Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Romanticism, where nature cleanses and surpasses human foibles,
not just reflects and intensifies them.
This familiar (and formerly familial) landscape appears for a final time
several pages later as the family, on board the vessel that will take them to
Quebec, waits for the tide to rise. Here, appropriately, the viewpoint is
reversed, as is their fortune, and pluralized, as they all view the property
and surrounding landscape collectively from below: 'Seulement chacun
de son côté regardait à terre et jetait un dernier coup d'œil sur les objets
qui l'intéressaient le plus … Charles crut voir une pâle figure de jeune fille
s'approcher d'une fenêtre entrouverte chez M. Wagnaër, mais cette vision
fut tellement fugitive, qu'il ne sut pas trop s'il devait y croire.' (274-5; But
each of them on his or her side was looking ashore and cast a final gaze
on the objects of greatest interest … Charles thought he saw the pale vis-
age of a young lady approach the half-open window at M Wagnaër's, but
this vision was so fleeting that he didn't know whether he should trust it.)
Whereas the lengthy evocation of memories by various aspects of the
landscape (not quoted here) is typical of the Romantic period, the presen-
tation of the landscape itself is decidedly modern: Chauveau's use of the
same scene as a structuring device, the reversal of perspectives, the mul-
tiple viewpoints reinforced by the use of free indirect discourse, the visu-
ality itself underscored by the scanning of the landscape from one place
to another, and the visual confusion of Charles at the end, all these are
ways of seeing and representing the landscape that would not become
current in France until the novels of Zola and Proust and the paintings of
Monet and Cézanne in the late-nineteenth century.
As Charles, Louise, and their mother leave their former home and
travel upriver towards Quebec, it is the new landscape, described over
several paragraphs (276-7), that heals their memories and restores their
faith in the future. This landscape description takes on particular sig-
nificance, not only as the first not linked to the family home but espe-
cially as a key to reading the novel's outcome. In the first paragraph the
scene is described almost entirely in terms of natural phenomena (the
sky, the sun, the water, the land, and the light), and indeed it has a posi-
tive impact, not on the characters' cultivated faculties - 'la raison' (rea-
son) - but on their natural ones: 'la première impression faite sur leurs
sens' (the initial impression made on their senses). In the second para-
graph, the landscape is seen, rather, as a combination of natural and
cultural phenomena, as some islands, covered in virgin forests, are jux-
taposed with others that are cultivated and inhabited, and as certain
signs of (agri)culture are superimposed onto nature in its rawest form:
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