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Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 589

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....

(The entire section contains 1827 words.)

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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's 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've 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 America. 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's gone. Unfortunately, François dies leaving the camp and trying to return to Maria. She's 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 America. She's 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'll live the life she's known near her people. He says he'll 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's 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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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1238

Maria Chapdelaine was a French-Canadian girl whose family lived in the northern part of Quebec province near Lake St. John, a country to which spring came very late in the year and the winters, always severe, came too soon. Maria’s father, Samuel Chapdelaine, had moved his family several times to new locations in the north country. Each time, he hoped to get away from neighbors and civilization, for he was a man who took great delight in the hard work of clearing land from the wilderness but disliked to farm that land after it had been won.

When she was in her late teens, Maria Chapdelaine was sent to spend part of one winter with relatives in town. Her father met her on her return to Peribonka, the settlement nearest to the farm, and they stayed in the village overnight in order to attend church before leaving for their home in the wilderness. At church, they met Francois Paradis, a young man who had lived near the Chapdelaines in another location some years before: Young Francois, who had last seen Maria seven years earlier when she was as yet a child, was much impressed by her beauty and manner, and promised to visit the Chapdelaines soon. When he appeared at their house ten days later, Maria learned for the first time of the age-old difference between those men who are born farmers and those who are born pioneers, between those who seek an ordered life cultivating the land, and those who are only happy with a life of adventure and wandering. Maria had grown up in a family that extolled the virtues and joys of life on the land; but the reappearance of handsome Francois Paradis, who had left his father’s farm to become a wandering lumberjack, made her question her previous assumptions for the first time. Before the visit was over, the young man had fallen deeply in love with Maria, and he promised to visit the family on his way into the back country to trade for furs with the Indians.

The following summer was one of hard work for the entire Chapdelaine family. The women, including Maria, had their part in putting away food for the winter and taking care of the men’s needs as they reclaimed farmland from the forest by cutting away the trees and underbrush and removing the stumps that were left. The first break in the difficult and tedious work came near the end of July, when the blueberries ripened. At that time, everyone stopped work to go on a berrypicking expedition.

The night before the berrypicking, Francois Paradis arrived at the Chapdelaine cabin. The next day, he and Maria wandered off from the rest of the berrypickers. After they had filled their large pails with berries, they sat down to rest. Francois, in an offhand manner that betrayed the emotion he felt, asked Maria to marry him the following year. He told her that he would be back to visit her once again before going off into the woods to act as foreman of a logging crew during the winter.

The summer passed with all the hard work attendant on carving a farm from the Canadian forests. Before long, the winds of winter began to blow, and soon afterward, deep snow fell. Francois Paradis went to the logging camps, as did many of the men, including the two oldest brothers of Maria Chapdelaine.

In the meantime, two other suitors for Maria’s hand presented themselves. Eutrope Gagnon was a hardworking young man who, like Maria’s father, was trying to hew a farm from the wilderness. The other, Lorenzo Surprenant, was a young French-Canadian who had emigrated to the United States to work in a factory. The first of the suitors said very little, knowing he had small chance against Francois Paradis. The second talked a great deal about the easier life in cities of the United States far to the south. Maria barely listened to his wily talk.

Shortly after Christmas, word came of the tragic death of Francois Paradis. Leaving the lumber camp to visit Maria and her family during the holidays, he had arrived at a railroad line only to learn that trains were not running. He then set out on foot across barren wastes and forests to reach the Chapdelaine farmstead, but he had lost his way and died of exposure. Maria was greatly saddened by his death, even though their engagement had been only between themselves and no word had been given to her parents or the parish priest. Because of her grief, her father was forced to take her to the village to get advice from the priest. After talking to him, Maria seemed outwardly composed.

The following summer was a bad one for the district, including the Chapdelaine family. Spring came late, drought occurred during the summer, and the snows of winter came several weeks early. Everyone, including Maria, began to wonder if life were worth the struggle against the elements in northern Quebec.

During the second winter, Gagnon and Surprenant still spoke to Maria about marriage, and she, apathetically, listened to them. Gagnon said much less than the other suitor, for he knew that if Maria married him she would merely exchange the hard life on her father’s farm for a similar life on his farm. Surprenant, however, spoke glowingly of life in the Massachusetts city in which he worked and told how much easier urban life in a warmer climate was than rural life in the far north. Maria heard him patiently and with some interest, for the northern wilderness which had swallowed Francois Paradis had become an enemy to her.

At Christmas time, Surprenant made a special trip north to see Maria and to tell her once more how much happier she could be. Almost, but not quite, Maria made up her mind to accept his offer of marriage and leave the wilderness. For Gagnon, she had few words; she felt that there was little he had to offer.

Soon after Christmas, Maria’s mother fell ill, and nothing the family could do for her seemed to help. At last, Samuel Chapdelaine decided to brave the wintry storms to get a doctor. He was successful in reaching the settlement, but when the doctor arrived and examined Mrs. Chapdelaine, he could find nothing to help her, and he advised that they send for the priest. While Chapdelaine went for the priest, the rest of the family decided to call in a skillful bonesetter in whom they had great faith. He, like the doctor, told them he knew of nothing to help the ailing woman. The priest finally arrived and administered the last rites of the Church to Mrs. Chapdelaine, who died soon afterward.

Sitting up with the corpse, to keep her father company during the long hours of night, Maria listened to her father’s stories of the aid her mother had given him during his long struggle to carve first one farm and then another from the wilderness. Maria, listening avidly, finally resolved that she, like her mother, could stand the hardships of wilderness life. When Eutrope Gagnon again spoke of marriage, telling her how he could work in the lumber camps for a winter to earn the money needed to set up housekeeping, Maria agreed that she would wait and marry him when he returned.

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