superhuman movement would release him, and he endured, waiting for 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 his w i l l to overcome the negative forces of degeneration. In 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 self with symbol, but i t i s ent i r e l y possible within the framework of his l i f e . He dreams of uniting himself with God and that dream i s a form of madness, eliminating rational behaviour outside the framework of r i t u a l . He views his 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 right 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 80p. c i t . , p. 197. -90-when 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 into eternity, and for a moment a l l three are as one.&9 Abraham i s a false priest and his s a c r i f i c e s , Isaac and Laiah, for they are both his victims, are as anti-God as the r i t u a l slaughter he performed as a young apprentice i n Russia. Isaac realizes the human error i n the attempt to j u s t i f y the ways of man i n terms of divine w i l l . In his analysis of the o r i g i n a l Abraham, he unknow-ingly condemns the la t e r behaviour of his own father. "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 just an excitement of the imagination? K i l l i n g children i s a brutal and wasteful habit, as Abraham realized, just as any k i l l i n g i s . So, being a clever man, he evolved a method of convincing his people i n terms that would excite their imaginations and make them take notice.90 Abraham had hoped to transcend mutable r e a l i t y and experience revelation through s a c r i f i c e . However, instead of finding truth, 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 into before the t e r r i b l e murder of Laiah i s l i k e the controlled hysteria of nazi Germany. He must find a scapegoat for his 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 his compulsion s a c r i f i c i a l priest and victim. Within 8 90p. c i t . , p. 178. 9 00p. c i t . , p. 179. -91-his 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 his 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 animalistic terms. Of her need for love and comfort, he i s unaware. Although a sensual woman, she has born no children, contrary to Abraham's interpretation of the laws of nature. She i s the false promise of a false spring. " I t disturbed him to watch a grown woman, f i l l e d out with middle years, trying s t i l l to move to the rhythms of spring. Behirri i t 91 there was something frightening." She becomes for him the embodiment of e v i l , the denial of l i f e . He i s infuriated by her promise of sex without children. Instead of pitying her, she becomes the obvious s a c r i f i c i a l victim. 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 creation, Q O and to deny i s to annihilate. 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 exquisitely fused i n the tense counterpoint of sexual and religious 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 desire and Abraham's insane r i t u a l reach a climax. Real and false ideal are layered to form an impossible conclusion. Abraham i s hypnotized by his rage. "Looking at her then, he was l i f t e d out of time and place. Lifetimes swept by and he stood dreaming on a platform, 9 10p. c i t . , p. 180. 9 20p. c i t . , p. 261. -92-apart, gazing at her with fear growing i n his heart, and somewhere 93 his Master, waiting." In human terms, Laiah 1s death i s grotesque. Symbolically, for Abraham, s t i l l i n the grips of his compulsion, i t i s sublime. Later, when the s p e l l i s broken, he i s reduced again to the mortal world and he feels the t e r r i b l e impact of his crime. Abraham's retreat into limbo, following the murder, despite i t s soc i a l ramifications, frees his 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 cycle; reviving once again the prospect of the Promised Land. Isaac's journey led 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 friend 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 . Moses knows he i s his own country. Experience has taught hinv the f o o l i s h -ness of blind optimism. He w i l l not make the same mistakes his grandfather did. "Wei's start 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 pilg r i m must die, 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 for the g r a i l . The ascendant phase of the sun triumphs i n spite of past f a i l u r e s . 9 30p. c i t . , p. 303. 9 40p. c i t . , p. 339. CHAPTER VI The Messianic Motif In his effort to reconcile his notions of real and ideal worlds, the a r t i s t , who knows himself and his peers as imperfect and f a l l i b l e , often feels compelled to create the myth of the super-man, or messiah, who has the capacity to help his fellows overcome the human condition. 