Summary (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Two Solitudes has much of the panoramic quality of John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga (1922), though it is informed by a more partisan attitude. Superficially a chronicle of two generations of Canadians in the Montreal region~, it is in fact a penetrating study of the beliefs and behaviors, the myths and animosities, that have caused French-Canadians and English-Canadians to resist amalgamation into a homogeneous nation and to exist as two separate peoples, uncommunicative and isolated. Yet the novel transcends the communal barriers and abstractions in its delineation of individual differences, attitudes, and yearnings; not only are the two racial groups solitary, but also individuals fail to establish meaningful communications.
When Athanese Tallard, the Seigneur of Saint-Marc-des-Erables, introduces the non-Catholic Captain John Yardley to the parish as purchaser of the Dansereau farm, he arouses latent hostility in the closed society; when he proposes building a small power station and a factory in association with Huntly McQueen, Father Emile Beaubien interprets this as a threat to his hegemony and to the parish’s traditions. Marius, a protegee of Beaubien, believes that his father is a heretic, “a traitor to his race and religion,” and speaks against conscription, which Tallard supports. Marius’ animosity to his father, however, is largely the result of his having heard Athanese having sex with Kathleen while Marius’...
(The entire section is 595 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
A Galsworthian family saga, which of course includes intergenerational conflicts, bildungsroman, and love stories, Two Solitudes presents the bipartite consciousness for “European” Canada and urges reconciliation through reciprocal understanding: “Love consists in this,” says the epigraph from the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, “that two solitudes protect, and touch, and greet each other.” In the account of the older generation from 1917 to 1921, Athanase Tallard, member of Parliament and seigneur of the agricultural community of St. Marc, represents the French tradition, Catholic, communal, “bound in sacred trust to the soil”—although he is critical of the Church, advocates scientific education, and has taken as his second wife a sensuous Irish Catholic girl. Typical Anglais are represented by the self-made capitalist Huntley McQueen, and by Janet Methuen, who has married into an old moneyed English family of Montreal, one with manners but very little noblesse oblige. Janet’s father, John Yardley, a retired sea captain who buys a farm in St. Marc, is the sort who should help bring about conciliation. Honorable, humane, exuberant, attuned to nature, Captain Yardley earns acceptance in the community. The parish priest, Father Beaubien, who opposes Yardley and Athanase, embodies the Church’s antiassimilationist policy. In the interest of controlled progress, Athanase collaborates with McQueen to set up industry in St. Marc. When he loses...
(The entire section is 562 words.)