Quebec Studies

Submersion and Resurgence of the Female Other in Anne Hébert's Les Fous De Bassan

Quebec Studies (1986), 4, (1), 158–169.


SUBMERSION AND RESURGENCE OF THE FEMALE OTHER IN ANNE HEBERTS LES FOUS DE B A S S A N Kathryn Slott In Qubbec novelist Anne Hbbcrt's latest novcl, Les Fous de Bassan, winner of the 1982 Prix Femina, the womcn of Griffin Creek are dominated and dcstroycd by the rncn of the community. If it is true that Hbbcrt wants us to hear "the pure voice of femaleness" in her writing1 why does she give the female characters so small a place in the traditional narrative of this novel? What is the significance of the high dcgrec of violence directed against women: Stcvcns' brutal double murder of Nora and Olivia Atkins, I r h c ' s suicide hanging, and the virtual enslavement of Pat and Pam Brown by their uncle, the Reverend Nicolas Jones?2 One can agree with Neil Bishop that the motivating force in the novel is the tension between male and female desire: male desire, "masculin/machiste . . . t5goiste, malsain, d6coulant de pulsions destructriccs, orient6 vers la mort," and female desire, "fbminin/fbministe . . . sain, positif, tourn6 vers la vie et le bonheur."3 Despite the morally superior position of women in this novel, rncn do overpower them. Nevertheless, Bishop fccls that Hkbert, by pcrsonally engaging herself as a woman author in writing about the struggle of her women characters, "par Z'acfe &e de Z'kcrire," counterbalances the male domination of the women in the story and invests in them a positive value? Rathcr than rcly solely on conjecture about the ideological stance of the author, onc can find othcr clues in the text that point to the validation of fcmalc prcscnce and the empowerment and rcsurgcnce of fcmalc cncrgy. The notion of %If and Other as articulatcd by Simonc d e Bcauvoir in The Second Sex, is extrcmcly useful for intcrprcting thc malc-female desire dichotomy in Les Fous de Bassan, for i t providcs a thcorctical framework for analyzing the charactcriza tion, the symbolic structure, and the narrativc of this novel. Dc Bcauvoir writes:

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Author details

Slott, Kathryn