Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Chapter Four
New Horizons in the Late
Nineteenth-Century Novel
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Lower Canada, which be-
came Eastern Canada in 1840 (Act of Union) and then the Province of
Quebec in 1867 (Confederation), witnessed a rural expansion beyond
the fertile but overpopulated and agriculturally subdivided Saint
Lawrence valley into other areas of Quebec, where the underdeveloped
land required a struggle against nature, recalling that of the early pio-
neer heroes of the French colonial period. Indeed, the term ' colonisation '
is often applied to this national and nationalistic effort to clear the wil-
derness north and east of the urban centres of Quebec and Montreal
and turn it into agricultural land, a project promoted in 1848 by the
governor general Lord Elgin and promulgated by the Catholic Church. 1
In the novel of this period, the struggle for family identity explored in
the previous chapter takes on the additional dimensions of a con-
sciously articulated movement towards national identity in the Jean
Rivard novels of Antoine Gérin-Lajoie coupled with a quest for personal
and spiritual identity in Laure Conan's Angéline de Montbrun . Although
a seemingly unlikely pairing of novels, both of the titular heroes deter-
mine their destiny in the wake of their fathers' deaths, and in both nov-
els the land and the landscape continue to embody their identitary
struggle as well as its outcome, by expanding and reconfiguring hori-
zons, in one case beyond the Saint Lawrence valley, in the other beyond
the real towards the ideal.
Culture versus Nature in Jean Rivard
The agricultural utopia sketched into the epilogue of Chauveau's
Charles Guérin is developed later in the century in two novels by Antoine
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