During the 20th century, predominant patterns of habitation in
In Canadian literature, a corresponding shift can be seen in fictional settings; and transitions from pastoral to urban settings have been associated with new themes and archetypes, as well as a revised approach to realism. However, given that this country’s perceived literary identity itself has been shaped by a deep and abiding contact with nature, it is interesting to question the extent to which a shift to urban settings automatically marks ‘new ground’ in Canadian fiction.
Narratives “portray man in conflict with a forbidding land and a forbidding climate, in conflict with his own inchoate impulses…and in conflict always with time which quickly eats away that which he builds.
With the creation of a Canadian nation in
But actually experiencing the North, getting out into the wilderness, has been through the the technological tool that made possible the extension of European control, the means by which this new space was most intensely experienced. So the frequency with which journeys by canoe appear in Canadian literature comes as no surprise. The canoe's literal function is that it enables one to move about in an otherwise impenetrable country, but symbolically it allows one to meet dangers and overcome challenges, to experience the land in the most intimate possible way, to identify with the native inhabitants, to achieve varying degrees and kinds of freedom. Interestingly enough, the earliest use of this motif to suggest some of these qualities seems to be found in the work of Susanna Moodie's contentment at being able to paddle off in a canoe and simply achieve solitude for a while. Certainly part of their delight stems from the ability that moving about in a canoe gave them to escape their usual gender roles, something that would not have applied to men. But as the century wore on, the canoe motif is increasingly found in works by men as well, in the form of poems and prose in which the writers go out to deliberately encounter and experience the wilderness (Lampman's "Temagami" is a good example of this).
Increasingly in the twentieth century these journeys are seen as retreats, or at least temporary withdrawals from civilization, spiritual journeys, journeys into a symbolic space: for Duncan Campbell Scott the journey to "The Height of Land" brings a mystic sense of the harmony of the contradictory forces of life. this corresponds to the general trend towards employing the wilderness for symbolic purposes.
An essentially sympathetic picture of the Natives was created around the turn of the century by Duncan Campbell Scott, with his poetry and tales of Indians' endurance and their dignity in the face of great adversity, and the insensitivity of Whites.