Heirs, apparently: nation-building in Isabella Valancy Crawford's Winona.
Winona falls into a genre typical of the story paper context in which it first appeared--the Victorian sensation novel. Along with an emphasis on popular appeal, the sensation novel also presented a challenge to reigning cultural conceptions. As Winona's editors explain, the sensation novel was involved in the debate about the "so-called 'woman question'--the controversy over women's nature and place in society" (37). Lyn Pykett, examining the sensation novel, women writers, and representations of women in nineteenth-century society, writes that sensationalist writing combined several "dominant female forms of the early nineteenth century," including "domestic realism" in such a way as to challenge women's "prescribed social and familial roles" (6). For Early and Peterman, "With its climatic triple wedding, Crawford's novel certainly reinforces the most conservative of 'solutions' for women in nineteenth-century Canada and in the world of nineteenth-century fiction," but Winona's "status as 'Indian' ... permits her contravention of the normative femininity represented in all the other women" (42). Yet, ultimately, this potential challenge to dominant roles is undermined in Winona. In this family, the wife is settled into the domestic, the "Indian" is excluded as outsider, Winona reinforces these conservative roles, and Winona (the text as a whole) reinforces their prominence in its narrative.
In this narrative featuring--as Ailsa Kay argues in "Sensation and Civility: Protecting the Confederation Family in Isabella Valancy Crawford's Winona; Or, the Foster-Sisters" (1)--a family that is itself a confederation representing various Canadian identities, a significant aspect of Winona is its anticipation of Crawford's ongoing exploration of Canada as nation. In particular, the editors note, "a passage on pioneering (134-35) looks forward to the central 'nation-building' passages of both 'Malcolm's Katie' and Hugh and Ion" (34). While Crawford continues to consider nation building in her later, most well-known works, she had also been investigating the theme since her earliest writings. Margot Dunn examines the "fairy stories" which Crawford seems to have written in her late childhood or teenage years (19), finding this work to "show the roots of her optimism about the growing civilization of Canadian society" (27). Dunn also finds in this early writing that "Crawford's presentation of the idea of the woman (or female principle) holding the world together and the man (or male principle) venturing forth to other worlds translates into a study of the Victorian family situation, not very changed a century later" (29). This combined interest in the family and the nation is important in considering Winona's family-as-nation as well as the demonstration of a particular conception of belonging and entitlement that I find in Crawford's depiction of the early Canadian nation.
While Dunn notes Crawford's optimism about Canadian nation building, Early and Peterman point to the critical disagreement surrounding Crawford's later stance on settlement (13). In Winona, this ambiguity is most evident in Winona's position in the story, a position reflecting the time of Crawford's writing as one in which Canadian settlers' attitudes toward indigenous peoples are shifting. Eva Mackey, in her study of Canadian national identity, demonstrates that "As settlement increased, Canadian historical writing began to place Native peoples in a more historical role.... Whereas earlier it had been assumed Native people could change and develop, they were increasingly presented as incapable of civilization" (28). Although she is the titular character, Winona is, as Kay points out, "only briefly allowed to occupy the position of hero" (12) as a champion of the "Confederation family" which "does not defend itself, but is defended by outsiders" (5). For Kay, Winona, "not part of the Confederation family" (31), is instead part of the "violent excisions required to protect the family" (36). Winona helps to maintain a particularized belonging in this family, enforcing even her own exclusion.
Crawford's ambiguous treatment of the Canadian nation also comes in the context of literature's, as Jonathan Kertzer puts it, "reorient[ation] in light of the patriotic missions of nineteenth-century nationalists" (11). In Worrying the Nation, Kertzer interrogates the intersection of the English-Canadian nation, literature, and history. He argues that while it is aligned with patriotic missions literature also "exposes the national life as unjust, and even monstrous, because it has the paradoxical ability to criticize the ideology in which it is immersed and by which it is compromised" (12). Similarly, the editors of Re-Calling Early Canada point to such ambiguity as a wide phenomenon, suggesting that, "generated during the period when 'Canada' was under construction, early Canadian artifacts offer particularly revealing sites" (xxvii) through which to note "the diversity that has always undermined the coherence of the Canadian nation-state, which suggests the importance of radically and literally reading early Canada as a site of conflicting confederacies" (xxiii). It is likewise possible to read Winona as a defence of the settlement project in relation to the novel's own betrayal of this undermined diversity. I will argue that Winona conceptualizes the basis of inclusion into settler society as the execution of one's proper duty but actually demonstrates that inclusion to be dependent upon a pre-existing rightness of identity.
