Contexts of Canadian Culture: Maria Chapdelaine – The role of women in the early 1900s in French-Canada Student: Kathleen Adam Student #: 209809518 TA: Peter Stevens Tutorial #: 04 Course: HUMA 1200 Word Count: 1023 Page Count: 4 Due Date: Thursday, October 8th, 2009 Louis Hemon creates a story of the rural life in a family of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, the Chapdelaine’s. He uses the climate and traditional values in a way in which the novel still has an ironic and crucial element. Also, the beginning of the novel on Ite, missa est is (“the mass”) a claim on religious behaviour, a main theme in this novel.
Maria Chapdelaine, a novel personifying the spirit of French Canada at its most romantic, was written by author Louis Hemon, based on his journeys through the Lac Saint-Jean district of Quebec. The central character is Maria Chapdelaine, a strong and attractive young woman, who loses the man that she loves. She, in secret is planning to marry, the courageous Francois Paradis, when he dies in a tragic winter accident. Following the death of her mother and that of her secret lover Francois Paradis, Maria must choose between two of her possible husbands.
Maria then ponders for a long time whether to favour an active and eloquent emigrant to New England, Lorenzo Surprenant, who offers a better life and overwhelms her with the vision of bright city lights, or marry her other suitor, Eutrope Gagnon, a solemn, stable, but uninteresting neighbour. She generously accepts Gagnon, thus guaranteeing the continued existence of family, community and establishing the traditional values of rustic French Canada. The death of Francois Paradis is a big part of Maria’s life. He was the exact definition of a manly man, her true love. He represents the freedom of the Quebecois people. Francois” in English meaning “French” and “Paradise” what was desired at the time. Maria’s love for Francois Paradis is, “for her, her love for him, is a thing apart – a thing holy and inevitable – for she was unable to imagine that between them it should have befallen otherwise; […]. ” This proves that Maria longs for the time when they can be together, that it will not and should not be any other way. She continues on about how his presence is a “moving spirit like the joy of chanted masses. ” Maria would be lost without him; she thrives on his demeanour, stature, and genuine love for the forest.
In an unfortunate downfall, Francois Paradis parishes in a horrific winter storm on his journey to see Maria, over Christmastime. Now Maria has two choices, that of either Lorenzo Surprenant, the one who offers her a more material and luxurious lifestyle in the city, or marry her other suitor, Eutrope Gagnon, a man just like her father. She imagines her future with both men. She would love to be in the city, just as her mother had once wished, but she also has duties at home on the farm, as well as taking care of her family. Since her mothers passing she holds all the womanly responsibilities in the household.
Nonetheless, Maria Chapdelaine remains confused, heart-broken, and believes that she can never love another man as much as she loved Francois. In the excerpt given, the priest lectures Maria about her heritage and how Francois Paradis was never “truly” hers. The priest came to her not as a friend or someone to comfort her broken heart, but rather as someone to give her strict guidance. He tells her that she cannot dwell on Francois Paradis death, because “God knows what is best for us; we should neither rebel nor complain…” Which means that if Maria is not going to become a nun, then she cannot rebel against her religion.
She was put on earth to fulfil a purpose given by God, that of which is to marry and to bare children. She cannot mourn over Francois Paradis anymore, because they were never married. The priest tells Maria, “The duty of a girl like you – good-looking, healthy, active withal and a clever housewife – […]” meaning that she can no longer mourn Francois Paradis’ death and to move on and that she cannot complain because her life is good and she has much to live for. It is said in Christianity “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. However, the priest does not seem to agree with that statement. The fact of the matter is that death in the wilderness was a sad, yet common thing during this time in Quebec. Therefore, the people did not see it as a big deal; it was more or less a way of life. Unfortunately many people perished in this way. Another example of this is when it was pronounced that Francois Paradis was lost; everyone basically gave up hope, and simply decided to move on with their lives.
On another note, Maria Chapdelaine’s mother comes to mind when the words, “giving up” are used, but in a more positive sense. Maria’s mother gave up her wish to live in the city, so she could please her husband. The relationship between mother and daughter is very evident in this novel. It is implied by the priest that Maria has duties in the household and duties as a woman. Francois Paradis also knew that Maria would make a good housewife, one that would give wholly, love of the body and the soul that she would be a devoted spirit that would not waver. 6] These similarities are apparent when the daughter’s first love is represented by a symbolic abduction, (winter storm) that is followed by a return to her mother’s way of life. She generously accepts Gagnon as her husband, thus guaranteeing the continued existence of family, community and establishing the traditional values of rustic French Canada. The church and the farm provide a physical and symbolic setting for the romance, as the seasons and feast days provide a sequential framework for its action.
Maria knows her purpose is to stay and be dedicated to her family and to God, to marry a man, and bare his children. She is not selfish, she chooses to stay in the country and live the life she has always lived, just as her mother did. Both women gave up a life of materialistic wants in the big city, to do what was selfless and logically correct. Bibliography Hemon, Louis, 1880-1913. Maria Chapdelaine. A translation by W. H. Blake. The Macmillan Co. of Canada Ltd. Toronto, 1921. ———————–  Hemon, Louis, 1880-1913. Maria Chapdelaine. A translation by W. H. Blake.
The Macmillan Co. of Canada Ltd. Toronto, 1921. (pp. 11)  3 Hemon, Louis, 1880-1913. Maria Chapdelaine. A translation by W. H. Blake. The Macmillan Co. of Canada Ltd. Toronto, 1921. (pp. 111)  Hemon, Louis, 1880-1913. Maria Chapdelaine. A translation by W. H. Blake. The Macmillan Co. of Canada Ltd. Toronto, 1921. (pp. 168)  Hemon, Louis, 1880-1913. Maria Chapdelaine. A translation by W. H. Blake. The Macmillan Co. of Canada Ltd. Toronto, 1921. (pp. 168)  Hemon, Louis, 1880-1913. Maria Chapdelaine. A translation by W. H. Blake. The Macmillan Co. of Canada Ltd. Toronto, 1921. (pp. 99)