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 baffled our ancestors, the l i t e r a r y a r t i s t resorts 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 i n terms of h i s t o r i c a l archetypes. I t i s inevitable that the promise of the Old Testament should be realized i n the person of the prophet promised to lead the way into the maze of the Promised Land and, ultimately, beyond i t to the abstraction of everlasting l i f e . The emphasis i n the novels we have studied so far i s on the f i r s t phase, the era of Genesis. The f i r s t reaction 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 his own being. However, as the communities grow, as evidenced 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. Like Christ i n the wilderness, Hagar was tempted by pride. However, despite the sacramental image patterns i n The - 9 4 -Stone Angel, her victory i s personal and lim i t e d . In Who Has Seen  the Wind, Brian O'Connal i s s t i l l waiting for the Redeemer .who w i l l show him the meaning of God. The regenerative p o s s i b i l i t y i s fragmented into aspects of experience rather than concrete symbolism. Hagar, Brian and the Bentleys are l e f t alone to sort out the meaning of their ambivalent l i v e s . Salvation 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 . Faith or desperation must eventually lead either 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 p o s s i b i l i t y . I t i s natural 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 into 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 uniting man and God i s at least temporarily completed. The p r a i r i e i s then transformed en t i r e l y into archetype, approaching the timelessness of Gwendolyn MacEwen's Juli a n the  Magician, where the Messiah/magician exists i n the limbo of imagination offering the p o s s i b i l i t y of the state of grace for a l l men in 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 real as representative or adversary of the i d e a l , that saves the good novel from the tedium of conventional allegory. Miss MacEwen's book succeeds because of the psychological accuracy of characterization, just as The Stone Angel transcends cliche because of the over-whelming humanity of i t s central 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 least -95-successful i n shrugging off the excessive weight of archetypes. Her characters are imprisoned i n the symbols and only occasionally get free. This i s the dilemma of the writer and the problem of the f i c t i o n a l people who populate her landscape. The problems inherent i n the symbolic response to the p r a i r i e landscape are u n i v e r s a l . Man i s always faced with the heavy burden of time. What i s the value of personal and c u l t u r a l history? How much of the degenerative cycle should be salvaged and u t i l i z e d i n the regenerative phase? This dilemma i s p a r t i c u l a r l y acute i n a new country, where the p o s s i b i l i t y of a fresh s t a r t i s juxtaposed with memory and the knowledge that the land i t s e l f w i l l never r e a l l y change. Somehow, a balance between past and present must be achieved i f the i n d i v i d u a l or the work of art i s going to be relevant. 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 short s t o r i e s bound by the episodic development of s e t t i n g and characters i n the manner of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg Ohio, i s unevenly successful i n t h i s respect. Sometimes E l l i o t t ' s symbols and grotesques are i n t r u s i v e , but more often they provide a r i c h v a r i e t y i n texture for the homespun f a b r i c of l i f e i n a p r a i r i e town. E l l i o t t i s care-f u l to keep one eye on the immediate and the other on the u n i v e r s a l . He evokes b i b l i c a l analogues through the symbolic nomenclature of his characters, but, at the same time, assures"them of t h e i r individual± t y ~ . S i m i l a r l y , his language i s b i b l i c a l and at the same time natural to the s e t t i n g . I t has the simple force of truth. In the f i r s t story, "An Act of Piety", E l l i o t t establishes the f e r t i l e agrarian mood of the town. The grandfather, Mayhew Salkald, -96-i s likened to a "Bible p a t r i a r c h " whose f a i t h i n generation has not been organized beyond natural r e l i g i o n . "You said you had a r e l i g i o n of your own".9-* The Salkalds are good people but the suspicion and envy and greed that eventually lead to the f a l l are anticipated i n t h e i r negative reaction to the new people who move i n next door. History i s beginning to repeat i t s e l f i n the pioneer community. The malignant condition of bigotry, so r u t h l e s s l y described i n Earle Birney's poem "Anglo-Saxon Street", i s beginning to take hold. Man seems doomed to continue making the same mistakes; but there i s always another'.chance. Mayhew has a great a f f i n i t y for the land and he knows 9 6 i n s t i n c t i v e l y that "the truth of l i f e and death (were) not the same" The story echoes the pattern o f Genesis. Mayhew i s both God creating the world and Abraham s i r i n g the men who w i l l populate i t . His creed i s the p r a c t i c a l wisdom of the pioneer and i t s a r t i c u l a t i o n ("You knew about permanence the day you moved into your own property") unites him with the land. The young boy, Honey, learning the facts i of l i f e and death from his grandfather, f e e l s the weight of h i s legacy. "The past was i n him, never to be forgotten nor ignored. But he didn't know whether he was to forgive. He wanted only to keep what was good and pass i t on." 9 7 The second story "When Jacob was a Boy", deals with the themes of sexuality and brotherhood that are^inherent i n every l i f e journey although the obvious antecedent i s that of Jacob and Esau, -^George E l l i o t , The K i s s i n g Man, p. 10. 