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with a forest and mountains.) 7 The announcement contains the tacit im-
plication that the identity of the 'Canadien' is intimately bound to and
represented by his surroundings. Indeed the habitant in the foreground,
wearing the traditional bonnet rouge and smoking his customary pipe (a
habit acquired from contact with the Amerindian population), rests
while his oxen graze on his land that slopes gently towards the river to
the left, which leads the eye to the village, dominated by the traditional
clocher d'église (church steeple). The village itself is surrounded in the
far ground by the forests and mountains, which complement the bu-
colic scene, just as the untamed tree, rock, and bush serve to frame the
image in the foreground and to remind us of the past struggles that
have led to the present comfort. Here culture and nature coexist harmo-
niously and together define the French-Canadian identity, a product of
agriculture, religion, and the past, all anchored in the land.
One could argue that this combination of culture and nature is hardly
surprising since that's the way the landscape was in mid-nineteenth-
century Lower Canada (Eastern Canada after 1840), especially in the
fertile Saint Lawrence valley, but the question here is one of representa-
tion: Lacombe and Légaré, instead of focusing on one or another ele-
ment, chose a perspective that includes the whole, a choice that, I
contend, has a lasting effect on the depiction of the Quebec landscape
to this day, precisely because it reflects essential components of the way
French Canadians understand their country and themselves. Another
such literary ancestor is Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau, himself, like
Légaré, an important statesman and patriot. 8
Charles Guérin : Country and City
Chauveau's lengthy novel, Charles Guérin: Roman de mœurs canadiennes ,
first appeared in the Album littéraire et musical de la Revue canadienne in
1846 and was then published in volume form in 1853, making it a di-
rect contemporary of Lacombe's La terre paternelle . In fact, at first
glance, the plots are remarkably similar, involving a paternal property
threatened by the disappearance of one son and the relinquishing of
authority to the other, whose speculations then lead to financial ruin,
dispossession of the family homestead, and displacement of the family
from the countryside to the city, where the prodigal son later finds
them. Similarities end there, however, as Chauveau's novel is much
longer and far more complex than Lacombe's, going well beyond the
designation of 'rural novel.'
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