Quebec Studies

Maria Chapdelaine: A Controversial Text

Quebec Studies (1983), 1, (1), 224–231.

Abstract

Maria Chapdelaine: A Controversial Text Peter van Lent I t was inevitable that, 1980 being the centennial of Louis Hkmon’s birth, his novel Maria Chapdeluine should have generated a reawakening of literary attention. More surprising, however, was the fact that so many of the critics were so severe in their treatment of the novel. Certainly no one could deny that contemporary readers with different and often heightened sensibilities would find the novel unsatisfying in some respects. Nonetheless, some of the criticism is out of perspective and a voice of defense for the novel should be raised. As I reread the novel and reviewed the recent criticism devoted to it, I became convinced of two things: first, the most controversial part of the novel is the interpretation of Maria’s final decision to remain in Quebec and marry Eutrope Gagnon (and here I willingly state that I find negative comments aimed at other parts of the novel to be non-controversial because I agree with many of them). Secondly, 1 became convinced that there is a case to be made that Maria came to her decision in good faith, for her own reasons, and was not victimized by a manipulative society as Deschamps, HCroux and Villeneuve would have us believe,’ nor does her choice of Eutrope show her to be one of the “zombielike characters” to which Georges Joyaux refers.2 Thus, I shall argue that Maria’s choice of mate and life-style represents a conscious commitment on her part to a rural life as an habitante. Before beginning our specific argument, we must take a stand on certain issues, both because this will enable us to see clear to our problem and because we cannot begin a more intrinsic analysis without some determination of our starting point. Each of these issues could easily fill a twenty-minute presentation, and each is knotty enough to bog down our analysis unless definitive decisions are made. You must believe that in some

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van Lent, Peter