6 I b i d . , p. 10. 70p. c i t . , p. 12. - 9 7 -grandsons of Abraham. Cruelty and death are the grotesques woven into this simple allegory. Throughout the st o r i e s , the individuals hover between the extremes of love and hate as the seasons and generations change, modifying a l l i n the complex relationship 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 colourful 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 Kissing Man" i s the physical and emotional centre of the book. He i s e x p l i c i t l y the saviour and, of necessity, an outsider. In the f i v e stories which make up the f i r s t half 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 social r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . In a l l the stories which follow, the motif of the kissing man i s continued i n the unselfish 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 for the impression they leave on the souls of the inhabitants of the town. The simple r i t u a l of their charity somehow motivates a positive response i n the hearts of those they touch which takes the d i a l e c t i c one step closer 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 direct relationship with the earth - 9 8 -must be articulated and organized. Words become the medium of understanding, a subjective response must be explained i n terms of objective truth. 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 external. A man i s bound by his own weakness to f a i l i n this s p i r i t u a l mission. His quest must be transformed into symbolic terms and his r e a l i t y must be transformed into some ideal being, even though i t i s the product of his 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 bizarre quality of i r r a t i o n a l i t y , or at least the strangeness of another r e a l i t y , i s such a man. Like Christ, he i s the mysterious and misunderstood giver. He has the a b i l i t y to perceive i n the tangled wilderness of man and nature, the proper medium for understanding. His embraces become a sacrament, elevating the l i v e s of the1, wretched, who have need. Who l i v e d once, and was a person to love, now i s a wisp of loneliness. Why i s i t that order of l i v i n g , loving and loneliness? Why do I see i t wherever I go? I dream of taking you, Miss C o r v i l l , and loving 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 for that, and giving i t , giving i t a l l the way no man ever did. 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 loneliness that leaves you dust. ° Man has always shown a need for i n s p i r a t i o n by those real and imaginary individuals who are able to transcend selfishness and illuminate 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 painful, too d i f f i c u l t to undertake without guidance. Op. c i t . , p. 70. - 9 9 -Th e expression of this need isn't peculiar to p r a i r i e f i c t i o n , but due to the special circumstances provided by a unique landscape with i t s obvious symbolic potential, i t becomes more obvious. An Australian novelist who demonstrates t h i s phenomenon rather well i s Randolph Stow, whose response to an environment similar 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 reconciles the r e a l and symbolic modes i n a l y r i c a l tribute 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 stasis of limbo, somewhere between heaven and h e l l . I t i s a ve r i t a b l e wasteland and the suffering i s r e a l , but somehow hope persists. Its 1' inhabitants, caught i n the cycle of time, wait for the way out, for the prophet to lead them out of the wilderness, since they lack the energy to change the i n e r t i a which a f f l i c t s the individual and the environment. They seize on the opportunity to resurrect the town and thei 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 kissing man, i s an outsider with the apparent power to heal. Water i s the medium which binds the physical and metaphysical land-scapes and Michael claims to have the power to find i t . Body and soul t h i r s t for the r e l i e f of the sacrament. Water, real and symbolic, w i l l restore l i f e . 