Dans les oeuvres des poètes italo-canadiens et italo-québécois, la thématique de la mort est intimement liée à l'expérience immigrante. La mort incarne plus que la fin de la vie; elle se transforme symboliquement en une mort culturelle. Souvent, ces poètes semblent incapables de transgresser la marginalisation perpétuelle, l'assimilation totale et l'indifférence silencieuse et invisible dans leur quotidien ainsi que dans leurs écrits. Peu importe la situation culturelle dans laquelle se retrouve le poète migrant, il y aura nécessairement une perte quelconque de sa culture d'origine. La fascination de la mort fait figure chez ces poètes d'un cri de culture du dominé lancé au dominant, et comme une réaction contre l'isolement et le silence.
Jacques Ferron's Cotnoir is about the relationship between salvation and imagination. The character of Dr. Cotnoir is the principal agent of salvation, but the narrator, who is also a character, is the artist who brings the salvation to public attention, thus suggesting the importance of art. However, the artist's role is necessarily secondary, as his creation and recreation of the world in his art would not be possible without Cotnoir's salvation of the character Emmanuel. Art, though important, is relegated to a kind of reportage, and must not be confused with the deeds to which the art alludes.
The story in Antonine Maillet's Pélagie-la-Charette is the Biblical account of the exodus in a modern context enhanced and reinforced by elements of mythology. The Acadians are compared to the Israelites, with Pélagie as Moses. As in Exodus, Maillet's characters depend heavily upon ritual and symbolism. In addition to Biblical allegory, the novel uses patterns and symbols associated with ancient mythology. There is a constant repetition of events and of dialogue, linking past, present, and future; this not only mythologizes the novel, but also confirms the motifs of renewal and rebirth. Ultimately, the cumulative effect of the two kinds of imagery is to convey the idea that Acadia's return is part of an eternal cycle.
Vanderhaeghe's extensive use of violence and the grotesque is a way of examining disorder; presumably, his preoccupation with these elements implies a longing for disorder's opposite. Vanderhaeghe's notion of the hero in fiction is a pessimistic one; his characters' extreme self-awareness ironically plunges them into fictions, so that their stories become metalepses. Metalepsis is described as a complex ironic stance, in which the narrative itself suggests metafiction, while the characters within the narrative are literally lost in their own fictions. For example, in the novel My Present Age, the narrator becomes aware of being a fictional type with the reality of Kafka's protagonist.
Sheila Watson's short story, "Antigone," utilizes many of the tensions typical to poetry. For example, the tension between past and present is apparent in the subtle differences to the Antigone myth upon which this story is based. The tension between idea and image is suggested by the explicit collation of characters with mythic figures. As well, the poetic tension between silence and words is deployed in "Antigone" to create spaces for the echoes of the words around them; these spaces allow room for the reader to interpret and thus add to the story, as happens in poetry as well as in mythology. Watson's non-conformity to the accepted rules of story-writing playfully echoes Antigone's defiance.
Aside from some token gestures, F.P. Grove's female characters are stereotypes, and these stereotypes are evoked and underlined by their clothes: with little variation, they are either earth mothers, dressed in Gingham, or femmes fatales…in silk. The three archetypes/stereotypes -- mother, siren, and hag -- are invoked repeatedly. Grove's fiction presents a conflict between a professed admiration of women and an evident fear or dislike of them. He is preoccupied not only with clothes, but with how people (women and men) are perceived in them. There is a fair amount of androgyny in the way many of his female characters dress; Grove's own feelings about this seem to be generally ambiguous.
The aim of Joy Kogawa's Obasan is political as well as aesthetic -- Kogawa wishes to articulate the silence that surrounds the treatment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War. The protagonist, Naomi, blends a Japanese attention to silence with a Western attention to words. Ultimately, it is words -- not so much the political, argumentative words of Naomi's aunt, but rather the enactment of love and faith" inherent to storytelling -- that harnesses the power to affect change. Yet it is not a triumph of the Western paradigm of words over that of the Japanese paradigm of silence, but rather an intricate, new-found interrelationship between the two in which the potential for change is discovered.
The search for emblems in Canadian literature is no longer completely valid. The desire to find and label similarities and differences has predetermined the findings; for example, Margaret Atwood's Survival presupposes patterns concerning victims, animals, and native peoples in Canadian literature as a whole, and these patterns, arguably, are forced to fit the book's ideological stance. There are similar problems with Philip Stratford's comparative study of French and English literature, All the Polarities. Criticism is becoming increasingly removed from the literature it is ostensibly examining. The pervasive need to subsume each work into the ideological pattern of an invented whole limits our understanding of the work in question. There is a need for a practical overview that has a linear structure but not a thesis.