Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
the way, the passion for these adventurous travels (which happily is
diminishing daily) was then like a family tradition, going back to the
founding of these various companies, which, since the discovery of our
country, successively shared the fur trade.) In effect, the role of voya-
geur, like that of habitant, is linked to the most remote annals of the
French-Canadian identity, and the former, like the latter, can be consid-
ered 'comme une tradition de famille.'
Despite the narrator's admonitions to the reader that such voyageurs
usually return exhausted, penniless, and 'incapables, pour la plupart,
de cultiver la terre ou de s'adonner à quelque autre métier sédentaire
profitable pour eux et utile à leurs concitoyens' (35; incapable, for the
most part, of farming the land or taking up another sedentary trade,
which would be profitable for them and useful to their fellow citizens),
Charles heeds the call of the wild, that of his cultural avatars if not fa-
milial ancestors, and decides to enlist in the North West Company. His
distraught mother arms him with an ancient medal, notable for its sym-
bolic ambivalence, with Saint Anne, the patron saint of voyageurs (she
who guided the canoe in Cadieux ) on one side and the images of Mary
and Jesus, representing family solidarity, on the other, a solidarity bro-
ken symbolically when the departing Charles casts a pebble at the faith-
ful family dog to keep him from following.
Charles's departure not only diminishes the Chauvin family, it dis-
rupts its traditional ordering, since the father, now fearing the depar-
ture of his elder son, decides to give him control of the family farm in
exchange for a pension, loaded with strict conditions, detailed not only
to document country mores but also to show the growing rapacity of
the father. As Ouellet, Beaulieu, and Tremblay contend, the pattern of
family disruption is typical of the rural novel: 'Le roman de la terre ra-
conte habituellement une rupture: aucun fils ne peut ou ne veut pren-
dre la succession du père.' (69; The rural novel habitually recounts a
rupture: no son can or will continue his father's heritage.) Such disrup-
tion may well seem paradoxical in a genre that extols family solidarity,
and we shall return to its possible significance in due course.
After five years of family squabbles and financial failures, the father
and son decide to re-establish the previous arrangement, and the fa-
ther's land is returned to him. However, the previous order is far from
restored: 'On cherchait en vain au milieu d'eux le même bonheur et la
même harmonie qu'autrefois.' (55; In vain did they seek among them
the same happiness and harmony as in the past.) The farm itself has dete-
riorated under the son's mismanagement, and the father has lost his
Search WWH ::

Custom Search