Working within the "topocentric" assumption that Canadian culture derives part of its vitality and coherence from the dialectic between the sections and spaces of the country, it can be argued that from the beginning to the present there has been in Canadian poetry the possibility of two distinct and antithetical stances: that of the baseland and that of the hinterland, which correspond to the broad divisions in the Canadian landscape and their resulting psychological orientations. It can be shown that the radical disjunction between these two stances, though by no means incapable of reconciliation, has, at times, caused considerable animosity between poets and critics of opposing perspectives, and, moreover, has since World War II played a considerable part in the development of Canadian poetry.
The major concept that characterizes the fiction of Alice Munro is that of paradox, a concept which also characterizes the vision of photographic realists. Munro's fiction centres on the paradox of the familiar and the exotic as well as on that of movement and stasis; that is, Munro defamiliarizes everyday objects, and she also creates a meeting place where motion and stillness can unite -- just as in a photograph. Thus, by fusing these disparate elements into a synthesis which is paradox, Munro brings her intuition to the surface, and she keeps it there, bonding into a single entity photographer, camera, time, and the objective world.
The vague spaces of D.C. Scott's poetry are a poetic equivalent for the power that initiates and engenders a spiritual growth, the phases of which require corresponding personal deaths. Presumably a true poet would have unique experiences of the varied interventions recreated in "The Magic House," "Avis," "By the Willow Spring," "The Nightwatchman," and "Amanda," but Scott's vision extends beyond poetic creativity. His sustained tone of wonder; his consistent use of diction, allusion, and symbol that have religious overtones; his highly crafted, probing discrimination and weighting of language toward uncovering the mysterious source of poetry; his pervasive attention to the need for the right human response while being painfully aware of imperfection and dependence -- all imply a transcendent absolute. Thus, the vagueness of Scott's poetry, which is decried or excused by critics, is neither a flaw nor a weakness; rather, vagueness, for Scott, is an intrinsically essential and sensitive instrument for articulating his experience of life.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Darwinism troubled Canadian idealists grievously, for, from an empirical point of view, such scientific discoveries clearly held much truth, and yet they fell so far short of providing a complete and satisfying world picture that they could not by themselves command belief. Wilfred Campbell responded publicly to the controversy surrounding evolution and Darwinism by writing poems touching on the subject of humankind's origin, but privately his response was so much more elaborate that it must have amounted to an obsession: he wrote a twenty-two chapter monograph called "The Tragedy of Man." This treatise describes the process by which humanity received its spiritual nature and the repercussions of this theory in all aspects of human life, both individual and collective.
In Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, a complete picture emerges of a Billy who feels vulnerable, threatened by death, by the unleashed energy of sexuality, by the disorder of the natural world. Instinctively, he seeks to restrain and contain the forces ranged against him: he compiles lists, tries to deny the passage of time, distances himself from the knowledge of mortality. Fearing there is no God, no ordered universe, yet desperately wanting structure, Billy feels the need to create order where none exists. And though he begins to take advantage of his role as "author," he inevitably submits to the fact of his ultimate powerlessness.
Byrne's "The Blood Hardened and Blood Running: The Character of Orville in Blood Ties" does David Adams Richards's novel a disservice. Byrne's fundamental idea is that the community's only hope lies with Orville, for Orville functions as a symbolic battleground in which positive female forces contend with negative male forces -- forces which are, respectively, representative of Good and Evil. However, Orville is not unique in displaying this kind of psychological complexity and these symbolic dimensions. Moreover, in Richards's fiction, no single character represents the key to local regeneration, if there even is any possibility of regeneration. Finally, Byrne's division of the characters into male/evil and female/good is found lacking because it is overly simplistic and negates the human complexity of the different characters.