Travel Reference
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Maria, assise, près de la petite fenêtre, regarda quelque temps sans y penser
le ciel, le sol blanc, la barre lointaine de la forêt, et tout à coup il lui sembla
que cette question qu'elle s'était posée à elle-même venait de recevoir une
réponse. Vivre ainsi, dans ce pays, comme sa mère avait vécu … Oui, elle
serait capable de cela; et une sorte d'étonnement lui vint, comme si c'était là
une nouvelle révélation inattendue.' [188-9; Maria, seated near the small
window, looked for awhile, without thinking about it, at the sky, the white
earth, the faraway bar of the forest, and suddenly it seemed to her that this
question she had asked herself just got an answer. To live in this land, like
her mother had lived … yes, she would be capable of that; and a sort of
astonishment came over her, as if it were a new unexpected revelation.]
But it is a lesson she hesitates to follow, and she continues to ask the tell-
ing question, 'pourquoi rester là?' (why stay here?). It is at this point,
near the end of chapter sixteen, that she hears the famous voices whose
message echoes throughout French-Canadian literature. Rather than re-
peat the well-known and frequently discussed message here, I will dwell
on a lesser-noted yet highly significant aspect: the role of the landscape.
First of all, Hémon makes it clear that the voices are those of Maria
herself and come from within, the voices of her own conscience: 'Elles
n'avaient rien de miraculeux, ces voix; chacun de nous en entend de
semblables lorsqu'il s'isole et se recueille assez pour laisser derrière lui
le tumulte mesquin de la vie journalière. Seulement elles parlent plus
haut et plus clair aux coeurs simples, au milieu des grands bois du
Nord et des campagnes désolées.' (190; They had nothing miraculous,
these voices; each of us hears similar ones when we are alone and
thoughful enough to leave behind the petty turmoil of everyday life.
Only they speak louder and clearer to simple hearts, in the middle of
the great woods of the North and the desolate countryside.) Although
the voices are from the interior, they are released by a surrounding
landscape that favours their perception and interpretation ('au milieu
des grands bois du Nord et des campagnes désolées').
Indeed the first voice is that of the land itself: 'La première voix vint
lui rappeler en chuchotant les cent douceurs méconnues du pays qu'elle
voulait fuir.' (190; The first voice came to remind her with a whisper of
the hundred unrecognized pleasures of the land she wanted to flee.)
The land is seen less as a combat of culture and nature than as their
combination, and the 'voice' insists not only on the work, but on the
beauty of the land, by invoking the very scene depicted in the October
landscape, again in a visual manner: 'à trois cents pas de la maison les
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