UBC Theses and Dissertations
Louis Riel : du personnage historique au personnage mythique et fictif Paris, Catherine Audrey
This study examines the relationship of Louis Riel's historical character to the myth of the archetypal hero and the subsequent renewal of the myth through the creation of a fictional character, "Riel", in two contemporary literary works: Claude Dorge's play, Le Roitelet (1976) and Rudy Wiebe's novel, The Scorched Wood People (1977). The first chapter deals with the evolution of Riel's "personal myth", showing how Riel's perception of himself as a messianic hero was influenced by Judeo-Christian models. A comparative study of millennial sects and their prophets illustrates that, in keeping with this tradition, Riel was able to translate his personal convictions into action because of the prevailing social and economic conditions. The second chapter focuses on Riel's life and its relation to the model biography of the archetypal hero. Many of the events of Riel's life and the circumstances surrounding them corresponding closely to the model. The third chapter presents an ontological study of Riel's "psychic life". Riel's preoccupation with incest and his evolving attitudes towards archetypal figures such as the "good" or "bad" mother and the "ogre" father are stressed, as they illustrate the universal aspects of the hero's journey. Emphasis is also placed on Riel's joyous acceptance of his approaching death. This chapter closes with a comparison between the mythological hero's journey and the schizophrenic crisis. The fourth chapter examines the fictional character "Riel" as presented by Dorge, in Le Roitelet and by Wiebe, in The Scorched Wood People. An analysis of the narrative technique employed in The Scorched Wood People and the "open composition" of Le Roitelet demonstrates how both authors depict the archetypal visions, attitudes and obsessions of a fictional Riel. The fifth chapter more closely examines certain traits and events attributed to Riel in both works. Some are born of the authors' imagination, while others are based on historical fact. Both authors present Riel as a Christ-figure. In Le Roitelet, Riel is metamorphosised into Christ and in The Scorched Wood People, there is a comparison of certain events of Riel's life to episodes of the life of Christ. Finally, Wiebe's depiction of Riel's acceptance of his death, as well as of his actual execution, is contrasted with Dorge's omission of these events. The authors' respective choices elucidate some aspects of Riel's transformation into a mythical hero. The conclusion examines the conflicting reactions Riel is still capable of arousing today. A series of questions is raised concerning this ambivalence and its effect on Riel's transformation into a mythical hero.
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