Louis Hémon's novel Maria Chapdelaine was written with a clear practical purpose: to persuade French citizens to emigrate to Québec. One might, therefore, expect the message to be that life in Canada is wonderful, and filled with opportunity. In fact, Hémon depicts peasant life in Québec in realistic terms, as harsh, tedious, and involving long hours of very hard work, which many readers have found almost as arduous as the characters do. The message is that life is hard in Québec, but that sufficiently virtuous settlers will cope with its hardness.
It is difficult to imagine many French readers being persuaded to leave the comforts of Europe by Hémon's detailed account of the life of a Canadian peasant farmer. Although Maria and her family are Catholic, the tone of the story is similar to that of the seventeenth-century Puritan accounts of New England. Life is harsh and barren, and the only comforts are those of religion, though the religion in question is not a very comforting one. Maria herself is deeply religious, and attendance at church provides one of the few legitimate reasons for the women to leave the house or the men to leave the fields. Even the church is too far from the farm to be anything more than a rare treat. Maria Chapdelaine is read today principally as an account of Québécois life in the early twentieth century, and probably only ever appealed to readers who had a very pious and austere religious outlook.