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 fa r , so far, i n the country never mapped, on the border lands of death. He had been where Kestrel had not, where none of us had ever been. And he brought news."" He i s the catalyst which activates their optimism, "The d e s e r t ' l l blossom", but both Michael and the townspeople err i n forgetting that Michael i s too human and that his d i v i n i t y i s a posture of pride. In "The Testament of Tour-maline", Stow makes i t very clear that man, even Michael, i s the most dispensable aspect of 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 Tireless within the fountains play The grown man w i l l not pass away. Michael, i n his selfishness, w i l l decay. He i s the angel of l i g h t ('"And he,' she said, '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 purity of God". The f i r s t i r o n i c step i n Michael's descent into h e l l i s his discovery of gold instead of water. He confuses his special powers, i l l u s t r a t e d i n the discovery of gold and the arm wrestling match, with the privileges of a plenipotentiary from God: I slapped my palm on the table, and asked (too loudly, but I was unnerved by him) 'Who are you?' 'A voice,' he said, s l i g h t l y smiling, with a kind of holy complacency. 'A voice i n the wilderness.' 'Ah, this i s old st 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 fisher 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 R a l d o l p h Stow, "Testament of Tourmaline," Counterfeit Silence. P. 7 2. -101-he spoke to me, i n the wilderness. Now I'm his mouthpiece.'101 Because of the ambivalence of Michael's role 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, break-ing the degenerative cycle. This happens without Michael, who i s , i n many ways,i_a false prophet. Satan eventually gains ascendency over Michael ( " S o l i c i t not thy thoughts with matters hid.") His organization of the town i s reminiscent of the council of h e l l . When Michael achieves power, b i b l i c a l cadence gives say to the rhetoric of Milton: We met i n the street around the war memorial, and no one was missing but Tom, Dave Speed and Jimmy Bogada-- and, as expected, the diviner. Every remain-ing 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 his hoard. Rock was there, with Jack Speed, and Byrne as his lieutenants.102 Michael cannot save the town, but he can and does remind the people that they can be the instruments of their own salvation. He i s also 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 blind the eye to timeless colours") and as such serves a positive function. Tourmaline, l i k e many of the towns brought to lOlRandolph Stow, Tourmaline, p. 130. The imagery of Ecclesiastes i s as appropriate to this 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 platonic statement i n "Adonais": L i f e , l i k e a dome of many-coloured glass, Stains the white radiance of Eternity. - 1 0 2 -l i f e in Canadian prairie f i c t i o n , is 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 artist or the individual to them. Because of his heritage and perhaps the timelessness of the land, man appears to react in a predictable way to the actual and symbolic properties of the desert or prairie, ("I say we have a bitter heritage, but that is not to run i t down. " ) 1 0 4 Tourmal me, Australia and Horizon, Canada, inspire the very human desire to improve and overcome. Randolph Stow's world is not really very different from that of Sinclair Ross or W.O. Mitchell. Perceptions may alter with the individual, but, given the conditions of the Wasted Land, historical or contemporary, the ar t i s t w i l l respond in the medium of a shared language of conventional archetypes. Ezekiel's desert, Eliot's city, Stow's mining town, Mitchell's prairie and Coleridge's ocean a l l inspire, in spite of the obvious power of decadence, a romantic quest for perfection which is controlled by personal and cultural myths ultimately determined by the patterned-rhythms "of nature. In his discussion of the "Australian legend" Russel Ward arrives at a definition of nationality which ,is universally applicable: 1 0 4 Op. c i t . , p. 7 , - 1 0 3 -National character i s not, as was once held, 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 imagination of poets,^ p u b l i c i s t s and other feckless dreamers. I t i s rather a peoples idea of i t s e l f and this stereotype, though often absurdly romanticized and exaggerated, i s always connected with r e a l i t y i n two ways. I t springs l a r g e l y from a peoples past experiences, and i t often modifies current events by colouring men's ideas of how they ought " t y p i c a l l y " to behave. The quest and i t s subordinate messianic motif know no national boundaries, just as the seasons follow t h e i r r e l e n t l e s s course, bringing l i f e and death, everywhere. I t i s simply point of view which a l t e r s from man to man, a r t i s t to a r t i s t . The white l i g h t , which i s truth, i s a combination of many colours a l l con-t r i b u t i n g d i f f e r e n t aspects of r e a l i t y to a shared absolute. l u 5 R U S S e i 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 suffer the consequences of physical and s p i r i t u a l alienation. This i s the lesson of Odysseus, S i r Gawain and the ancient mariner, one modern urban man i n his i n t e l l e c t u a l arrogance must heed quickly or face extinction. The state of grace i s available only to the man or woman who recognizes, and accepts the lim i t a t i o n s of time and place i n struggling to create a better world. The desire for perfection should not be limi t e d but encouraged by an awareness of human f a l l i b i l i t y . 