In Winona, the title character--the daughter of a Huron chief adopted into a white family--functions as the link to the land, but Androsia, her white foster sister, is also an indigenized presence, entering the story wearing moccasins and speaking in an "Indian tongue" (Crawford 86). The two girls are raised in the seclusion of the wilderness, an isolation which Androsia's father, Colonel Howard, hopes will protect Androsia from the evils he perceives in urban society. Despite the family's seclusion, Andrew Farmer gains admittance to the group as a suitor, secretly wooing Winona only to jilt her in his ploy to marry the unwilling Androsia for her inheritance. When Androsia disappears (we later discover Farmer is responsible for her kidnapping) Archie Frazer, a young soldier arriving at the wilderness retreat in place of his sick father, an old friend of Howard's, attempts her rescue. Although he fails, Winona successfully returns with her foster sister. Winona liberates Androsia but she lets Farmer escape, only to see him return in a new guise after Archie moves the women to his familial home where Androsia might safely recover. Unbeknownst to the reader, the newly introduced Harold Macer and the oft-remembered Malcolm Lennox of this section of the novel are really Farmer's alternate identities. Moreover, Farmer (as Lennox) turns out to be (without at first knowing it himself) Archie's long-lost half-brother. The will Farmer plots to steal from Archie's father would have been unnecessary in the face of his legitimate inheritance, but he cannot reveal his true identity and kinship to the Frazers without also revealing his life of evil deeds. Ultimately, Farmer's deceit is discovered by the detective who finally kills him, but not until after Farmer fatally wounds Winona. Archie and Androsia marry, putting the past behind them, and raising questions of belonging in the early Canadian setting. In connecting the domestic realm with the nation-building project, I understand this plot of familial inheritance and proper action to be the explicit representation of exclusions based subtextually on identity.
Crawford's novel demonstrates the complicated relationship between Canada's settlers and indigenous peoples. In his critical work Fear and Temptation: The Image of the Indigene in Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand Literatures, Terry Goldie outlines the settler's problem: "The white Canadian looks at the Indian. The Indian is Other and therefore alien. But the Indian is indigenous and therefore cannot be alien. So the Canadian must be alien. But how can the Canadian be alien within Canada?" (12). The indigenous occupant of what is now Canadian land holds for the settler the promise of geographical roots, roots whose lack the indigenous person's very presence simultaneously signals. Alan Lawson, in his study of the settler subject, describes the "settler situation" as one of "effacement (of Indigenous authority) and appropriation (of Indigenous authenticity)" (156). This effacement and appropriation is apparent in the process which Goldie calls "indigenization" and which he imagines was first sought after "when a person moved to a new place and recognized an Other as having greater roots in that place" (ft 14). Pointing to this process, Goldie observes, that "Through the indigene the white character gains soul and the potential of becoming rooted in the land" ("Semiotic Control" 199). Following these arguments, Canada's indigenous populations can be understood to awaken the settlers to their own lack while also seeming to offer them a desirable wholeness in the potential appropriation of an indigenous authenticity.
In Winona, Archie's subtextual desire for Winona is expressive of this desire for indigenization. Archie desires Winona as a means of connection to the land which would offer an authentic legitimacy for the nation's place on it. At the same time, however, the erotic element of this desire must be disavowed so as not to displace the desire for Androsia, the fellow settler with whom marriage will allegorically contribute to the founding of the nation. As Carl Murphy explains in his article "The Marriage Metaphor in Nineteenth-Century English Canadian Fiction," the nation as marriage was "a central metaphor of English Canadian writers in the nineteenth century" (18). Thus, though there are more obvious examples of settlers in Winona (such as the backwoodsman Bill Montgomery, the farmer Joe Harty, or the voyageur-turned-trapper Lumber Pete), Archie is Winona's principle settler character as he enacts his responsibility to the nation through his relationship to the text's women. Archie is both captain of a regiment whose British associations (Early and Peterson 80 m) emphasize his ancestry and, moreover, son of a captain (even acting in his father's stead when he first arrives at the Howard household [Crawford 84]). He thus has a future that is indeed representative of that of the nation and he fulfills his colonial responsibility when he takes Androsia out of the wilderness and into civilization as his wife.
