Maria Chapdelaine

by Louis Hémon

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 613

Maria Chapdelaine is the story of a young woman who loses her fiance and has to choose between two new suitors who represent two different ways of life.

The story opens with the community leaving church and discussing local affairs, including the weather and conditions for living in the wilderness. Two of them notice Maria Chapdelaine and her father; they comment that she is returning from a visit to her family. They say it’s a shame she lives so far out in the woods, because it makes it difficult for potential suitors to visit her.

Maria and Samuel, her father, are stopped by François Paradis, who is clearly interested in Maria. They continue on to attend a dinner and visit with their family, who listen intently to Maria as she talks about her trip. They have missed her. Eutrope Gagnon, a relatively new neighbor, comes to visit. He is primarily interested in Maria and is a polite and quiet man.

Three days later, François stops by. Maria likes him but doesn’t give him any signals. He talks about his experiences logging and trapping in the harsh North.

When summer comes and the blueberries ripen, everyone gathers to pick them. Eutrope looks forward to his farm improving and thinks about Maria again. Lorenzo Surprenant arrives and talks about his life living and working in a city in the United States. Maria and François sneak away to spend time alone together. He tells her of his interest in her and claims he intends to marry her when he returns from the logging camp. They sit there, feeling that vows have been exchanged between them.

Maria prays for François when he is gone. Unfortunately, François dies leaving the camp and trying to return to Maria. She is inconsolable at first. Her parents and priest tell her she is grieving too deeply, because they don’t know about the agreement between François and Maria. They say that she needs to marry and take care of her parents and her husband.

Both Lorenzo and Eutrope have feelings for Maria; they both express interest in her. Lorenzo is more bold and outspoken. He talks about the life they could have in the city, far away from the Canadian wilderness. He proposes to her and promises that he won’t drink and that he will earn a good wage. He says they'll have a good life and be happy in the United States. She is tempted not by the man himself but by the idea of the life he describes.

Eutrope, on the other hand, speaks with humility, as if he knows he can’t win her. He says their lives will include hard work, but she will live the life she has known near her people. He says he will work hard every day. She sends him away and indicates that she isn’t sure. Later, though, she decides to marry Lorenzo to escape the harsh life she lives in Canada.

Maria’s mother sickens, and her father goes to get a doctor to help her recover. He doesn’t help. Eutrope offers to get the bone-setter and undertakes an extremely long journey on foot, which makes Maria grateful. It is too late, though. Maria’s mother dies.

Maria’s father tells her what a blessing her mother was. She worked hard, kept good humor, and gave positive advice. The stories of her life affect Maria and make her think about the benefits of living in the wilderness and continuing the tradition of her family. She tells Eutrope that she will marry him in the spring in a year’s time.

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