Hugh MacLennan’s epigraph, from Rainer Maria Rilke, is “Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect, and touch, and greet each other,” and the novel is dedicated to his wife. From these facts, one can conclude that domestic harmony between complementary characters—the total absorption of self and other—is seen as a sign or effect of love. Ironically, there is little protecting, touching, or greeting in the novel except that sort of protection which becomes smothering. Only at the end do Paul and Heather consider “the tangled roots and residues of their separate lives” and visualize their future as one. (She even disapproves of the word husband, believing it a word for other people, “a tence put up to keep others out.”)
The French-Catholic and English-Protestant communities are given female and male characteristics, respectively: the one is subservient, domestic, religious, complaisant; the other is dominant, gregarious, secular, belligerent. Accordingly, they attain the status of parties in a domestic tragedy. The fictive characters possess these community traits in different degrees.
When Heather reads Paul’s manuscript, she comments, “Your characters are all naturally vital people. But your main theme never gives them a chance. It keeps asserting that they’re doomed.” This is a valid criticism of Two Solitudes, in which the characters’ vitality is sapped continually by hate, mistrust, jealousy, and...
(The entire section is 562 words.)