Quebec Studies

Thériault's Agaguk: The Matter of Closure

Quebec Studies (1986), 4, (1), 126–134.


THERIAULTS AGAGUK: THE MATTER OF CLOSURE Emile J. Talbot Critical commentary on Theriault's Aguguk, by now extensive, includes excellent psychoanalytical analyses by Bessette, Brochu, Lacroix, and Larin, thematic readings by Emond and Simard, and a semiotic analysis by Perron.1 Curiously enough, however, the critical investigation of Aguguk has, by and large, avoided discussion and analysis of what is for many readers its most striking feature, namely how it ends. While it is not possible to do justice to the extremely suggestive closure of Aguguk in this brief essay, I should like to call attention to some questions and some problems that the clotural scheme of the novel poses. Two moments in the last chapter of Aguguk could serve as closures to the narratological sequences that precede. The first, which I shall label "ending 1" for easier reference later, comes at the end of an emotionally charged scene when Agaguk decides to let his newborn daughter live. Clearly, the novel could logically have ended with the word, "Tiens,"* pronounced by Agaguk as he gives the child to Iriook, or, a few lines later with Iriook's words to him, "Merci, merci" (p. 326), or a few lines later still with Agaguks words, referring to his neonate, "Elk sera belle . . . Belle et forte" (p. 327). It can be demonstrated that Agaguk's acceptance of the female infant is an appropriate closure to the thematic development of the novel. But the narrative does not end at this point since there follows a final microsequence occupying about a half page in which a second child, a twin boy, is born. "Cette fois, c'6tait un garcon" (p. 327) is the last sentence of the novel. For purposes of discussion, I shall label this ending as "ending 2." Ending 1 is a brilliant clotural strategy that ends a brief but intense moment of suspense and, more importantly, fuses two major lines of development within the text. One of these lines encompasses the growth of Agaguk, whose decision to spare his daughter represents an irruption of conscience and a break with tradition that are the result of careful textual preparation.

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Author details

Talbot, Emile