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 tragic because he i s t o t a l l y unwilling to communicate with his 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 for salvation when she recognizes the f u t i l i of her own pride. Like 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 desire "to sing i n their chains l i k e the sea." The lesson of Ecclesiastes 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 the^potential questor that only the f o o l , overcome by his own smallness i n a great overwhelming universe, "foldshis handsand - 1 0 5 -eats his own flesh."lO-For-some p r a i r i e inhabitants, Hagar Shipley and Abe Spalding •in Frederick P. Grove's Fru i t s of the Earth, a novel which i s more so c i a l document than flesh 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 factor i n the quest i s the need to relate the God within to the God without, the natural 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 least comprehend i n part the eternal 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 unite the old notions with the new experiences. The d i s p a r i t y between real and ideal can be interpreted i n human and divine terms. On one hand, there i s the farmer,^ Abe Spalding i n Fruits  of the Earth or Caleb Gare i n Martha Ostenso's Wild Geese, whose ide a l i s primarily m a t e r i a l i s t i c -- the wilderness must be cultivated. 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 in order to capture and i d e n t i f y elusive truths. 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 larger 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. Mitchell's Who Has Seen the Wind, with reference to Old Wong, who lacked the strength necessary to oppose the prejudices of the town. -106-through which the temporal and eternal mysteries are reconciled. The a r t i s t has a r e s p o n s i b i l i t y to interpret what he knows i n terms of lesser and greater r e a l i t i e s . An image repeated too many times i n Canadian f i c t i o n to ignore"^ 7 perhaps best expresses the need to relate human and divine 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 his footprint, compelling with his impression the d i a l e c t i c of progress. Hagar Shipley dreams of special powers: My bed i s cold as winter, and now i t seems to me that I am ly i n g as the children used to do, on f i e l d s of snow, and they would spread their arms and sweep them down to their sides,sand when they rose, there would be an outline of an angel with spread wings. The icy 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 different from a l l the others which come before or after i t . Human interference with the medium, snow, i s a shared property, but the impression varies. Some are more beautiful than others. Just as the common game i n a common medium produces a heterogeneous quality 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 different from those of Gander i n Robert Stead's Grain, or G i l Reardon i n Edward McCourt's Music at the Close. Whichever route the pilgrim choses to follow, however, he i s s t i l l bound to the quality of his environment and the traditions which have shaped his • ^ 7 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. 108 Margaret Laurence, The Stone Angel,-p. 81. -107-personal mythology. In tracing the development of basic environmental responses into l i t e r a r y motifs, Jessie Weston, i n From Rit u a l to Romance, explicates 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 particular to general, real to i d e a l . Just as landscape commanded the f i r s t attention of primitive man, i t demands description by the a r t i s t who i s then free to draw his own con-clusions. F i c t i o n and non-fiction writers, begin by describing a p r a i r i e so similar 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 non-fiction work, corresponds to the landscape of novelists S i n c l a i r Ross, W.O. M i t c h e l l , Margaret Laurence, Robert J. Stead and Martha Ostenso only as lowest common denominator. The quality of description varies and i t i s on the treat-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 novel. For Abraham and for Miss Wiseman, the angel i n the snow i s too contrived, too much under the control 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 different reasons, Raymond Knister's novel White Narcissus f a i l s to achieve sublimity. Knister, an imagist poet who died, perhaps, tooyoung to achieve the f u l l e s t potential of his promise, i s capable of breathtaking natural - 1 0 8 -description, but his 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 dulled sky. The evening, muted by wind and cold, given a sullen swiftness of animation, mated the feeling of Richard Milne. After a week of borrid weather i n which the very