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with 'vitraux assez mesquins' (quite mediocre stained-glass windows)
and smacking of mercantilism, as suggested by an italicized local ex-
pression: magasin (shop). In short, the notion of paternal property is
ambivalent and poses the question of just what has happened to sepa-
rate the family from the father's residence.
The fourth paragraph provides a partial response to the question of
ownership, in that the father's house now belongs to one M Wagnaër,
who is identified as a foreigner, yet his nationality is itself somewhat
ambiguous, since his name sounds German, but he came from the
Channel Islands, which are part of England but have, since the 1789
Revolution, been home to many French refugees. It is, nonetheless, the
present home of Madame Guérin, albeit old and decrepit, that radiates
stability, with its immense ancient elm ('un orme séculaire et gigan-
tesque'), itself a symbol of family longevity, which dominates the scene
from its situation on an elevated mound of land, from which the two
brothers view the landscape.
Paragraph five shifts the focus back from the central place of the
home to the surrounding space, and from culture to nature: 'Devant
eux coulait le Saint-Laurent, large autant que la vue pouvait porter. Sur
l'horizon se dessinaient bien lointaines les formes indécises des mon-
tagnes bleuâtres du nord; une petite île verdoyante reposait l'œil au
tiers de la distance, et semblait souvent, lorsque les vagues s'agitaient,
osciller elle-même, prête à disparaître dans le fleuve.' (Before them
flowed the Saint Lawrence, as wide as the eye could see. On the horizon
sketched in the far distance were the indistinct forms of the bluish
mountains of the north; a small verdant island relaxed the eye a third of
the way off and often, when the waves stirred, seemed itself to oscillate,
ready to disappear into the larger river.) The Saint Lawrence River
dominates the scene by its very vastness ('large') and guides the view-
er's eye ('la vue') through the various planes of the composition, from
far ground to middle ground. Chauveau uses a painterly metaphor ('se
dessinaient') to situate the mountains in relation to the horizon, then
uses the indeterminate shapes ('formes indécises') and vague colour
('bleuâtre') of the mountains to suggest their distance. The singular,
smaller, more distinctly colourful form of an island ('une petite île ver-
doyante') emerges in the middle ground to reassure the viewers ('repo-
sait l'œil'), only to fall prey to the action of the waves, which make it
seem, visually, to oscillate, then disappear, suggesting at once the power
of the wilderness and the fragility of human efforts to seize it, even
through perception.
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