Explicitly, Winona is repressed as a candidate for marriage in Farmer's rejection of her love. More subtle, however, is the operation of Archie's desire for Winona: "Up to this moment he had had no leisure to feel anything but the pleasure of the restoration of Androsia, but now there was a pause, and other emotions filled his heart. ...[H]e was conscious of a kind of mental shiver as he looked at the weird beauty of the dusky countenance brooding over the flame" (155). Archie's ambivalent desire for Winona, although evident in this passage, defies not only fulfilment but even overt articulation. Such symbolic and subtextual eroticism plays out when Archie comes upon an injured Winona in the lake: "Dumb with dismay Mike paused with uplifted paddle, and gazed over the lonely sheet of water; but Archie accustomed to prompt action brought the canoe alongside that to which Winona was clinging, and prepared to take her into the frail bark" (99). In commenting on Malcolm's Katie, Goldie explains that "the white in the canoe is clearly 'entering' the nature which belongs to the Indian" (ft 22). Similarly, here, Archie's "frail bark" can symbolize his desire, but current inability, to enter into nature. For Archie "to take" Winona would be for him to gain the connection to the land required by a "Canadian backwoods-man" (Crawford 107), strengthening his "bark" so that he might enter nature and settle it for his nation. Mike, whose Irishness is emphasized and othered throughout the text, who "knew little or nothing of woodcraft," and who is excluded from wilderness-settling endeavours as he "would inevitably have marred [the] plans" (134-35), is left "lonely" and "dumb," "paused with uplifted paddle" in his metaphoric arousal. It is Archie, the settler, who is capable of "prompt action." The danger of this desired connection with Winona, however, is revealed when "Archie nearly upset the canoe as he involuntarily half rose from his knees, intending to dive after the heroic girl" (100). The sexual imagery is suppressed, appearing ambiguously so as to prevent anxiety: "Archie could hardly repress a shudder as they swept over the spot where Winona had disappeared" (101). Archie's desire for Winona, couched in terms that could represent fear, and repressed even in its ambiguity, arises from the existence of the both dangerous and advantageous potentials Winona holds for the Canadian settler.
Winona's value lies in her connection to the wilderness. As "though sculptured from some firm and dusky cliff " (153), she stands in for the newly Canadian land which is the true object of Archie's strained and complicated desire. The "wild" and "utterly untamable" Winona first appears as "raven hair" and a pair of eyes "burning like stars" among the shadows within Colonel Howard's "rambling log house, built in the rudest style of architecture, of great trees with the bronze bark clinging like armor to their sides" (88, 83). Within this space of incomplete battle with the wilderness, Archie first sees Winona occupying the only "empty space" within the " 'orderly disorder' " of the house, suggesting that she is a vestige of wilderness within partial civilization (88). According to Goldie, the "indigene is often used to present the possibility of nature in a human form" (ft 19). In Winona's case, this connection to nature constitutes her erotic appeal for the settler figures of the novel. From her first introduction, Winona is depicted as a "wild, bronze, Venus," "the loveliest Indian woman in this part of America" (Crawford 88).
However, what I see as Archie's unexpressed attraction to Winona also indicates the danger her desirability holds for the settlers. Her connection to the wilderness positions her as a threat to the settlement of that wilderness. Taking Winona and Androsia to the Frazer residence, Archie cannot understand "that this wild, dusky child of the woods" would "exchange the unquestioned freedom of her former life for the restraints of civilization, and he could not help speculating curiously as to her future fate, dowered as she was with a dusky beauty that was almost marvelous" (176). The freedom that Winona represents in her connection to nature, paired with this marvelous beauty, constitutes her dangerous appeal for a Canadian settler. The settler must want and work for these "restraints of civilization" in order to found a nation. Within the early Canadian understanding of indigenous peoples, the freedom Archie sees in Winona could only be antagonistic to the settlement of a nation. As Mackey explains, the "idea of progress--the notion that societies move through consecutive stages to reach the pinnacle of evolution: European-style civilization"--was seen in contrast to what Archie understands as Winona's life of freedom since in Canada there was a "near universal belief amongst whites that Native people, as they had existed, were disappearing in the inevitable march of progress" (28-29). Crawford's narrative seeks to contain the dangerous appeal of the freedom of the wilderness, as, for instance, when Mike Murphy, one of Colonel Howard's domestic employees, asserts that "it's a quare life to lade ... shut up in the woods" (83). Murphy's assertion is but one instance of the settled land appearing as more desirable than wilderness, a privileging repeated in the "precious freehold" and "cheerful, cultivated oasis in the wilderness" that is the Tavern (108) or in the opposition of "The Great Manitou ... shod with thunder" and the "very spirit of domestic peace and untroubled calm" found on "the hospitable hearth of the Canadian guide" (137). Like Winona, the " 'Great Spirit' of North American native peoples" (137 n1) is articulated as nature itself and used to reveal the superiority of the settler project that seeks to create a nation by harnessing the land.