sky seemed to.r.melt, r a i n should have come to sweeten the smell of ripening grain and whitened clods. But f i r s t t h is dry cold, i n which trees writhed blanching, while now and again a cricket chirping up f i t f u l l y made s t i l l greater the removal from the sultry quietude proper to the time and season.109 I t may be s i g n i f i c a n t that Knister, 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 relationship between man and man, man and landscape. The music, both dissonant and harmonious, of environment must be heard and interpreted. Margaret Laurence and S i n c l a i r Ross are perhaps better writers because they have a fine ear for the subtleties 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 Literature No. 1 4 (Autumn 1 9 6 2 ) , describes the sense of place which the a r t i s t must translate into s i g n i f i c a n t universal truths. The sense of environment, vast, challenging and r e l a t i v e l y unexplored still.dominates the Canadian consciousness. And a panoramic view of the history of our arts could aptly be depicted i n a series of bas-reliefs i n which the figures are seen gradually emerging from, yet s t i l l supported by their background. The greatest a r t i s t s stand freest... they have resisted their surrounding enough to use them for their own ends; to use them i n the creation of universal statements, true not just for one man, Raymond Knister, White Narcissus, p. 3 2 . -109-region or nation, 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 particular character of his 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 id e n t i t y within vast immutable landscape are shared by the a r t i s t with every individual 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 philosophical concerns of the p r a i r i e writer, often related to his own personal quest as a r t i s t , are expressed by the inhabitants of his 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, articulates the relationship between man and nature i n his discussion of the North: That's a country for you. I f there's a God, I imagine that's where he s i t s and does his thinking. The silence i s awful. You feel immense things going on, i n v i s i b l y , there i s that eternal skylight and darkness -- the endless plains 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 -- figures of wood with mysterious legends upon them that you can never make out. The austerity 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 natural objects for the s p i r i t to react to. We are, after 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 exterior natural objects that i t has the semblance of negation. These people are thrown inward upon them-selves, their 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 re-leasing gesture.112 H u P a t r i c i a Barclay, "Regionalism and the Writer," Canadian  Lit e r a t u r e , No. 14, (Autumn 1962), p. 53. ''""^Ostenso's sexual honesty and treatment of female characters, p a r t i c u l a r l y Judith Gare, who struggles v a l i a n t l y against the conventional notions of femininity, i s very much l i k e D.H. Lawrence. The:, t e r r i b l e psychological tensions which exist between men and women, and the natural r e l i g i o n , whichhas i t s lessons for man, are also Lawrentian. ^•'•^Martha Ostenso, Wild Geese, p. 78. -110-Heaven 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 offers, 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 life."113 Even the attractions 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 truths. Hagar Shipley,,in The Stone Angel, learns too l a t e her need of the earth from which she sprung, just as Richard Milne recognizes the attractions of the early l i f e which he as forsaken for 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 far from i t he had travelled, though he were never to be called 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 carried 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 his children move from the farm. Caleb Gare, i n Wild Geese, even i n his psychotic state, knows that to be cut off 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 Knister, White Narcissus, p. 21. -111-Narcissus or Hagar Shipley, i n The Stone Angel, but he, or she, inevitably returns to the p r a i r i e for nourishment. Richard Milne had begun to write, 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 into 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 the i r false-fronted building and hard concrete, are an aberration i n the unbroken l i n e of p r a i r i e . They are a disturbance of the land and the values i t represents. 