Canadian Short Fiction

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What is the narrative style of "Do Seek Their Meat from God" by Charles G. D. Roberts and "The Desjardins" by Duncan Campbell Scott?

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The narrative styles of these two short stories are in ways different from each other yet have an underlying similarity. "Do Seek Their Meat from God," published in the mid-1890s, is typical of Realism. Roberts presents nature as he finds it, both the good and bad of nature. Nature is not romanticized or idealized as the earlier Romantics had done. Nature is a dark ravine with barren walls and a crest populated with "great pines and hemlocks of the ancient unviolated forest." Nature is also the sharp-clawed impatient panther with the menacing cry that drags its kill to a spot near its lair. Nature is also the love of a small boy for his missing friend and his sobbing, choking cry of terror when trapped by the wild dark in an abandoned hut away from his father and home. To develop this realism, Roberts uses terse sentences and a terse sounding vocabulary with few sonorants and many voiced and unvoiced plosives sounds.

The panther walked restlessly up and down, half a score of paces each way, along the edge of the shadow, keeping his wide-open green eyes upon the rising light.

"The Desjardins," published in the same period in 1896, is typical of another aspect of Realism. Scott presents nature as the upper-class gentlefolk farmers see it but also as it is looming in its untamed state next to the farmed ideal:

There was a low stone fence between the road the garden, where a few simple flowers grew. ... In the spring the Blanche came up and flowed over [the marshy field].

This short story, though, is primarily a stylistic representative of Realism's psychological characterization. The story, in contrast to Robert's, moves forward by the character's motivations, thoughts, emotions and cognition, not by the actions and events, like the progress of the panthers toward the end of their fast. Scott presents the results of Charles' psychological state ("'I!' said [Charles]; 'I am the Great Napoleon!'") and the psychological struggles and human sacrifices of Philippe and Adèle:

"There is only one thing to do," said Philippe, after some hours of silence.  "It is hard; but there is only one thing to do. ... We must cut ourselves off; we must be the last of our race."

To develop psychological realism, Scott uses flowing sentences that enumerate psychological qualities like kindness, pride, moroseness, generosity, and sanity. Since Scott's realism tells a compassionate story of psychological factors, he uses more sonorant word sounds since sonorants slow the pace of the sentences. This aspect of narrative stands in contrast to Robert's terse pace and sounds.

Very little was known about [their father's] manner of life, and there was a mystery about his father's death.

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