Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Beyond the novel, Frederick Philip Grove has published travel sketches, represented by his first two published books, Over Prairie Trails (1922) and The Turn of the Year (1923). Actually narrative essays, the pieces detail Grove’s weekly horse-and-carriage journeys between distant points of rural Manitoba. His other essays on a variety of topics appeared in Canadian periodicals and in the collection It Needs to Be Said (1929), and a much smaller number of short stories collected and edited by Desmond Pacey appeared under the title Tales from the Margin: The Selected Short Stories of Frederick Philip Grove (1971).

In Search of Myself (1946), Grove’s fictionalized autobiography, contains a detailed account of his life before he arrived in Canada and of his struggles to achieve recognition as a writer. Consider Her Ways (1947), written at the time the autobiography was coming out but conceived much earlier, reflects Grove’s long-standing scientific interests, as well as his familiarity with travel literature and with various models of the satiric fable. Grove casts his fable as anarrative communicated to a sympathetic scientist by a tribe of South American ants on an expedition to the north in search of further knowledge about humans. He cleverly satirizes Western civilization not only through the ants’ discoveries and observations about the human society they find but also through the behavior of the ants themselves, who engage in the same power struggles and exhibit the same vanity of species they impute to humankind. Although a curiosity in Grove’s canon. Consider Her Ways displays a tighter structure than most of his more conventional writings as well as many of the same attitudes toward human behavior and history.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Frederick Philip Grove’s fiction constitutes Canada’s most distinguished contribution to the literature of frontier realism. His work presents an authentic image of pioneer life, particularly in the central Canadian provinces. As an immigrant to Canada, Grove was able to question the North American pioneering effort in a disturbing and often profound manner and to form a perspective unique among the major English realists. Almost all of his fiction in some way scrutinizes the value system of progress behind the frontier movement in Canada and the United States, with implications reaching far beyond the time in which a work was set or written. His portrayal of social change transcends the limits of most frontier realism, often approaching the resonance of Thomas Hardy or Ivan Turgenev.

Grove’s writing, however, is not without flaws. Because he acquired English in a purely academic manner, his prose is too often turgid. Also, his plots often lack a logical development, which makes events appear arbitrary. Nevertheless, most of his novels offer a careful delineation of settings and incidents; he also gives his reader many vivid and memorable characters and situations, informed always by a frankness of tone and attitude.

The peculiarly telescoped nature of Canadian literature—whereby the development of basically eighteenth century models into modernism, which occurred more rapidly than in England or the United States—is reflected in the intensity of Grove’s writing and vision, an intensity that links him to the later Theodore Dreiser and even to John Steinbeck and that dramatizes the romantic basis of a realism bent on escapingRomanticism. Grove’s fiction, and particularly his three strongest novels—Settlers of the Marsh, A Search for America, and Fruits of the Earth—thus carries much interest and value for the literary historian, as well as for the general reader.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Hjartarson, Paul, ed. A Stranger to My Time: Essays by and About Frederick Philip Grove. Edmonton, Alberta: NeWest Press, 1986. Divided into four sections, each concerned with a Grove persona, the figures of the Other, the Immigrant, Estrangement, and Posterity. Thoroughly updates the evaluation of Grove and his contribution to Canadian literature. Includes an extensive, selected bibliography and an explicit index.

Martens, Klaus. F. P. Grove in Europe and Canada: Translated Lives. Translated by Paul Morris. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2001. A biography of Grove that examines his homes and correspondence.

Pacey, Desmond, ed. Frederick Philip Grove. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1970. Encompasses Pacey’s introduction, chronologically arranged critical essays by other authors, book review excerpts on Grove’s novels, and a bibliography of Grove’s entire canon. Reflects Pacey’s skill at providing a useful overview.

Spettigue, Douglas O. Frederick Philip Grove. Toronto: Copp Clark, 1969. Spettigue, who has done the most to untangle the enigma of Grove’s origins, arranges this scholarly, objective book around a consideration of the interdependence between Grove’s personality and the themes and heroes of his novels. Notes and a bibliography enhance this important analysis.

Stobie, Margaret R. Frederick Philip Grove. New York: Twayne, 1973. Stobie does as much as possible to discover Grove, the man, behind the central theme in his writing: human as social and natural being. Comprises an interwoven analysis of Grove’s life and his writing, presenting new insights gleaned from unpublished material and from personal anecdotes of people who knew him. Emphasizes Grove’s successes over his failures as a writer. A chronology, a selected bibliography, and an index contribute to the thoroughness of this admiring study.

Stuewe, Paul. “The Case of Frederick Philip Grove.” In Clearing the Ground: English-Canadian Literature After “Survival.” Toronto: Proper Tales Press, 1984. Stuewe bluntly dismisses Grove as an inept writer but acknowledges his nonliterary value as a chronicler of social and historic themes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Sutherland, Ronald, ed. “Thoughts on Five Writers: What Was Frederick Philip Grove?” In The New Hero: Essays in Comparative Quebec/Canadian Literature. Toronto: Macmillan, 1977. Sutherland calls this series of interesting linked essays, on the individualistic “new” hero emerging from Canadian literature, “para-literary.” The section on Grove reflects Sutherland’s fascination with that enigmatic personality and praises his writing as that of a literary naturalist, not a social realist. Includes notes and a thorough bibliography.