Consequently, Archie needs a connection to the land that allows him to bring it into the requirements of civilization. He is faced with what Goldie calls the settler's "impossible necessity of becoming indigenous" (ft 13). Archie's "insufficient knowledge of woodcraft" (101) makes itself evident in his botched attempt to rescue Androsia (111) while his arrival in the wilderness in the "get-up of a modern tourist" (106) signals his need to become more like the "Canadian backwoods-man" (the type of man exemplified in a secondary character introduced as "Bill Montgomery, the Trapper" ) in establishing a proper Canadian identity. The appropriation of an indigenous identity is useful to this end in Winona much as it is in Malcolm's Katie. In her article "The Search for a Livable Past: Frye, Crawford, and the Healing Link," Cecily Devereux explains that the " 'Indian' in these images, as they are deployed in [Malcolm's Katie], becomes the land" in "a trope that configures the project of displacement and settlement by connecting and distancing--'Indian' as land and not on it, white settler as doing what 'Indians' do" (294). Devereux shows this desire to become solipsistic for the Canadian settler, as a "process" that, in Goldie's words, "includes an implied transformation of the Other nation, the indigenous, into an extension of the self nation" (quoted in Devereux 295).
This process, then, requires appropriation while avoiding the danger of maintaining too little distance. Archie "could seldom look at [Winona] without remembering with a faint thrill the fire-lit vision of the terrible-eyed woman . with the reeking scalp clutched in her extended hand" (Crawford 176). Winona's extended hand is the offer that Archie cannot take. Winona's narrator tells us that there are "some people, the grasp of whose hand is almost electrical, seeming to convey something of their own nature" (89). While Archie here shakes hands with Colonel Howard, Winona later avoids "Archie's extended hand" (176). It is necessary for Winona to convey her nature to Archie, but she must complete the transfer without physical encounter. The "faint thrill" Archie receives from this memory suggests both desire and fear as well as the "negative stereotypes" emphasizing "scalping, torture, massacres, and sexual promiscuity" that Mackey explains began to appear during this time of greater settlement in Canada and of development of " 'scientific' ideas of 'race' developing in the nineteenth century" (28). Winona's presence is frequently simultaneously threatening and eroticized. In her appearance at a settler residence, the water running from her body to lay on the hearthstone "like pools of blood," along with her "black shadow" staining the "white-washed wall," suggest that Archie would not be able to contain Winona's "smouldering heat" (153). For Archie to gain the indigenization he seeks from his desire for Winona without suffering from the danger she represents, something must mediate between them, serving as a proxy recipient of his desire.
This problem of becoming other while remaining self, of connecting in desire while maintaining a gap, is solved by the love triangle formed by Archie, Winona, and Androsia. Androsia becomes the object of Archie's desire as a safe proxy for Winona. This mediation is apparent when, in the moment of Winona's return with her rescued foster sister, "Archie took Androsia from the Indian girl" (152). Androsia, a "wild young girl" (83) is, through her own association with the wilderness and in her close relationship with Winona, like Winona, connected to the land and is therefore in a position to legitimate Archie's settler presence on it.
Thus, Archie's desire for Winona can be subtly visible only because the triangular relationship represses--through displacement--this desire for the indigenous girl. When the narrator informs us that Archie's desire for Winona does not exist, this desire is able to surface. Although "Archie was so fully occupied in watching the play of Androsia's features and listening to her naive remarks ... that he never once thought of Winona" (176), immediately following this claim, we are told that Archie "could seldom look at [Winona] without remembering" her appearance at another settler's cabin, wonders at her exchange of freedom for civilization, and considers what the future may hold for her (176). This stated preoccupation with Androsia followed by denied thoughts of Winona reveals the triangle at work.
