A Controversial Text
Peter van Lent
I t was inevitable that, 1980 being the centennial of Louis
Hkmonâ€™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 Mariaâ€™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,â€™ nor
does her choice of Eutrope show her to be one of the â€œzombielike charactersâ€ to which Georges Joyaux refers.2 Thus, I shall
argue that Mariaâ€™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