Regionalism in Canadian Literature

Topics: Prairie, Canadian Prairies, Margaret Laurence Pages: 10 (4236 words) Published: November 30, 2010
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The term regionalism is an inevitable idea when it comes to Canadian literature and the never ending search for Canadian identity. The definition of regionalism in literature is said to be “fiction and poetry that focuses on the characters, dialect, customs, topography, and other features particular to a specific region” (Campbell). Northrop Frye, a respected Canadian literary critic, discusses the development of regionalism in Canadian literature and stresses “the importance of regions to the creative imagination, arguing that an imagination conditioned by prairie stretching to the horizon would develop differently from one shaped by the huge mountains and trees of British Columbia or by the churning sea around Newfoundland” (Fiamengo). is that experiencing the variety of environments that exist in Canada would cause Canadian authors of different regions to develop and emphasize the specific aspects associated with their particular region. In their writing, regionalism speaks to the characters of the novel and manipulates their identity to match the landscape and history of the region. This displays a true connection with the region and there is “no doubt that regionalism stems from a deep personal involvement with a particular place, a lived experience that is not available to the causal observer” (Jordan, 9). In the novels As for Me and My House by Sinclair Ross and The Diviners by Margaret Laurence aspects of regionalism are very prominent. The central characters in each novel develop identities which reflect the regions in which they live. Ross’ characters, Mr. and Mrs. Bentley, develop the hollow existence and aversive attitudes that are common in small prairie towns. Laurence’s characters, Morag and Pique Gunn, develop an identity that reflects the history of the land and the happenings associated with the imagined town of Manawaka. The forms of regionalism in these two novels foster the idea that “metaphor relates man to the world in which he lives. It is a connective image which at once reveals a disparity and an affinity. The connection moves between the human individual and the perceived order of the world; it is always at once particular and indicative of identity, pointing to cultural orientation” (Adamson). Sinclair Ross’ novel, As for Me and My House deals with the tired, repetitive nature of small prairie towns in western Canada and how this nature becomes regurgitated in the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Bentley. In this case, regionalism that is associated with the prairies focuses on the landscape. Historically, the first settlers of the prairies attempted to deal with the environment. They “responded by trying to force the foreign environment to conform to their familiar frames of reference, with little success” (Jordan, 93). This novel is a representation of the prairie life through and though. It is interesting how the name of any town or reference to a province is obsolete yet we get the true feelings associated with the prairies still. In his book Introduction to Sinclair Ross: As for Me and My House, Roy Daniells says, “although precise dates, places and historical events are avoided, there is no doubt that these pages present the prairies of the drought and the depression, the long succession of years between the two wars” (Daniells, ix). Regionalism is also represented in the historical happenings of the region. The specific outcomes that the depression and drought had on the prairie lands are outlined throughout the novel and add to the authenticity of the experiences. When speaking of the drought and the depression, Mrs. Bentley says, “It makes me wonder how things are going to be with us. The crop is the town’s bread and butter too; and the first place we are going to feel the pinch is the collection plate. We’re behind already with the car, and now that Steve’s here the store accounts will climb just twice as fast” (Ross, 75). When Mrs. Bentley exposes her financial worries to the...
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