Other Literary Forms
Minna Canth started her career as a journalist. In 1874, when her husband, J. F. Canth, took over the editorship of a weekly paper, Keski-Suomi, it was Minna who did most of the actual writing. With her forceful articles, she angered the owners of the paper, and subsequently, in 1878, the Canths switched over to another publication, Päijänne. Even as an acknowledged author, Canth pursued her journalistic writing mainly in the liberal periodical Valvoja and, from 1889 to 1890, in her own journal, Vapaita aatteita. Canth’s first collection of short stories, Novelleja ja kertomuksia, was published in 1878 under the pseudonym Vilja. The stories are light, romantic tales written under the influence of the Norwegian Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. The themes that Canth explored in her drama are the same as those in her short stories: social commitment, anger at society’s neglect of its poor, and women’s issues. Canth’s dramatic talent and sharp ear for natural speech characterize her stories. Truly remarkable is the range of her female portraits; with equal veracity and sensitivity, she describes the gloomy existence of lowly maids, the strength of the women of the people, and the restricted lives of middle-class girls. Yet Canth’s stories are uneven in quality: Many bear the imprint of haste, written as they were during a spare moment and often lacking a final touch. Nevertheless, some of them, Köyhää kansaa (1886), Hanna (1886), Kauppa-Lopo (1889), and Agnes (1892), are among the most lasting artistic accomplishments of Canth’s career.