Canadian Identity in David French's "Mercer Plays"

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“The culture of a nation is said to be the expression of the character of that nation. Canadian culture is held to be the mirror that reflects the lives, histories, and identities of Canadians.” (Statistics Canada)Over the course of our country’s existence there has been an ongoing debate of whether or not Canada has its own national identity. Some would argue that it doesn’t, and that its lack of identity is what helps the country to be more welcoming and culturally vast, while others would argue that it is exactly this type of adaptation to other cultures that is distinctly Canadian and therefore a trait of our national identity.“When the word ‘culture’ is combined with the adjective ‘Canadian,’ the problem is compounded. It is made even more difficult when ‘culture’ is combined with ‘identity’ in such phrases as ‘the cultural identity of Canadians.” (Mathews, 7) So what is our identity? What about us makes us distinctly Canadian? We like our beer and our hockey, is that it? According to one playwright from Newfoundland, there’s much more than that. David French was born in Coley’s Point, Newfoundland in 1939, and moved to Toronto with his family when he was just 6 years old. Even though he moved away at such a young age, the province, town, and the people have a significant impact on his works, especially in the ‘Mercer’ plays. “I remember the first six years of my life vividly” said David French in an article for the Halifax Herald in 1999. He has experienced two different cultures in his lifetime, that of the Newfoundlander, and that of the Torontonian, and those six years greatly influenced French’s work, specifically Leaving Home, Of the Fields, Lately, Salt-Water Moon, 1949 and Soldier’s Heart. At first glance one might think that the plays revolve around Newfoundland’s nationalism during its pre-Confederation period, but on closer inspection you’ll see that they aren’t just about Newfoundland, but about Canada’s history, and much of what actually makes...
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