In this framework, although they are paired in their connection to the wilderness, Winona and Androsia must be separable. Androsia's otherness seems to dissipate when Winona, in order to seek revenge on Farmer, leaves her with the Frazers: "That Androsia should at once feel at home in her new position was no matter of wonder; in her case it was simply a resumption of the habits of her people" (176). Winona's recognition of this crucial separation between herself and her foster sister is evident in her farewell gift to Androsia, for which she "tore a strip from the crepe veil attached to the hat she carried, and t[ied] it round the heavy raven tresses" (185). The inclusion of the strip of a mourning veil, which recognizes the death of the father that unites the foster sisters as a family, implies that the sisters are separated by more than Winona's physical departure. Archie expresses his satisfaction at this parting in terms that suggest the necessity of the gap between the two: "Androsia would grieve, of that there was little doubt, but on the whole he felt a somewhat selfish pleasure in her flight. Androsia would be more his very own" (190-91). At the same time, however, Winona maintains a connection with her sister, taking one of Androsia's "bright curls" in place of the dark hair she leaves behind (185). Androsia's explanation of the gift makes clear its symbolism: "She left me this that she might dwell in my heart, when I should see her no more" (189). Winona, despite her essential separation from Androsia, remains a part of the heart that will soon belong to Archie. The Androsia that Winona sees as "a purer, higher, brighter, self" (187) is the Androsia that functions in the love triangle as precisely the purer Winona that Archie requires, and Winona's disappearance allows Androsia to fill the role of target for Archie's desire.
Winona thus seems to withdraw her troubling presence, diffusing her own threat to the settlers' project. After an earlier disappearance, when Winona was thought to be dead, she returns unexpectedly, leaving the settlers "motionless, as though carved in stone" as she appears on the cabin's threshold (140). While Winona lives, reminding the settlers of their ambiguous claim to the land, the settlers are static. Winona's form, conversely, is full of motion and life as she stands "on the threshold, her length of black hair torn by the wind, her bronze face and starry eyes lighted by the red billows of light from the fire" (140). Significantly, Winona's position on the threshold of civilization, bringing the threat of the wilderness's encroachment on settlement, leaves Androsia "behind her" as "a shadow that crouched from the glow" (140). Androsia and Winona cannot both be a part of Canada's future. Either Androsia will safely link the settlers to the land, justifying their presence, or Winona, as wilderness, will ruin the "domestic peace and untroubled calm" of the settlement (137).
In Crawford's novel, settlement must come out on top. Since there was "little doubt of her ultimate recovery" after Farmer shoots her (267), Winona seems to will herself to the death that solves the problem of her existence for the settlers (Early and Peterman 45). Archie's determination to "leave the shadows behind" after Winona's death (Crawford 286) reveals her relegation to the past by the death that is a "common fate of the indigene in works by writers of European descent in settler colonies" (Early and Peterman 52). According to D. M. R. Bentley in his book-length study of Canadian poetry, The Gay]Grey Moose, "it is in the nature of the pioneering experience that destruction must precede construction" (224) and, in a discussion of Crawford's poetry, John Ower observes that the "weaker indeed perishes, but only so that something equally helpless may survive" (41). In Crawford's novel, Winona weakens herself to enhance the settlers' tenuous legitimacy. Although, when first traveling to the Frazer residence, it "was Winona's own wish to assume the every day garb of the nineteenth century, and it was marvelous with what ready grace she adapted herself to her surroundings" (Crawford 176), she finally changes only in death.
Winona's sacrifice resolves her into a light evident in her monument that "gleam[s] whitely" (286) and is "hewn in the purest marble" (285). As Winona's love for and desire to protect Androsia leads Winona to the death that brings her, as wilderness, into accord with the nation's drive for civilization, Archie leads Androsia out of the shadows cast by Winona's monument, reconciling his wife's dark association to the light (286). Winona's immobilization allows Androsia to cast off her darkness while the monument of the girls' love and sisterhood maintains Androsia's connection to Winona, and so to the land. Thus the inscription "I am the Resurrection and the Life" (286), while also a Christianizing of Winona that is akin to her whitening into marble, holds significance for the Canadian settlers. Winona, in death, offers the settlers her own resurrection in themselves. Whitened, purified, and fixed in stone, her identity is wholly and safely appropriable.
