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Can you compare the settings of these Canadian short stories? "Do Seek Their Meat from...

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pashti | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted February 11, 2013 at 6:45 PM via web

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Can you compare the settings of these Canadian short stories?

"Do Seek Their Meat from God" by Charles G. D. Roberts

"The Desjardins" by Duncan Campbell Scott

"From Flores" by Ethel Wilson

"Last Spring They Came Over" by Morley Callaghan

"One-Two-Three Little Indians" by Hugh Garner

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 2, 2013 at 10:39 PM (Answer #1)

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Each of these Canadian short stories is set in a different kind of environment and most are set in different time periods. Setting, of course, is the time and place of a story. These elements set the cultural tone and define the historic and social parameters of the story. Some of these stories have multilayered locations and span considerable lengths of time while others have narrower locations and span short times.

Going in order from the wildest to the most civilized--though civilized refers only to citification, not necessarily to moral or cultural civilization--Charles G. D. Roberts's "Do Seek Their Meat From God" is set in a hostile wilderness where dangerous panthers roam. The time was the present when the story was published, which was in the late 1890s, and it covers only a brief period of time.

Ethel Wilson's "From Flores" is set in a neutral, though impersonal and dangerous nature. While Robert's setting is represented as hostile by the deliberate actions of the panthers, Wilson's setting is neutrally impersonal since all that is exposed to the storm universally suffers its rage. The time is around the turn of the twentieth century, a time Wilson is reminiscing about, even though it was written after the 1930s, and it covers more time but not a great deal of time.

Duncan Campbell Scott's "Desjardins" brings us out of the natural wilderness although we enter the psychological wilderness of Charles' mental deterioration. The time is the late 1890s and several years are covered. Charles, Philippe and Adèle live in their father's family estate in the countryside. They are bounded by a hill, a river (the River Blanche) and a marshy field where "by day the marsh marigolds shone, and by night, the fire-flies."

While the other stories have various specialized locations, like (1) the wilderness and the abandoned cabin or (2) the ocean and the port of call, Scott does a particular job of providing a multilayered setting because not only are there various locations, like the interior of the house and the hilltop, there is symbolism that attaches to each location, making the parts of the setting more integrally tied to the theme of the story. For instance, the Lombardy poplars that are dying out symbolize the family that is also dying out and the bridge over the Blanche, that rises periodically beneath the bridge to flood out the marshy field symbolizes the hopelessness of avoiding the ultimate fate of the family: "We must cut ourselves off; we must be the last of our race."

Hugh Garner's "One-Two-Three Little Indians" is set in a coal-mining boomtown and focuses mostly on the home home of Tom, a member of the Algonquin tribe. The setting shifts to the counterpoint setting of the tourist trailer camp nearby. The time is around 1952, which is also when it was published, and it covers a brief time. The settings seem stark and, though multilayered through contrasts, are not elaborately detailed. They remain as stark as the reality of Tom and Mary's baby existence. Other locations, like the nightclub Mary frequents and the trailer camp where Tom impersonates a "real Indian" with a feather in a band around his head, also function to add to characterization.

Morley Callaghan's "Last Spring They Came" is set in the major city of Toronto around the year 1927, which is when it was published, and it covers almost a year, from one spring almost to the next spring. The setting is integral to Callaghan's story of two immigrant brothers who strike out to be journalists without understanding the requirements for success as journalists or as immigrants. It may be said that Callaghan could not have told his story without the setting of Toronto or a very similar city because, as in Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country, the city is a major antagonist in the story. Significant locations are the newspaper office, the brothers' lodgings where they write their imaginative letters home and the tavern where they are duped.

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