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 feel 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 disturb the harmony of a world i n which the steel -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 i n her b e l i e f i n the c i t y . I t i s her tragic i n a b i l i t y to distinguish between the false hope of the bookstore and the real hope of Judith, who draws her to the land i n their 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 Isaac^in The S a c r i f i c e , describes his c i t y , he artic u l a t e s the dilemna which not only ruins his father but i s a universal 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. -112-l i k e his 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 carries the pilgrim away from the p r a i r i e to the c i t i e s as well as into i t } i s an ambivalent symbol i n p r a i r i e l i t e r a t u r e . Symbolically, i t corresponds to the t r a d i t i o n a l vehicles 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 also associated with the mysterious and frightening power of modern technology; Abe Spalding's daughter Frances i n Fruits 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 this capacity i s often associated with the false dream, and lo 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 . Judith and P h i l i p Bentley i n As For Me and My House long for the romantic escape to a better 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, believing i t w i l l hold the key to the solution of their 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 Ellen 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 tracks. 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 . Like 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 le 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 physical ^ 7 A d e l e Wiseman;, The S a c r i f i c e , p. 13. •^Martha Ostenso, Wild Geese, p. 225. -113-and emotional demands of landscape become overwhelming. I t i s 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 birds i n Last of the Curlews, i s the record of a fight for su 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 eternity. Far overhead i n the night sky sounded the honking of the wild geese, going south now ... a remote, t r a i l -ing shadow ... a magnificent seeking-through solitude... an endless quest... 119 The idealism, which survives i n spite of adversity and inspires the pilgrim, 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 fa i n t but persistant 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 their being a romantic desire to p e r s i s t , f a i t h i n something better. " I t was a long time ago," Neil 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 believing 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 finished putting away the dishes, then sat down at the table and r o l l e d a cigarette. "Maybe you're r i g h t , " he said slowly. "And i t s the finest f a i t h there i s f a i t h i n mankind." N e i l opened his eyes. "Maybe", he said. "But a mighty hard one to hand on to."120 Ib i d . , p. 239. Edward McCourt, Music at the Close, p. 156. -114-Faith oftencmeans a fundamentalist r e l i g i o n that can be translated into fear. Prejudices resulting from a dogmatic moral code are woven into a motif of curelty which pervades much p r a i r i e f i c t i o n . 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 sa t i s f y the i n f l e x i b l e puritanical demand for perfection. Hypocrisy i n the name of God i s the most fr u s t r a t i n g aspect of that cruelty. The desire to relate the unknown to the known i n terms of f a i t h gives mystical 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 divine music and a God who i s alternately f i e r c e and benevolent. Rain i s r e l i e f for 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 flood. The same impulse that equates environment with aspects of Godhead, inspires the symbolic naming of human beings. P r a i r i e 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 Jessie Weston and writers 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 writer. He may describe the immediate, but he i s ultimately concerned with the universal. Robert J.C. Stead, Grain, p. ;79. - 1 1 5 -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 Aberhart i n Music at the Close. The same p r a i r i e that produced R i e l produced the bible thumping s o c i a l creditor, who, l i k e Michael Random i n Randolph Stow's Tourmaline, promises salvation but i s tainted with the principles 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 did not hear very much of what William Aberhart said. He was too much preoccupied with the spectacle that he was witnessing the spectacle of a people gripped by something approaching hysteria i n the presence of the prophet of a new age... But i n Bible 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 annihilation of whatever had been responsible for their f r u s t r a t i o n , and they were prepared to follow him with a kind of desperate trust i n the wisdom and the strength of the prophet because they no longer trusted their own.I 2 2 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, believing 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 inspired 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 free from the complications of thousands of years of c i v i l i z a t i o n , i s an ideal The p r a i r i e writer has responded He i s obviously concerned with the immediate but i t i s the truth that l i e s underneath