Winona's death, however, leaves another woman to be fixed in the proper place. Although Androsia becomes the vessel of inheritance via Winona, she must pass on this legacy to her husband. Since Androsia takes Winona's place as recipient of Archie's desire for a connection to the land, she must now be settled by him in place of that land. Archie comes from a residence with a "dainty lawn" (114) past which steamboats take tourists from neighbouring resorts (115, 115 n1) and is employed as a captain in the "glare and heat of Toronto" (85), where the land is already settled. Thus, he must make his contribution to the Canadian nation in this mediated and metaphorical manner, settling the woman who stands for the woman who stands for the land. As I discuss earlier, Archie's role in nation-building is to marry Canada into validation. In Winona, Farmer and Archie compete for Androsia, who stands, through Winona, for the land to be settled. Bentley's citation of Luce Irigaray regarding the heroine of Crawford's Malcolm's Katie is equally applicable to Androsia, who is not, here, "anything more than the scene of more or less rival exchange between two men, even when they are competing for the possession of mother-earth" (quoted in "Introduction" xvii). The "erotics of colonization," then, are present in what Devereux describes as nineteenth-century English Canadian writing's "many representations of men made manly as they make the land habitable through a work that is impelled by the desire to own it" (289). The man, Devereux argues, "earns his right, as he grows his muscles through hard work, to be where he is" (289). For Archie, this hard work comes in his physically demanding attempt to rescue, and later to care for, Androsia as his wife. His physical labour is emphasized as, in this endeavour, his "every muscle ached" (102) and he needed to make his way through "sheer physical force" (103). Significantly, however, "it was not the physical exertion or the personal risk he ran . that sent the blood rushing to his heart in almost suffocating waves, it was the knowledge that if any misadventure befell him, Androsia would be beyond any hope of succor" (102).
Further, it is Archie who must shape Androsia because she is his inheritance from Winona; just as he will receive Androsia's father's legacy, he receives her foster-sister's land. When he shows his feelings for Androsia, Winona "saw and comprehended," blessing Archie's love with "a smile of grave pleasure" (175). Moreover, when Androsia's father attempts to give his daughter to Farmer, that he might "Take her and write [his] mind upon her soul" (122), Colonel Howard relates that Androsia "rebelled and struggled against the yoke [he] imposed upon her" (123). That Androsia, as the metaphorical land, will not comply with unworthy desire affirms that her reciprocal love for Archie ensures Archie's worth as conqueror of the land. Farmer's interest in Androsia extends only so far as to attain her father's money, after which he is likely to abandon her as we find he did his previous wife (258). Archie, on the other hand, can be trusted to work on his wife, to civilize her, and to "found a purer and loftier life," as her father had wished (122). Archie, "pure, chivalrous, honest and true" (118), has the proper qualities to rectify Colonel Howard's "fatal mistake" of "secluding [Androsia] so completely from the world" (122). As a woman too much indigenized, Androsia requires the work of the male settler to shape her inheritance into the necessary mediated connection. In being settled, Androsia is moved from the land to the domestic realm, a removal necessary so that her legitimate connection to that land can be passed on to her husband.
Thus, Archie and Androsia's marriage becomes the key to Canadian nation building as the settler link to the land. It is not surprising, then, that Archie reveals a proper marriage to be of the highest importance. For Archie, it "would have been as bitter, nay, immeasurably more so, than death itself, had he married Cecil" (195), his earlier love. That a suitable alliance takes precedence over his individual survival hints at Archie's allegorical position as the Canadian settler. Winona's conclusion offers "the charm" of marriage (283) and such an ending works allegorically to bolster the Canadian nation. Yet, Archie's future with Androsia is strangely foreshadowed in Winona: "Ah, that lovely mirage, the future! which we see veiled in delightful mists across the arid sands of the present; but never reach, or haply reaching, find barren rocks and tracts as hard and dewless as bricks of old Egypt" (177). Archie's foretold unhappiness, in the face of the storybook conclusion of his adventures with "the ringing of joybells" (283), suggests that this allegorical marriage does not ensure that Archie and the Canadian settlers will "live ... happy ever afterwards" (283).
