When Manitoba was established as a province in 1870 it was bilingual. However, over the decades the status of French as an official language had declined, and in 1916, when Gabrielle roy was seven, manitoba passed a law making English the only language of instruction in public schools. (This move was deeply resented by francophones, who saw it as a gross betrayal of the provinces founding principles.) But roy attended the nun-run Académie saint-Joseph for twelve years, where she was educated in both English and French. Thus not only was she fluently bilingual, she had access to the great literatures of both languages. For a future novelist, this was a tremendous advantage. The direction roy took after receiving her grade twelve diploma was a common one for young women of her era. She went to normal School—a crash course for young teachers—and became a public school teacher in rural schools.
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) Gabrielle was the youngest meaning of eleven children, of whom eight were living. Her year of birth was 1909, the same as my own mothers. Thus, by the time of roys extraordinary fame, she was just over forty. She was five when the first World War broke out, nine when it ended, and ten when the 1919 Spanish flu epidemic swept the planet, killing twenty million worldwide, including fifty thousand Canadians—which, in a population of eight and a third million people, was substantial. During roys childhood, smallpox was still a killer, as were tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping cough, red measles, tetanus, and polio. Infant mortality rates were high, as were maternal death rates. Both having a baby and being a baby were riskier than they are now, and this is worth noting since babies feature largely in roys work. Also in 1919 the winnipeg General Strike took place—perhaps the single most important event in the history of Canadian labour. Roys political leanings—Liberal, egalitarian, sympathetic toward the exploited—were formed early in her life, not only by the events around her, but by her familys attitude towards them. Roys family was francophone, but due to a legislative quirk she received a bilingual education.
Politically léon roy essays was a liberal, and when Wilfrid lauriers Liberals gained power in 1896, he was employed by the federal government as an immigration agent, helping foreign incomers settle in the province. (But live by the government, die by the government: when the conservatives won the election of 1915,. Roy was fired, six months short of a pension.) Although roys family wasnt wealthy, it was never dirt poor. Before he lost his job,. Roy was able to build a large house on rue deschambault, in a newly developed section of saint Boniface. It was this house that became the focus of roys semi-autobiographical series of stories, the 1955 rue deschambault. (Translated as Street of Riches.
Moreover, the hard way was in literary vogue: the roaring twenties gave us tales of the rich and profligate such. The Great Gatsby, but the dirty thirties had been characterized by such iconic poor people books as John Steinbecks. The Grapes of Wrath. Plutocrats were out, except in romance novels; the masses were. Not only gabrielle roys novel, but her life, was in tune with the times. Roy was born in saint Boniface, a largely francophone district of Winnipeg. Her parents were both immigrants to manitoba, attracted by the boom times following Confederation. Her father was originally from the Acadian community of New Brunswick; her mother was from quebec.
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There were a couple of women among the English ones, but they, too, were dead. Yet here was a living female canadian author, still alive, right on our curriculum. This astonishing fact passed without comment. The dreaded dictée hogged all our attention in our French class, and matters such as gender and nationality and class and colonialism and the bizarre circumstances of individual artists lives were hidden in the wings, preparing to make their appearance onstage over the next decade. But without the unknown wise and good who selected Gabrielle roy must have had their reasons.
How did Gabrielle roy pass their scrutiny? Gabrielle roy her first-grader class at Provencher School,. Gabrielle roy in Manitoba, at the time when she was making her debut as an amateur theatre actress and beginning to write short stories. A cinderella story, more or less. Part of roys appeal was her rags-to-riches Cinderella story. But Gabrielle roy had no fairy godmother: shed come up the hard way, and most Canadians could empathize with that, having come up the hard way themselves.
The approach we took to gabrielle roys book was intensely French. We practised the classic explication de texte —a close reading of the work itself. We unravelled the sentence structures of the text, but discovered little about its author. In English studies, too, new Criticism was the favoured method, so biography was barely glanced at: we learned everything about. The mayor of Casterbridge but nothing about Thomas Hardys life (possibly just as well, considering its gloom).
This absence of biography was normal for me at the time, but it seems very curious now—especially since the story of Gabrielle roy is just as interesting as the story of luzina tousignant, the heroine. La petite poule dEau. Who was Gabrielle roy? How did she become a writer? And why was her work chosen for a high school curriculum otherwise dominated by european authors, in both French and English? Dead male european authors, i might add.
