THE CHILD HERO IN THE CANADIAN NOVEL
Reviewed by Kenneth Field
Reviewed by Kenneth Field
Volume 20 Number 4
Theresia Quigley, a professor of English and Canadian comparative Literature at 1'Universite de Moncton, has set out to examine the use of children as central characters in Canadian novels spanning four decades from the 1940s to the 1980s. In addition, she further defines the use of child heroes by dealing with English-Canadian writers and French-Canadian writers, who have at times shared a common vision of the child or children in their novels but at other times have treated the child characters entirely differently.
Quigley provides detailed character expositions of the children in the novels and also draws on the environmental influences upon and the behavioural characteristics of the fictional children to show how children in real life Canadian society were and are being dealt with by adults and society. In the early chapters of the book, the author dwells too much, I think, on the characters being discussed without providing the necessary contextual information, such as the author's intent in creating characters, who, with the exceptions of W.O. Mitchell's Brian from Who Has Seen the Wind and Gabrielle Roy's Christine from Rue Deschambault (Alain Stante, 1955,1980) and La Route d'Altamont (Editions HMH, 1966; Fonds Gabrielle Roy, 1992), are decidedly dark, sad and desperate individuals.
The characters from the novels of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s as portrayed by both English-Canadian and French-Canadian writers are, as just stated, a sad and pitiful lot. That Quigley takes these portrayals of children to be those which definitively describe the child in Canadian society as a whole, I find difficult to accept. That is not to say that children in jeopardy are not to be found in any society, and in some more than others, but to examine fictional characters without examining the intent of the author and without providing further evidence of the frequency of the deplorable lives of children in society paints a distorted picture of reality. In chapters five and six, however, the author provides a more balanced and critical examination of works by Margaret Laurence, Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood and W.O. Mitchell by providing the contextual information that is lacking in the previous four chapters. She examines the characters portrayed as well as the authors' intentions and purposes in creating such characters.
The book has a bibliography and index. In addition, plot summaries of the novels discussed are provided.
In conclusion, I think this book fulfills its purpose as a set of character expositions, but as a critical work on the child character in Canadian novels it falls short of the mark. This book is best suited to an introductory course on Canadian literature.
Kenneth Field is a librarian at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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