Quebec Studies

The Representation of Solitude in Bonheur d'occasion

Quebec Studies (1988), 7, (1), 116–136.

Abstract

Québec Studies, No. 7 , 1 9 8 8 THE REPRESENTATION OF SOLITUDE IN BONHEUR DOCCASION by Gerald Mead Gabrielle Roy's Bonheur d'occasion is one of the most frequently cited examples of the post-war realist novel of Québec. A characteristic of this kind of novel is the pre-eminence given to the representation of a par­ ticular milieu, a social tableau of a specific time and place that reveals the conditions of existence found there and the forces determining the atti­ tudes and behavior of its inhabitants. Plot and character are subordinate to this broad portrait, or, more accurately, serve primarily to dramatize it and particularize it in terms of specific individuals and events. Plot is frequently simplified, rendered coincidental or fragmented, while charac­ ter development is centered not on exploring a psyche but rather on revealing a psychology, that is, on demonstrating personality traits and psychological motivations and on reinforcing this psychological defini­ tion through repetitive behavior, thought and reactions. In this way characters and events become typical or at least significantly representa­ tive of a social group or class in a particular environment. There are other elements at work in novels of this kind, for instance, the attitude of the author or narrator towards the characters, events and social conditions, formal questions of style, theme, narrative structure and techniques, and more. It is often these elements that define or identify the writer or novel, that have the greatest impact on the reader and that give the tableau a distinguishing tone or perspective. In Bonheur d'occasion, the theme of solitude is one of these secondary elements that comes to dominate the others to such a degree that it not only defines the particular tone and perspective of the text, but becomes an inherent part of plot and character, and, in fact, a controlling characteristic of the entire social fresco. The purpose of this study is to show how this functions in the text. 1 Although the five main characters in Bonheur d'occasion are linked by family relation or through the sketchy love story that forms its main plot, Roy's text in fact paints the picture of five separate identities and the solitary destiny each lives out during late winter and early spring of one of the early years of World War II. Rose-Anna Laçasse and her husband Azarius live in Saint-Henri, a working-class neighborhood of Montreal where they moved from the country shortly after their marriage some

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Author details

Mead, Gerald