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The cold War politics of the day may explain why it was Gabrielle roys. La petite poule deau that was on my high school curriculum, rather than. Roys novel was a set text for the French Literature final examination, and database those finals determined whether a student would go to university. We élèves pored over every word under the guidance of our meticulous teacher, madame wiacek. As her name might suggest, madame wiacek was neither French nor québécois; she was Polish—French being, at that time, the second language of choice for educated Poles. Thus it was that a roomful of Canadian anglophones with terrible accents were studying French through a book written by a francophone from Manitoba, under the often amused tutelage of a woman whod escaped both the nazis and the russians, immigrated to canada, and somehow. The most alarming event on the horizon was not likely to be an invasion of storm troopers or commissars, but the Friday night hop, at which a bunch of adolescents rocked and rolled around the gymnasium under the supervision of the german teacher, who was. This ethnic mix of students and teachers was not untypical: our high school fancied itself as Scottish, though some students were Chinese and a number of them were Armenian. This incongruous mixture was very canadian, and would have been fully appreciated by gabrielle roy herself—for among the many areas of Canadian life general that she explored, long before this exploration became fashionable, was its ethnic multiplicity.
Catchwords that had been all the rage in writing the 1930s and the 1940s were now out. You couldnt say working class or even world peace any more without attracting suspicious glances. In the world of B movies, invasions of Martians who would take over your brain and turn you against your fellow citizens were much in vogue: outer space was full of Communists, evidently, but so was inner space. Thus, gabrielle roys masterpiece of 1945, bonheur dOccasion, must have seemed like dangerous fare to the nervous educators of the 1950s. Not only did it blurt out the working class right on its 1947 American-edition flyleaf, but it focused on economic and social inequalities, and its most idealistic character looked forward to a just society. After roy, wed have to wait for pierre Trudeaus leadership speech in 1968 to hear this phrase given such pride of place again. (Its odd to remember this now, when the themes of the 1 per cent income equalization, and job creation have taken centre stage once more, but thats how it was in the timorous 1950s.). Gabrielle roy between her sisters Adele and Bernadet. Gabrielle roy in the hands of Mme.
- to-five job could provide. These men were already being lured away from their bungalows and wives into Playboy bunnyland by their fellow vet Hugh Hefner. By comparison, we teenagers of the 1950s were floating in what might be called the early betty and Veronica Age. Archie comics still described a reality we could identify as ours: old-maid schoolteachers, balding and comical principals, and girls who made pans of brownies in Home Economics so the boys taking Shop could make yum-yum noises and rub their stomachs. Sex was Archie with a heart drawn above his head. That was as far as things went, because love and marriage went together like a horse and carriage. Nobody had got around, yet, to asking the horse about its opinion. Meanwhile, in the wider world, annihilation by atomic bomb hovered as a fearful possibility, and McCarthyism had made any talk of social welfare or workers rights sound almost treasonably communist. Since the hungarian revolution had just been quashed by soviet tanks, we all knew what a bad thing Communism was.
S.S.R.—such an essential partner in the war—was now the enemy, and Smiling Uncle joe stalin had become evil Big Brother. A whole sheaf of wartime attitudes and memes had been tossed out along with the rationing books. The post-war cornucopia of consumer goods was in high spew. At the beginning of the 1950s, propaganda images of domestic bliss had been promoted to hustle women out of the work force, making way for the men returning from the war. The baby boom was in full swing, and four kids, an automatic washer, and a split-level bungalow was the ideal pushed by advertisers and politicians alike. Although Simone de beauvoirs. Le deuxième sexe was published in 1949 and translated in 1953, second-wave feminism was nowhere to be seen, or not by us high school students. (The book did not gain traction with our generation until Betty Friedans. The feminine essay mystique appeared in 1963.
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Gabrielle roy walking on the Plains of Abraham, quebec City, circa 1956. (Photograph from Album Gabrielle roy, from Francois Ricard). Preamble, i read my first work summary by gabrielle roy when I was sixteen. I was in my last year at a suburban Toronto high school. The second World War had ended barely a decade earlier, yet to us it felt like ancient history. Many things about that war, including the holocaust, had been deliberately buried. The cold War was underway; West Germany was an important ally, and needed to be treated with tact.