Quebec Studies

Monumental Constructions: Statues, Identity, and Gabrielle Roy’s “L’arbre”

Quebec Studies (2021), 72, (1), 97–117.

Abstract

Mitch Landrieu, former mayor of New Orleans garnered significant attention for his book In the Shadow of Statues (2018), observing that many Confederate monuments were erected to buttress Jim Crow laws and serve as a warning to those who supported the civil rights movement. Likewise, there are a number of monuments in Québec that serve a particular political or religious purpose, seeking to reinforce a pure laine ideology. In this article, I explore the parallels between the literal and figurative construction and deconstruction of monuments that have fortified invented ideas on identity in francophone North America. Further, Gabrielle Roy’s short story “L’arbre,” which describes a “living monument,” tells the story of a racialized past in North America and unveils the falsities that have been preserved through the construction of statues that perpetuate racial myth. “L’arbre” examines the natural, unconstructed monument of the Live Oak: a tree that witnessed and holds the visible scars of the many terrible realities that took place in its shadows. I use Roy’s short story to show how she sought to deconstruct a whitewashed history of the post-Civil War American South and suggest that her broader corpus rejects determinism wholesale.

L’ancien maire de la Nouvelle Orléans, Mitch Landrieu, a attiré l’attention d’un grand public avec son livre In the Shadow of Statues (2018), dans lequel il souligne le fait que les monuments des Confédérés ont été érigés plutôt pour renforcer les lois Jim Crow et pour dénigrer le mouvement des droits civiques aux États-Unis. De même, il existe un certain nombre de monuments au Québec qui soutiennent une idéologie du Québécois « pure laine ». Dans cet article, j’examine les parallèles qui existent entre la construction et la déconstruction (littérales et figuratives) des monuments qui ont fortifié des idées inventées de l’identité en Amérique. De plus, la nouvelle « L’arbre » de Gabrielle Roy, qui décrit « un monument vivant », raconte l’histoire d’un passé racialisé en Amérique et dévoile les mensonges qui ont été préservés dans la construction des monuments. « L’arbre » interroge le monument naturel et non construit du chêne vert: un arbre qui a vécu, a vu, et tient les cicatrices visibles des réalités terribles qui ont eu lieu aux ombres de ses branches. J’emploie une analyse de la nouvelle de Roy pour montrer comment elle a cherché à déconstruire une histoire dissimulée du Sud des États-Unis. De plus, je suggère que son corpus plus large rejette entièrement le déterminisme identitaire.

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Collins, Holly