or beyond which grips his imagination. W.O M i t c h e l l articulates a general truth medium for the search for truth, to the stimulus of enviornment. Edward McCourt, Music at the Close, p. 180. -116-when he speaks of his own writin g . I can't go to work on a piece unless I have some essentially human truth that I believe very passion-ately and that I hope sh a l l transcend time and region.123 P a t r i c i a Barclay. "Regionalism and the Writer", Canadian  Litera 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 Kissing Man, Toronto: MacMillan, 1962. Grove, Frederick P. Fruits of the Earth, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1963. Knister, Raymond. White Narcissus, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1962. Laurence, Margaret. A Jest of God, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1966. . The Stone Angel, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1968. McCourt, Edward. Music at the Close, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1966. MacEwen, Gwendolyn. Juli a n the Magician, Toronto: MacMillan, 1963. M i t c h e l l , W.O. Who Has Seen the Wind, Toronto: MacMillan, 1947. Ostenso, Martha. 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, Gabrielle. Where Nests the Water Hen, Toronto: McClelland a- and Stewart, 1961. Stead, Robert J.C. Grain, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1963. Stow, Randolph. A Counterfeit Silence, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1969. . Tourmaline, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963. Stringer, Arthur. The P r a i r i e Mother, New York: A.L. Burt, 1920. Wiseman, Adele. The S a c r i f i c e . Toronto: MacMillan, 1968. -118-Secondary Sources A l l e n , H.C. Bushaand Backwoods; a comparison of the frontiers i n A u s t r a l i a and the United States, Michigan State University Press, 1959. Barclay, P a t r i c i a . "Regionalism and the Writer", Canadian  Literature No. 14, (Autumn 1962). Bevan, A l l a n . "Introduction" to Music at the Close by Edward McCourt, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1966. Buckley, Vincent. "In the Shadow of Patrick White", Meanjin XX, No. 2 (1961). Burgess, O.N. "The Novels of Randolph Stow", The Australian  Quarterly, Vol. 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, University of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1966. Child, P h i l i p . "Introduction" to White Narcissus by Raymond Knister, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1962. Daniells, 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 for Permanence: the Novels of Randolph Stow", Journal of Commonwealth Liter a t u r e , No. 1 (September 1965). Harlow, Robert. "Lack of Distance," Canadian Li t e r a t u r e , No. 31 (Winter 1967). Hutchison, Bruce. The Unknown Country, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1948. Jackel, Susan. "The House on the P r a i r i e s " , Canadian Lite r a t u r e , No. 42, (Autumn 1969). Johnson, G.K.W. "The Art of Randolph Stow", Meanjin XX, No. 2 (1961). King, Carlyle. "Introduction" 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 Publications Centre, 1969. -119-McCourt, Edward A. The Canadian West i n F i c t i o n , Toronto: Ryerson, 1949. . The Road Across Canada, Toronto: MacMillan, 1965. New, William H. "A Feeling of Completion", Canadian Lite r a t u r e , No. 17, (Summer 1963). . "Introduction" to The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1968. . "The Novel i n English", The S i x t i e s , Vancouver: UBC Publications Centre,5 1969. . "Outsider Looking Out: The Novels of Randolph Stow", Critique, Vol. IX, No. 1. . " S i n c l a i r Ross' Ambivalent World", Canadian Lite r a t u r e , No. 4, (Spring 1969). Pacey, Desmond. Creative Writing i n Canada, rev.-ed., Toronto: Ryerson, 1967. Parks, M.G. "Introduction" to Frui t s of the Earth by Frederick P. Grove, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1965. Read, S.E. "The Maze of L i f e " , Canadian Lite r a t u r e , No. 27 (Winter 1966). Roper, Gordon. "Introduction" to Where Nests the Water Hen by Gabrielle 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 Literature , No. 23, (Winter 1965). Stevens, John. "Introduction" to Last of the Curlews, by Fred Bodsworth, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1963. Sypher, Wylie. Four Stages of Renaissance Style, New York: Doubleday, 1955. Tallman, Warren. "Wolf i n the Snow" Canadian Literature , No. 5 (Summer 1960), No. 6 (Autumn 1960). Thomas, Clara. Margaret Laurence, Canadian Writers, No. 3, New Canadian Library, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1969. - 1 2 0 -W a r d , R u s s e l . T h e A u s t r a l i a n L e g e n d , L o n d o n : O x f o r d U n i v e r s i P r e s s , 1 9 6 6 . W e s t o n , J e s s i e . F r o m R i t u a l t o R o m a n c e , New Y o r k : D o u b l e d a y , 1 9 5 7 . W i g h t m a n , J e n n i f e r . " W a s t e P l a c e s , D r y S o u l s : T h e N o v e l s o f R a n d o l p h S t o w " , M e a n j i n X X ( 1 9 6 9 ) . 

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