Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
First and foremost, Chauveau chooses to focus on the educated French
Canadian, whose instruction and ambition should enable him to ad-
vance in society, but who finds most avenues limited or closed by the very
structure of a system controlled by the British bourgeoisie (see Lemire,
'Introduction,' 16). In addition to its broader social context, Charles Guérin
features contrasting love interests and friendships for the titular character,
relationships that enable Chauveau to explore various professions, mo-
res, and segments of society and thus make the novel, as promised by the
subtitle, a 'roman de mœurs canadiennes.' Moreover, multiple changes
in voice and shifts of perspective, the latter brought out through 'paint-
erly' landscape description, lend the novel a relativism and inclusiveness
that make it far more modern than La terre paternelle .
In the beginning sentences of Charles Guérin , an omniscient narrator,
revelling openly in his role as storyteller, presents the two main charac-
ters, the sixteen-year-old Charles and his nineteen-year-old brother,
Pierre. Set in the recent past (1830), the two young men have just gradu-
ated from school and discuss their bleak professional prospects in Canada
as they gaze over the landscape from their home in the country. While
many critics have commented on Chauveau's 'tableaux de mœurs,' 9 few
have noted the significance of his 'paysages.' Not only does the novel
begin with a lengthy landscape description, among the most detailed
and painterly in all of French-Canadian literature, but the site reap-
pears in various guises at different points in the story, providing the
novel with its main structuring and signifying principles. The passage,
spanning four pages (37-40), is so lengthy and rich as to warrant divid-
ing it into abbreviated segments, each one corresponding to a different
paragraph or part thereof:
Chauveau begins by setting the vantage point from which the two
brothers view the scene: 'Fatigués de leurs courses et de leurs discus-
sions, ils étaient assis sur l'herbe tout près de la blanche maison pater-
nelle, et, silencieux, ils contemplaient la nature grandiose qui se déroulait
de tous côtés.' (Tired out by their journeys and discussions, they were
seated in the grass near the white paternal house, and, silent, they con-
templated the grandiose nature unfurling on all sides.) Chaveau's paint-
erly manner is readily evident in his systematic use of all the variables of
visual art, beginning by identifying the viewpoint ('ils contemplaient')
and locating it at a specific spot ('tout près de la blanche maison pater-
nelle') from which he then lays out the parameters of the surrounding
space, which constitute the composition, the spatial arrangement, of
his description ('qui se déroulait de tous côtés'). Once again, the entire
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