What is Catherine Parr Traill saying about Canadian identity in The Backwoods of Canada?

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English-born Canadian writer Catharine Parr Traill (1802–1899) penned The Backwoods of Canada in the 1830s, an early and influential period in the formation of Canadian national identity. It is an anthology of letters Traill wrote home, to England, describing the daily life of Canadians, their relationship with First Nations people, and observations of natural characteristics of the land such as the flora, fauna, and weather.

More importantly, however, Traill's letters contain allusions to characteristic elements that would come to form a cornerstone of a distinctly Canadian identity. She, first, in her comparisons between the ruggedness and independence of her new life in Canada and her former life in London, sets forth an argument for a unique Canadian identity separate from that of the motherland (noting, at one point, that "here there are no historical associations" with the past), while also preserving a connection to what is suggested to be a superior British culture. She also juxtaposes demographic differences between Canada and Britain's other colonies, noting that Australia was probably more suited to working-class persons, while Canada was appropriate for the middle classes.

The Backwoods of Canada represents an early thesis arguing for a distinct Canadian national identity.

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