Gabrielle Roy (rah), the youngest of eleven children, was born on March 22, 1909, in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, a francophone community in predominantly anglophone western Canada. The linguistic heritage and cultural hegemony of which Roy was enormously proud did not blind her, however, to the existence of other ethnic groups on the Manitoban prairies. Moreover, it made her acutely sensitive to the aspirations of other nationalities new to the province. Her father, Léon Roy, was a federal colonization agent who assisted the settlement of Ruthenians, Dukhobors, Mennonites, and Hutterites. The young girl grew up, therefore, at a time when the prairies were being extensively settled by pioneers of diverse ethnic background, individuals whose language, customs, and singular physical appearance, in some instances, afforded different perceptions of life that would manifest themselves later in her prose.
In 1927, Léon Roy died, leaving Gabrielle’s mother, Mélina, and Gabrielle to support themselves. After attending the Winnipeg Normal School from 1927 to 1929, Roy began an eight-year teaching career, a profession that had been heartily approved by her mother. Her works, La Petite Poule d’eau (1950; Where Nests the Water Hen, 1950) and Ces enfants de ma vie (1977; Children of My Heart, 1979), are inspired by her teaching experiences.
Despite the satisfaction that she felt in teaching, Roy was destined to travel, a recurrent theme in her fiction, in which life is perceived as a voyage, following a circular movement that brings the individual, often in memory, back to the initial point of departure.
Her return to Quebec in 1939, after travels in Europe, proved to be of extreme importance in the development of her aesthetics, her perception of life, with its joys and troubles, and her humanistic philosophy. Living first in Montreal, Roy worked as a freelance journalist for Le Bulletin des agriculteurs, Le Jour, and Le Canada. Her pieces reflect her profound...
(The entire section is 838 words.)