Style and Technique
Laurence’s style evokes by specifying. She evokes the color and sound of the river, the shape of Jules Tonnerre’s shack and its building materials. Such description, packed with factual detail, modulates easily into a narrative that appears equally matter-of-fact. The reader learns how the Tonnerres speak neither Cree, French, nor English adequately; they are half-breeds; they do not live with the Indians at Galloping Mountain or with the Europeans in Manawaka. Slowly the significance of these items strikes the reader. Just as they are the biological product of the meeting of Europeans and Indians and yet are neither, so the Tonnerres are located in spirit, as in fact, on the edge of the community. Thus, the facts build into a symbol of not belonging. The failure of Piquette’s marriage has the same dual quality.
Similarly matter-of-fact is the introduction of the Tonnerres’ housing in the first paragraph and their drunkenness in the second. Grandfather Jules and his son Lazarus are routinely picked up by the Mounties, sobered up overnight, and released; yet the shacks and the drinking, both familiar and unstressed, create Piquette’s appalling death.
The structure is a seeming recital of facts; they are pieced together into meaning by the grown-up Vanessa and by the reader as new experiences and insights are added to the old. Laurence has a fine ear, and she can produce sentences that are almost incantatory: “He came back from Batoche with a...
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