In the Shadow of the Wind Essay - Critical Essays

Anne Hebert


The text of In the Shadow of the Wind is a complex one. It quotes the Bible and Hébert’s own poetry. It presents itself at times as letters, at times as inner thoughts, and even as the choral voice of a whole community. Dominated by marine images—the sea wind, the voices of seabirds—the novel is continually swept by the tides of different voices, reflections on the same events, each tied to the others in mounting sexual and social tension. The central themes of the novel are similarly complex. Certainly the text supports a reading as a mystery, yet, as successive narrators draw the reader into deeper complicity with the characters, there is less and less doubt as to the identity of the killer. Yet determining guilt for the deaths of Irene, Nora, and Olivia is more difficult.

One facet of the text is Nicholas Jones’s description of his portrait gallery. A failed patriarch, he has no issue. Instead he paints his male ancestors, stiff figures dressed in black and white, all with his face. In turn, Pam and Pat Brown paint the women of Griffin Creek, vibrant with colors, flowers, and lace. In the borders, the twins intertwine, endlessly repeated, the word “summer” and the number “1936.” The forbidden faces and names of Irene, Nora, and Olivia appear, surrounded by symbols of the sea. All three women are victims of men (although one was a suicide), and they are placed in the sisterhood of women, in opposition to their male ancestors. A...

(The entire section is 528 words.)