Nature and destiny are the traditional sanctions of nation building, the former assuring a stable identity, the latter motivating its development. For Sara Jeanette Duncan, nation building is perilous because nature and destiny prove to be rivals rather than allies. The style of The Imperialist is often so trenchant that it tests the rhetorical strategies through which Canada is built by showing that they do not operate effortlessly; that national identity and political freedom are not always mutually supportive; that historical chance is not easily transformed into national destiny. Four major rhetorical figures — heroic, mnemonic, domestic, and racial — jostle for positioning within a national imaginary that can never fully be articulated.
Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace brims with references to the act of narration. Private and public narration intersect in Grace's tale, which cannot be said to be truly private or public, but which moves along a continuum between these two poles. In three realms, narrative transmission, her perception of her ethnic identity, and her adoption of gender roles, there is a movement away from the public toward the private. The mixture of public and private voice in Grace's narration is not merely a curiosity, but demonstrates Grace's unfulfilled needs for privacy and intimacy.
Margaret Laurence's Manawaka novels are marked by an impulse toward self-examination and transformation in the lives of four female protagonists. Following the confessional model, Laurence's first two novels, The Stone Angel, and A Jest of God are written in the first person, but the later two, The Fire-Dwellers and The Diviners, are not. By focalizing through the eyes of the protagonist, narration is expanded in such a way that even her third-person novels attain the immediacy the first-person. Until now, however, the question as to why Laurence makes this shift in narrative voice has not been adequately examined.
If Alistair MacLeod repeatedly examines similar themes and issues in his two collections of short stories, it would be a mistake to assume that they are built on the same philosophic or ideological paradigm. Compared to the persistent note of skepticism, doubt, and uncertainty which characterizes The Last Salt Gift of Blood, the later stories in As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories signal a clear and confident epistemological shift toward certainty. MacLeod's early texts are ultimately driven by a strong ideological commitment to a liberal humanist vision of the independent individual. The protagonists in the later stories discover and secure their identities only by fusing themselves with the larger community.
In the man with seven toes, Michael Ondaatje takes the bare fragments of a myth sustained on gossip and only marginal to orthodox "history" to create a raw landscape of bodies blurred between unity and disunity, strung strenuously across the gap between what Dennis Lee refers to as "earth" and "world." Ondaatje juxtaposes unlike images and ideas and fragments language, forcing both his characters and his readers to immerse themselves in a disjointed world that defies simple categorization. Neither the myth nor the manner in which Ondaatje manipulates that myth allows for reader complacency.
La quête du passé et de l'identité personnelle et nationale est à l'origine des romans historiques de Jacques Gauthier et de Claude Le Bouthillier. Les quatre romans des Chroniques d'Acadie de Gauthier (1992-1996) racontent l'histoire acadienne à travers les vicissitudes de deux familles ennemies. Dans Le feu du mauvais temps (1989) et Les marées du Grand Dérangement (1994), Le Bouthillier, quont à lui, se penche sur la déportation de 1755 et sur ses conséquences au cours de plusieurs générations. Les héros de ces romans, à la fois banals et glorieux, participent à la fondation d'un pays. En plus d'évoquer, par des attributs épiques, le peuple élu juif, Gauthier et Le Bouthillier tendent aussi leurs regards littéraires vers l'avenir tout en valorisant l'existence, la langue et la mémoire collective du peuple acadien.
Yves Theriault was a popular and prolific writer not known for his literary craftsmanship, yet his novel Aaron is a structural masterpiece. A close reading of the novel reveals how the structuring device of perfect symmetry identified by Renald Berube serves to illuminate its central themes: the confrontation between tradition and change in the modern world and the absence of a mediating force.
Numerous contemporary Québécois fictions show a willingness to engage in necessarily non-solidly-defined memories, to accept the nebulous quality of these memories, and to revel in this dynamic praxis. Sergio Kokis, in Le Pavillon des miroirs, investigates the notion of identity through memory. Instead of resolving his identity issues through involvement with the community, Kokis's narrator uses his paintings to connect his memories to l'identitaire. In Jean-Francois Chassay's Les Ponts, unstable and unverifiable memories have replaced history in the process of creating l'indentitaire. Through their explorations of memory and l'identitaire, these two Québécois novels constitute examples of a postcolonial exploration of identity as process and memory as mouvance.
In Brian Moore's No Other Life, Father Jeannot Cantave, after challenging the religious and social history of the fictitious Caribbean island of Ganae, abruptly disappears and leaves those around him waiting for his return, which strongly recalls Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. In both texts, the primary concern is absence. In the case of No Other Life, the reassessment of history that occurs in the text subsequently allows the previously unexamined to become its focal point. Jeannot's departure (or absence) forces those around him to alter their viewpoints of history.
Thomas King discusses whether or not he thinks Green Grass, Running Water is a Canadian novel, a Native novel, or both, the borders that cut between races, and the discomfort that the insider/outsider phenomenon creates for certain groups of readers. He also articulates his resistance to being labelled a comic writer and makes comparisons between Green Grass and Truth and Bright Water. He later discusses his radio show, Dead Dog Café, and his photography.
Stephanie Bolster elaborates on her writing process for White Stone, discussing publishing issues, various characters, and the length of time it involved. She discusses in detail the relation between the main character, Alec Liddell and Alice in Wonderland. She also relates information about her writing influences and her photography.