Reading these tensions through the role of the family offers insight into the relationship between family inheritance and nation building. We find near the conclusion of the novel that Farmer (Lennox) is Archie's half-brother. This relationship thus extends the idea of partial familial connection that is immediately apparent in Winona and Androsia's relationship as foster sisters. These relations are mitigated--half and foster--but also emphasized--the relation between Winona and Androsia titles the book and Farmer/Macer/Lennox's (f/m/l) relation to Archie is introduced as a climactic plot point, the surprise turn in the story. In both partial sibling pairs, only one sibling makes good on an inheritance available through the highlighted kinship. As we've seen, Winona and Androsia both, through their shared upbringing in the Canadian wilderness, are linked to the land, but only Androsia, finally, can be reconciled to civilization. The half-brothers have equal right to an inheritance from their father, but Farmer loses this right through a life of wrongdoing, just as he loses the inheritance of the land embodied by Androsia.
This text, then, suggests that kinship can lend legitimacy, but that legitimacy must also be earned. f/m/l, ignorant of his roots (286), unknowingly forfeits a vast inheritance. Having led a life of treachery and deceit, he is unable to proclaim himself as Captain Frazer's long-lost son (264). Instead, he discovers his true identity and rightful inheritance in the course of stealing Colonel Howard's will, the will entrusted to Captain Frazer's keeping so that it might override an earlier will decreeing that f/m/l would become "heir to the old man's wealth, and, above all, the guardian of Androsia" (263-64). Likewise, since f/m/l seeks to acquire Androsia and her (monetary) inheritance through deceit, it is Archie instead that earns this connection and, through it, his legitimate status as a settler. These conditions of inheritance are replicated for Archie: f/m/l's place in the novel is the mirror image of the subtextual role Archie plays in working out an acceptable version of legitimate ownership of the Canadian land. Archie gains the family inheritance that f/m/l loses and he also gains the woman f/m/l wanted. f/m/l makes visible the triangulation of romantic relationships with the foster sisters: he wooed Winona to get to Androsia while Archie marries Androsia (subtextually) to be connected with Winona. f/m/l explicitly loses the inheritance through his life of ill deeds while Archie (subtextually) inherits the land through the work of proper marriage.
F/M/L, then, is the key to understanding the operation of these partial family connections. The sensational plot seems to be about the outcome of f/m/l's bad decisions; he has not done the right kind of work to earn what otherwise would have been his birthright. The sense that f/m/l comes to a rightful end after a life of wrongdoing makes his exclusion from the possibility of belonging and inheritance appear to be merited. Moreover, since these losses are rightful, Archie seems to deserve his resultant gains: it seems the correct ending that Archie receives the familial inheritance f/m/l cannot take, the land Winona cannot keep, and the foster sister who becomes a proper woman as his wife. Thus, the settlers seem to make their own right to the land through the choices they make in working that land. Yet Winona's similar exclusion from the happy family is based on identity rather than action: her presumed wildness means that her helpful deeds cannot earn her own belonging. Although with f/m/l and Winona as the paired disinherited at the end we are led to read both exclusions as just, it is apparent that the settlers' good choices in nation-building are linked to a prerequisite inheritance: the inheritance of proper identity. This underlying but decisive factor is concealed by the privileging of chosen action over birthright but plays out nevertheless in the narrative's unresolved tension between this asserted right through right action and the continuing role inherited identity plays in factoring legitimacy.
In the context of the British settlement of Canada, this notion that rightful inheritors are marked by their actions would suggest that entitlement to the land is not a birthright. By this text's terms, indigenous peoples need not have an automatic claim to the land through a prior inhabitation of it. The land must be earned through good behaviour, behaviour whose appropriateness is defined as action that will contribute to settling the land, either actually or metaphorically. Yet, while Archie's marriage is drawn into the discourse of work and settlement in an attempt to circumvent the significance of the indigenous peoples' earlier right to the land, this discourse does not fully conceal the settlers' lacking right to the land that is first needed to validate their working and settling of it. It is this self-defeating tactic for legitimacy that undercuts the novel's optimism about the good work of settlement, a troubling evident in the joybells that signal the happy consolidation of this allegorically national family to be only a "lovely mirage."
Bentley, D. M. R. "Introduction." Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story. By Isabella Valancy Crawford. London: Canadian Poetry, 1987. xi-xlix.
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Dale Tracy is a doctoral candidate in the English department at Queen's University. Her work involves poetry and poetics as well as ideas of tradition and belief in contemporary Canadian literature. She is assistant editor of Modern Horizons, an online journal.
Dale Alexandra Tracy
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|Author:||Tracy, Dale Alexandra|
|Publication:||English Studies in Canada|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2011|
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