Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
and as in Charles Guérin , the characters embody a full set of paradig-
matic alternatives, each representing a different space and accompany-
ing personality type, here in the personages of Maria's three suitors: the
adventuresome François Paradis, her true love, a coureur de bois who
lives in the northern wilderness; the successful Lorenzo Surprenant,
who has left rural Quebec to seek his fortune in the big city (in the
States no less!); and the faithful Eutrope Gagnon, a nearby farmer de-
voted to Maria, her family, and the land at hand (see also Chapman,
Siting , 40).
Set in 1908-9 (see Boivin, 'Présentation,' 9), the action of the novel is
situated in and around the village of Péribonka near Lake Saint-Jean, to
the northwest and at some distance from the fertile, civilized, and highly
populated Saint Lawrence valley. Quebec was, at that time, in a transi-
tional period, moving away from agriculture towards industrialization. 2
Although the Lake Saint-Jean region was itself already highly 'colo-
nized' into farmland at the outset of the century and was beginning to
see the development of industry, especially wood-pulp production, 3 it is
hardly surprising that Hémon, who had firsthand knowledge of both
aspects of the local economy, would focus on agricultural colonization,
more removed from the European experience, more 'picturesque,' and
more faithful to a literary tradition already present in Charles Guérin and
brought to the fore in Jean Rivard . Maria Chapdelaine cannot, however, be
reduced to a mere 'roman de la terre' or even a 'roman du territoire,' as
several critics, to whom we shall return, have shown.
The novel begins with the unattributed (though clearly clerical) pro-
nouncement in Latin that 'the mass is ended,' emphasizing the impor-
tance of the Roman Catholic religion for the rural community of Péribonka,
from whose curé and church the phrase emanates. The remainder of the
first paragraph is a description divided between the village, its surround-
ing landscape, and its inhabitants, thus implying and reinforcing the inti-
mate link between 'place,' 'space,' and 'race':
'Ite missa est.' La porte de l'église de Péribonka s'ouvrit et les hommes
commencèrent à sortir. Un instant plus tôt elle parut désolée, cette église
juchée au bord du chemin sur la berge haute au-dessus de la rivière
Péribonka, dont la nappe glacée et couverte de neige gisait épaisse sur le
chemin aussi, et sur les champs, car le soleil d'avril n'envoyait entre les
nuages gris que quelques rayons sans chaleur et les grandes pluies de
printemps n'étaient pas encore venues. Toute cette blancheur froide, la
petitesse de l'église de bois et des quelques maisons, de bois également,
Search WWH ::

Custom Search